Friday, March 20, 2009 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 20, 2009 . . . Bittel Road and West Side Bernie, one-two on the morning line for the Lane's End Stakes Saturday, both were on the Polytrack at Turfway Park Friday morning.
Whit Beckman, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, jogged Bittel Road once around the Turfway track and then galloped another circuit. "He went very easily," Beckman said. "He’s loving the track. He's just cruising over top of it."
Bittel Road has never raced on dirt but did train on it at Saratoga as a 2-year-old. "He breezed all right over it so obviously he has the ability," said Beckman, "but put him on the turf and he's just a different horse. He's got those nice, round feet. Turf is where he excels."
West Side Bernie went to the track escorted by a pony and with trainer Kelly Breen aboard. Earlier Breen took Hansel entry King Puma to the track as well.
D. Wayne Lukas won the Lane's End in 1983 with Marfa and in 1995 with Serena's Song, the only filly to win the race. This year he brings Flying Private, a son of 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. In his most recent race, the Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn February 28, Flying Private closed to finish second, beaten just a head. In most of his previous seven races he had been on or near the lead early. "We've been experimenting with him a little bit," said Lukas. "We ran him short last time, and he closed into the speed in front of him. We're trying to develop a style with him."
Regarding Flying Private's position at post 10, Lukas said, "It doesn't hurt us and it doesn't help us. It's fine as long as he isn't wide going into the first turn."
Jockey Israel Ocampo was aboard in the Mountain Valley and retains the mount Saturday. "I like him," said Lukas of Ocampo. "He's a solid, aggressive rider. He rides smart and aggressive."
Flying Private worked Monday at Oaklawn, going four furlongs in an easy :51.80, and will ship to Turfway from Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Turfway Prevue winner Loch Dubh ("Black Lake," pronounced "Lock Doo") makes his second Turfway start in the Lane's End. "I expect him to be tracking horses—not far back, not close up," said trainer Jeff Talley. "He loved it [at Turfway] when we ran the one time and I'm really looking forward to running him there again." After what Talley described as "a ton of trouble," Loch Dubh finished fifth in his most recent race, the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn.
Loch Dubh drew post 9 in the Lane's End, which is fine with Talley. "I like the outside post as long as it's not too far outside," he said.
Calvin Borel has the mount on Loch Dubh Saturday, his first race on the son of Friends Lake. Explaining why he chose Borel, Talley said, "Patience. This colt has an explosive move and in some earlier races he hasn't finished up. He needs a rider who will sit on him. Calvin can do that."
Music City, entered in the Hansel Stakes, schooled in the paddock with a pony Friday. Music City won a Turfway allowance by five lengths in January. The runner-up in that race, Lane's End entry Parade Clown, turned the tables in the WEBN Stakes, leaving Music City second by 2 3/4 lengths.
Darrin Miller trains for Silverton Hill, the nom de course of Bonnie and Tommy Hamilton, and has entered two on Saturday: Oculuna in the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) and Cliffy's Future in the Rushaway Stakes. Miller gallops both, and both have been over the Polytrack a couple of times since arriving at Turfway on Wednesday.
In her last two races, Oculuna won with a $50,000 tag and then stepped up to win an allowance, both at a mile and both on the turf at Tampa. "We want to give her an opportunity here to get some blacktype," said Miller.
Oculuna lost her left eye when she was kicked by another filly as a yearling. "You have to let her know you're around, but she's pretty good about instant contact—responding to it in a good way, not so much reacting," Miller said. "She's good about that. She's done great in her races. She had one incident, the first time she went two turns [drifted wide in the first turn and disqualified to last], and I don't even know that it so much was that [loss of vision on the left] when she went out. Other than that she's been fine."
Cliffy's Future finished a well-beaten eighth in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa last out, his first race for Miller. "He was a private purchase and we've run him one time, in the Sam Davis, and he didn’t do any good, so we'll start over here and see where we're at. He should be all right. He seems to get over this racetrack just fine. He's a late running horse."
Saturday’s five stakes begin with the sixth race, the $50,000 Queen, a sprint for older fillies and mares. The field of 11 is headed by the consistent Just for Keeps, already a stakes winner for Turfway's leading trainer, Mike Maker. Proud Heiress won the Wishing Well Stakes at Turfway in January and will try for her second trophy.
The $50,000 Hansel Stakes, a sprint for 3-year-olds, drew eight. Breen's King Puma comes in with two wins and second and has posted three straight bullet works at Palm Meadows. Rudy Flyer sandwiched a third in the Turfway Prevue between two wins and posted two bullet five-furlong works at Turfway this month. Turfiste won the Black Gold Stakes on the turf at Fair Grounds in his last start by a determined head.
The $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) for 3-year-old fillies drew a field of 10 going a mile. K. K. Ball enters Walloon off a win in the Valdale Stakes at Turfway. Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Fitz Just Right led nearly gate to wire, pressured all the way, to win the OBS Championship Stakes in mid-February. In her last four starts, Stone Legacy has three seconds, beaten three lengths or less each time, and one win, a maiden special at Oaklawn. Trainer Tom Drury Jr. considered Instrumentalist for the Hansel against males before deciding on the Bourbonette. Showing speed all the way, she has two wins in two career starts, both at Turfway.
The $100,000 Rushaway, 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds, has drawn a field of eight. After a rocky trip in his first start left him 10th, Ziegfeld showed grit winning his second, a maiden special at Gulfstream, and posted a best-of-31 five furlong work at Gulfstream last Saturday. A touch of colic kept Fitzaslew out of the Battaglia Memorial last month but he has been training well at Keeneland since then. In his only other two-turn try, just his second career start, he finished sixth in the Cradle Stakes on Labor Day.
The Lane's End Stakes has been sponsored since 2002 by Lane's End, the leading stud farm in North America for 10 years, seven consecutively, and one of the world's premier Thoroughbred operations. Located in Central Kentucky, the farm encompasses about 3,000 acres and is home to some of the industry's most influential stallions, including Smart Strike, who ranked first among North American sires in 2007 and 2008, Kingmambo, and A. P. Indy. The newest addition to the Lane’s End roster is Curlin, a son of Smart Strike who holds the record for purse earnings with $10,501,800 and twice was the Eclipse Award Horse of the Year. Lane's End is owned by William S. Farish, former U. S. ambassador to the Court of St. James's, twice an Eclipse Award winner as leading breeder, and long a leader in such industry organizations as The Jockey Club and the Breeders' Cup.
The premium venue on Lane's End day, the Maker's Mark VIP Tent, has been sponsored by the noted Kentucky bourbon distillery since 2003. In 2004, Maker's Mark produced the first of a series of limited edition bottles commemorating the Lane's End Stakes, the first Northern Kentucky event to be so honored.
Additional sponsorship has been provided since 2008 by Miller Brewing Company, the official beer of the Lane's End Stakes.
First post Saturday is 1:10 p.m. Gates open at 10:00 a.m. General admission is $10, and reserved seating is still available. Parking is free; valet parking is available.