Saturday's three major Kentucky Derby preps had gone according to form when unbeaten Old Fashioned cruised to the lead in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Old Fashioned's stablemate, Friesan Fire, had overwhelmed the field in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds. Heavy favorite Pioneer of the Nile, who attracted more than a half-million dollars in the show pool, was not flashy in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, but did win.

So there was no reason to think anything was amiss when Old Fashioned arrived in the stretch with a clear lead. Then, suddenly, an unknown 56-1 shot named Win Willy, who was last early, started to cut into Old Fashioned's margin. Old Fashioned began to slow and Win Willy kept coming, eventually rolling by and winning by 2 1/4 lengths.

Did Win Willy run the race of his life and/or Old Fashioned just not go forward?

Yes and maybe. Win Willy got a Beyer speed figure of 102, by far the best of his career.

Old Fashioned, after tracking a really fast pace, earned a 98, a nice number but comparable to his final two races last year. The colt, so flashy and fast as a 2-year-old, just has not progressed as a 3-year-old, at least not yet.

Friesan Fire looked like the best of the bunch Saturday. The son of 1992 Horse of the Year and wonderful sire A.P. Indy crushed the field by 7 1/4 lengths and got a 104 Beyer figure. Friesan Fire has shown very nice progression through three consecutive stakes wins this year.

Pioneer of the Nile got just a 90 Beyer in his win and was not terribly impressive visually. Trainer Bob Baffert promises the colt will be much better in his final Derby prep, the Santa Anita Derby.

A final round of preps will commence in a few weeks. Then, everybody can start to form concrete opinions as to what is likely to happen the first Saturday in May. *