Thursday, March 20, 2008 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 20, 2008 . . . The four stakes on the Lane’s End undercard have shaped up, with the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) serving as a prep for the Kentucky Oaks and the Rushaway offering a second Derby option for 3-year-olds.
Should Clearly Foxy win the Bourbonette Oaks, trainer Mark Casse would have his sixth win in the race. His first win came in one division of the race's inaugural running (1983) and his two most recent came the last two years with Top Notch Lady (2006) and Sealy Hill (2007).
Clearly Foxy has been off since October, when she ran sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, her only loss in three tries. "I really had no intention of running her in the Breeders Cup, but she was breezing so good, I'd thought I'd give it a shot," said Casse. "She really didn't run that bad. She got left a little at the gate and came running at the end. Nothing was gaining much in the mud that day. I was as pleased as you can be for coming in sixth. I gave her some time off. We were going to run her in the Silverbulletday and the Fair Grounds Oaks, but she didn't care for that track down there. She's been training well on a synthetic surface at Ocala, so this seemed like a good spot for her. She's a true grass horse, but she'll run on synthetic as long as it's hard. If it's loose, we may be in trouble. She handles a Polytrack that's pretty firm."
Of Kentucky Oaks possibilities, Casse said, "I think Churchill Downs on Derby week is as close to a synthetic surface as you'll find. She likes a track that isn't real deep and I've found Churchill's on Derby week to be similar to what she'd like. If she runs well here, then we'd look at the Oaks."
Casse also has a strong hand in the Rushaway with Miner's Claim, an undefeated son of Mineshaft who won equally easily at 6 furlongs and at a mile and 70 yards on the Polytrack at Woodbine. He has not raced since November but has been working well at the Ocala Training Center for his return.
"I don't think his Beyers did him justice as a 2-year old," said Casse of Miner's Claim. "He got a nine on the Ragozins in his last start. He's the only offspring of Mineshaft to win his first start and most Mineshafts get better with time. His second start, he broke the new track record [at Woodbine] by 4/5 of a second and he did that with ease. He comes from a nice family on the dam's side. His half-brother [Shaniko] won the Kentucky Cup [Classic] here at Turfway a couple of years ago.
"We've had some minor bumps with him. We wanted to run him in the Battaglia [Memorial at Turfway] last time, but he got a little temperature. So we're playing catch up. I wouldn't rule the Derby out if he runs well in the Rushaway, but it's one step at a time."
Graham Motion, who has Adriano in the Lane's End, will send undefeated Icabad Crane to the Rushaway for his third career start. Both wins came at Aqueduct, a maiden special weight at 6 1/2 furlongs over a sealed track last November and a mile and 70 yards on the inner track in January. In the latter race he defeated Todd Pletcher's Duke of de Buqe, who is entered in the Lane's End.
"He has some turf in his damside pedigree, so we think he'll handle Polytrack," said Motion about Icabad Crane. "It's not a bad spot to introduce him to stakes company. He certainly hasn't done anything wrong so far and he won his last race pretty handily. He's got a great attitude and is a very sensible horse."
Motion continued that thought in an NTRA conference on Tuesday: "I really like this horse, not only because he's two for two, but for the fact that he's got a really good disposition. He seems like he could handle anything. . . . He just has a very kind, easygoing way about him.
"Having watched the Triple Crown now or these big 3-year-old races for several years, its still seems to me that you need a horse that's got the right disposition, and he certainly has that. Whether or not he’ll handle a step up in competition, we'll find out on Saturday."
In addition to Halo's King in the Lane’s End, Grant Hofmans sends Acting Out to the Rushaway. "When he broke his maiden in his last start, there were a couple of other horses in there that people were high on. He's just coming around. He'll probably be a grass horse down the road, but he's improving. He's the type of horse that you need to feel out of the gate and let him position himself. Last time, Jesus [Castanon, who rides Saturday] did that perfectly."
After winning the one-mile WEBN Stakes and finishing fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia Memorial, Big Glen also has been entered in the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway. Big Glen made a sweeping move to win the WEBN but was caught inside in the Battaglia and never got a clear chance to run.
In addition to Chitoz and Duke of de Buqe in the Lane's End, Todd Pletcher has Holidaze in the Rushaway. Two starts back, the son of Harlan's Holiday, was very impressive winning an allowance race on Aqueduct's inner track despite a world of trouble entering the first turn. Last time out, though, he ran sixth in the slop in the Gotham Stakes at a fog-shrouded Aqueduct.
"We absolutely couldn't make heads or tails out of his last race," said Pletcher. "You couldn't see anything that day. All I could go by was what the rider [Mike Luzzi] said afterwards, which was that he didn't seem to handle the sloppy surface. We're giving him another chance."
Lane's End Stakes
Speaking from his Gulfstream Park base, trainer Ken McPeek said he and his connections were looking forward to running Racecar Rhapsody in Saturday's Lane's End. McPeek's best finish in Turfway's premier spring race came in 1995 when Tejano Run finished second to Serena's Song and then went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby.
"The horse is doing good," said McPeek. "The field is a little deep, but it's a good first step. It would be great to win the race for Jerry Carroll [former Turfway owner]. The only question was whether we were going to take a conservative or aggressive approach. The horse has run well in graded races, so we decided he deserved a shot here. This is a nice colt."
Mark Casse's Turf War and Miner's Claim schooled in the paddock Thursday afternoon, as did Dallas Stewart's Macho Again, who also galloped Thursday.
Pletcher's horses are on the grounds, Chitoz arriving Wednesday evening and Duke of de Buqe and Holidaze arriving early Thursday morning. Chitoz jogged and galloped a couple of circuits of Turfway's mile track early Thursday morning. Duke of de Buqe and Holidaze walked the shedrow, according to Pletcher's assistant Whit Beckman. Both are expected to go to the track early Friday.