Friday, March 23, 2007 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . . March 23, 2007 . . . Last minute preparations for the Lane's End Stakes and the four supporting stakes were underway Friday at Turfway Park in advance of raceday on Saturday.
Rushaway field loses Poe Reef
The field for Saturday's Rushaway Stakes decreased by one Friday when trainer David England scratched Poe Reef, who had drawn the rail and was coming into the race off a maiden win at Turfway on March 16. "He's not ready to run back that quick," said England. "He won a maiden special weight race eight days ago, and I thought I could get him ready, but he needs more time."
Ten will now go postward in the Rushaway, to be televised live along with the Lane's End Stakes on ESPN from 5-6 p.m. ET. The Rushaway's 5-2 morning line favorite is Todd Pletcher trainee Meritocracy under jockey Edgar Prado. With the scratch of Poe Reef, Meritocracy will now break from post position four.
Pitts eager for Saturday
Trainer Helen Pitts had one of the nation's top three-year-olds in her barn earlier this year in Curlin. Unfortunately for Pitts, Curlin was sold privately for a reported $3.5 million following his debut win at Gulfstream Park this winter. Pitts could only watch as Curlin went on to earn back some of that purchase price for his new owners by winning last weekend's Grade III Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park for new trainer Steve Asmussen.
Pitts now hopes to find herself with a new 3-year-old Kentucky Derby contender when she sends out For You Reppo in the Lane's End Stakes. For You Reppo has a win and two seconds to his credit from his last three starts, all run at the Lane's End distance of 1 1/8 miles.
"The farther, the better for him," Pitts said of For You Reppo on Friday morning. "He drew outside [post 11], but he's got enough speed where he can drop over and get in a good position." Kent Desormeaux will have the riding assignment.
Last time out on March 3 at Gulfstream Park, For You Reppo finished second behind Chelokee, a highly regarded Michael Matz trainee who will race March 31 in the Florida Derby. Matz won the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby last year with Barbaro.
Pitts also will have action in the Rushaway Stakes with Trust Your Luck and in the Grade III Bourbonette Breeders' Cup with the undefeated Silverinyourpocket. "I like Trust Your Luck. He has figured things out more and more every time he runs, and he loves Polytrack," said Pitts. "Silverinyourpocket has got the mind for it. She'll do whatever you want her to do. The Bourbonette is a lot to ask of her. She'll be going two turns for the first time over a new track against stakes company. I was a little surprised at how easy she won last time at Gulfstream [6 1/4-length win going 6 1/2 furlongs in an allowance on February 28]. I'm hoping she won't need to be hustled out of the gate and that she can just do her own thing."
Kent Desormeaux will ride Trust Your Luck from post three in the Rushaway. Rafael Bejarano has the call on Silverinyourpocket from post 10 in the full Bourbonette field of 12.
Miller has Sedgefield and Dominican ready for Lane's End day
Much respect has been paid by the media to the chances of Todd Pletcher trainee Twilight Meteor in the Lane's End Stakes. Relatively little has been written about Sedgefield, who finished just half a length behind Twilight Meteor in the most recent start for both horses, the Hallandale Beach Stakes over the Gulfstream Park turf course on February 24.
"That's fine with me," said Sedgefield's trainer Darrin Miller from the Turfway Park stakes barn on Friday. "I'm just hoping he runs a good race."
Sedgefield has sat in second during the early going of all three of his starts this year. However, with the abundance of early speed in the Lane's End provided by Starbase, Sports Town, Bullara, Forefathers, and Hard Spun, Sedgefield may be forced to try a different approach—especially given his #12 post position. "He has relaxed behind horses before," said Miller. "I'm hoping he can do that again. He's a pretty strong-minded horse."
Miller had better luck in the Rushaway post position draw. His charge, Dominican, drew the cozy number three post and will now break from post two following the scratch of Poe Reef. The Rushaway will mark the 2007 debut for Dominican, who was highly competitive against the top of his class last year. In August he finished fourth in the Arlington Washington Breeders' Cup Futurity, just half a length behind Street Sense, who finished third in that race before winning the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile. In his most recent start, at Churchill Downs last November, Dominican finished third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. That performance was flattered last Saturday when the runner-up, Any Given Saturday, lost by a bare nose to Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby.
"He's coming in good to the race," Miller said of Dominican. "We were hoping to start him earlier in the year, but it didn't work out. He's a very workmanlike horse and very easy to ride. His performance last time out at Churchill certainly looks better and better with each passing week."
Lauer has Mocha Queen ready
Multiple Turfway stakes winner Hot Storm likely will be the favorite in the Queen Stakes, a sprint for older fillies and mares, but trainer Michael Lauer has Mocha Queen ready to challenge.
"She seems to like the Polytrack surface, but she likes most anything—turf, dirt, it doesn't matter with her," said Lauer. "She doesn't have to have a quick pace to win, but it would definitely help her. At age six, she's as good as she's ever been."
Mocha Queen is 7 for 41 with career earnings of just under $400,000. She's coming off a win over Turfway's Polytrack in an allowance optional claiming race. Two races back she finished second to fellow Queen runner Mary Delaney in the Wishing Well Stakes.
Three Lane's End trainers have tasted success in the race before
Whichever jockey wins this year's Lane's End Stakes, one thing is for sure: it will be his first Lane's End victory.
The same cannot be said for the trainers. D. Wayne Lukas, who sends out Starbase, has won the race twice from a record 21 previous starters. His wins came in 1983 with Marfa, when the race was known as the Spiral Stakes, and in 1995 with the filly Serena's Song. Under the once-every-12-years theory, Lukas may be due this year.
Todd Pletcher, who will saddle both Bullara and Twilight Meteor in the 2007 Lane's End, has also won the race twice, from just four previous starters. The wins came in 2001 with Balto Star and in 2005 with Flower Alley.
Nick Zito is the only other trainer represented in tomorrow's Lane's End to have won the race previously. In 1999, when the race was known as the Galleryfurniture.com Stakes, he earned the win with Stephen Got Even, the sire of one of this year's entrants, Joe Got Even.
Lane's End sires well represented this year
The Lane's End Stakes is very appropriately named given that no fewer than five entrants for this year's race were sired by Lane's End stallions. In addition to Stephen Got Even, Lane's End stands Lemon Drop Kid, represented by Approval Rating; Belong to Me, sire of Sports Town; and Smart Strike, sire of both Twilight Meteor and Sedgefield.
Maker's Mark VIP Tent a sell-out
The Maker's Mark VIP Tent, priced at $175 a ticket, is sold out for the second straight year. Seating about 2,000 fans, the tent is the see-and-be-seen party of the spring in Northern Kentucky. Maker's Mark has sponsored the VIP Tent since 2002.
Key Bank also is a Lane's End Stakes sponsor, signing on for the first time this year.
Gates open at Turfway Saturday at 10 a.m. First post is 1:10 p.m. General admission is $10. Parking is free. The Saturday card offers 12 races, with the five stakes beginning with Race 7.