Monday, March 17, 2008 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 17, 2008 . . . With entries to be drawn Wednesday, the picture of probable starters for Saturday's Grade II Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park is beginning to clear. According to Stakes Coordinator Randy Wehrman, currently on the list for the 1 1/8-mile Lane's End are:
Adriano (trainer H. Graham Motion)
Cannonball (Wesley Ward)
Chitoz (Todd Pletcher)
Duke of De Buqe (Todd Pletcher)
El Aleman (Luis Seglin)
Halo Najib (Dale Romans)
Macho Again (Dallas Stewart)
Medjool (David Hofmans)
Racecar Rhapsody (Kenneth McPeek)
Turf War (Mark Casse)
Additionally, trainer Grant Hofmans is considering Halo's King for the Lane's End but may send him in the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway Stakes on the undercard instead.
Of Cannonball, Ward today said, "He's doing great. He had a good workout last Sunday. We'll be leaving here [Florida] on Wednesday and hopefully we can make [owner Ken] Ramsey some money on Saturday."
When asked if he thought a start on Polytrack would turn around Cannonball's streak of three straight third-place finishes on turf, Ward replied, "We just have to get away from those [Todd] Pletcher horses. He's been breathing fire every time I've led him over for those races and those horses seem to have brought the extinguishers. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll be facing another Pletcher horse this weekend."
In his two most recent races, Cannonball finished third behind Pletcher's Why Tonto in the Hallandale Beach Stakes on February 16 and Pletcher's Cowboy Cal in the Tropical Park Derby on January 1.
Pletcher, the Eclipse Award-winning trainer the last four years, won the Lane's End in 2001 with Balto Star and in 2005 with Flower Alley. Both of his runners headed for this years Lane’s End have strong ties to Turfway, either in past performances or bloodlines.
Chitoz was second, beaten only a neck, in last year's Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway. His only 2008 outing to date found him fourth in a second-level allowance race over the turf at Gulfstream Park on February 20.
"Chitoz obviously ran well last year at Turfway over the Polytrack," said Pletcher. "With a race under his belt this year, we're hoping to see an improved effort on Saturday."
Pletcher's other Lane's End charge, Duke of de Buqe, is a New York-bred who has never raced anywhere but Aqueduct. He has two wins from four starts, all in dirt races restricted to New York-breds. The son of Dixie Union is, however, out of the Devil's Bag mare Miss Livi, which makes Duke of de Buqe a half brother to Balto Star.
"Duke of de Buqe is a horse we always thought would like the turf, and since he's a half to Balto Star, who could run on both dirt and turf, we think Duke of de Buqe will handle the Turfway Polytrack well. The Lane's End is a good option for him."
Trainer Dale Romans reports that his Lane's End contender, Halo Najib, is all set for the race following a bullet five-furlong workout in :58 4/5 on Sunday at Turfway Park. Halo Najib left his Florida base for Kentucky a week ago.
Romans said the deciding factor in bringing the Halo's Image colt to the Lane's End was his undefeated record on synthetic surfaces. He broke his maiden at first asking last October over Keeneland's Polytrack and two starts ago won the Ocala Breeders' Sale Championship over the Ocala Training Center's synthetic surface.
Adriano's ninth-place finish from post 12 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes was not exactly what Graham Motion was expecting, but the British-born trainer will give Adriano, a son of A.P. Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare, another chance in the Lane's End Stakes.
After a 6 3/4-length grass score in one of the most visually impressive performances of the current Gulfstream meeting, Adriano moved from allowance ranks to the February 24 Fountain of Youth for his first try on dirt. His bad luck started at the post position draw, where he drew the outside stall, and got worse from there, with first-turn trouble contributing to the lackluster finish behind Cool Coal Man.
"He had a tough post, and I'm not sure he handled dirt as well as he handled grass," said Motion. "We were kind of experimenting with him. But I think he should handle the Polytrack and deserves one more shot at the big time."
Adriano's lone Polytrack effort resulted in a solid fourth-place finish last year in the Grade I Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. "He ran respectably that day," Motion said. "It was a big step up for him, after just breaking his maiden at Delaware."
Motion is also eager to give Adriano another try at the Lane's End distance. "I think that as the distances get longer it will only help him."
Racecar Rhapsody is owned in partnership by Jerry Carroll, who owned Turfway Park from 1986 to 1999, when it was sold to a partnership that included its current owners, Keeneland Association and Harrah's Entertainment. Carroll's Lane's End hopeful was most recently fourth, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths, in the Delta Jackpot in December.
Past performances for all Lane's End nominees are available at www.turfway.com. The Lane’s End Stakes is the last of 12 races on Saturday. Gates open at 10am ET. First post is 1:10pm.