Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 19, 2009 . . . Bittel Road, the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Lane's End Stakes this Saturday, had a pleasingly uneventful trip from California to Turfway Park, arriving Wednesday
"He shipped in well, is all settled, and he galloped well over the track [Thursday] morning," reported trainer Todd Pletcher. The colt also schooled in the paddock during the first race on Turfway's Thursday card.
Pletcher was modestly pleased with Bittel Road's draw of post two in the crowded 12-horse field for Saturday's race. "I think I'd rather be inside than way outside," he said. "Ideally, I'd rather be closer to the middle, but I think I like the '2' a lot better than '11' or '12.'"
Pletcher, currently in Florida, hopes to be on hand at Turfway Park to saddle Bittel Road, who is co-owned by James Scatuorchio and John Iracane. But his presence ultimately may depend on Scatuorchio’s schedule.
"I'm waiting to hear back from Mr. Scatuorchio on what time his [private] plane is leaving Florida on Saturday," said Pletcher. "I have to be at Gulfstream Saturday morning to breeze Dunkirk, but I'd like to make it to Turfway if I can."
Should Pletcher not make it to Turfway Park, Bittel Road will be saddled by assistant Whit Beckman, who has worked for Pletcher for about two years.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will have prominent horses in both the Lane's End Stakes and the Bourbonette Oaks. While each drew similar post positions in large fields, McLaughlin plans to employ two distinctly different strategies.
"We don't want A.P. Cardinal to be up on the lead," he said of his A.P. Indy colt who drew post three for the Lane's End. "Last time out, we feel he was almost rushed off his feet a little bit. We'd rather be farther back off the lead this time. He drew a good post, but we are not going to be sending him Saturday. We'd rather he stalk from just off the pace or even more toward the middle of the pack."
Fitz Just Right figures as the horse to beat in the Bourbonette Oaks, and from her draw in post two, McLaughlin is fully expecting his filly to be prominent during the early stages of the race. "We'll go on out with her and be more forwardly placed than with A.P. Cardinal,” he said. "We'll see who wants to go out and try to clear her, but I don't think she'll be too far out of it early."
One of McLaughlin's last official duties on Saturday will be to communicate to Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville basketball coach who co-owns A. P. Cardinal, how the colt fared in the Lane's End. "It'll be either a text or an e-mail," McLaughlin said. "I'll e-mail him pretty quickly after the race is over. He always responds to the e-mails with a comment or two, though I don't know that he will on Saturday, given how busy he'll be."
Pitino's Cardinals, the number one seed in the NCAA tournament, has a Friday night game in Dayton, Ohio, against another Kentucky school, Morehead State. Should Pitino and the Cardinals emerge victorious, he would need to prepare his squad for a Sunday tilt against the winner of Friday's Ohio State-Siena opening round contest.
Given McLaughlin's preference that A.P. Cardinal be restrained from the early mix, it seems even more certain that Orthodox will set the early fractions in the Lane's End Stakes. Orthodox's trainer, John Glenney, was neither thrilled nor disappointed with his horse’s draw of post eight.
"It's fine," he said. "It's not the best, it's not the worst. It's in the middle and it should work out fine. He's going to probably go to the front, so we’ll probably end up on the rail anyway."
Should a certain part of the racetrack show itself particularly advantageous during the races on Saturday, Glenney is confident his rider will find it.
"Jesus Castanon is coming in from Fair Grounds for the race. He's ridden a whole bunch at Turfway, and he has several mounts on the undercard. So he'll be paying close attention throughout the day, and I'm sure he'll put Orthodox in what he feels is the very best spot to win."
Orthodox continues his preparation for the Lane's End at Keeneland, prior to a scheduled van ride to Turfway on the morning of the race. "He's doing great,' said Glenney. "He got new shoes this morning, then went out and galloped a mile. He's the kind of horse that doesn't like other horses in front of him, and when a couple of other workers tried to go up inside him, he tried to go right along with them. He's feeling great and seems to be coming up to the race really well."
Saturday marks the 38th running of the Lane's End, a Kentucky Derby prep that earned its Grade II status in 1988. The undercard features a second route for 3-year-olds, the 1 1/16 mile Rushaway, as well as a mile prep for the Kentucky Oaks, the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks. A pair of sprint stakes, the Hansel for 3-year-olds and the Queen for older fillies and mares, round out the stakes portion of the 12-race card.
The first 1,200 fans through the gates Saturday will receive a free 2009 Lane's End Stakes hat. Gates open at 10:00 a.m. First post is 1:10 p.m.