Friday, March 26, 2010 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 26, 2010 . . . With training complete and entries drawn, only the waiting remains for the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday. Gates open at 9:30am, one-half hour earlier than previously announced. First post is 1:10pm.
Trainer Ken McPeek spent Friday at his Oaklawn Park headquarters overseeing stakes preparations for Noble’s Promise (Arkansas Derby) and Beautician (Fantasy Stakes or Ashland Stakes). But come Saturday, McPeek will appear often in the Turfway Park paddock, his mind on the four horses he has entered in four separate stakes events.
McPeek will run Outlaw Man in the headliner, the Lane's End Stakes, feeling that the distance will play to his strength. "I think Outlaw Man needs every inch of the mile and an eighth," he said.
Positive Split, another talented 3-year-old colt, will tackle lesser company in the Rushaway Stakes, but that doesn't mean McPeek has abandoned hopes of graded stakes earnings landing his son of Repent in the big time eventually. "If he runs well, we can come back with him in the (Coolmore) Lexington Stakes at Keeneland."
McPeek also has Orchestrator in the Bourbonette Stakes. But his most intriguing female entrant on Saturday is My Baby Baby, who steps down from Grade II competition at Santa Anita—versus the likes of St Trinians and last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Life is Sweet—into the $50,000 Fairway Fun Stakes.
"She's been ready to run, but there have not been a lot of options for her in California," McPeek said of My Baby Baby. "We were going to run her at Oaklawn for $5 million against Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, but then that race fell apart. I think she deserves another stakes win. It would certainly add to her pedigree page."
All four McPeek charges will be piloted by top flight California veteran Alex Solis, who has booted home 4,772 winners during his career. He is also ninth all-time in purse money won by his mounts with over $218 million. To McPeek, though, numbers don’t tell the full story.
"Alex Solis is a class act and a consummate professional," McPeek said. "I've gotten to know him very well last fall and winter in California, and he's a great horseman both on and off the track. He's been in plenty of big races before—I just have a lot of respect for the guy."
Romans hoping for cleaner trip, same result for Vow to Wager in Lane's End
Other than 9-5 morning line favorite Connemara, Vow to Wager is the only Lane's End entrant with previous experience over the Turfway all-weather strip. Four of his five lifetime races have come at Turfway, including a victory via disqualification in the February 27 John Battaglia Memorial. In the Battaglia, Vow to Wager and jockey John McKee struggled mightily to find running room from the far turn all the way to the wire.
"I thought he was (the best horse in the race)," said trainer Dale Romans. "I thought if he ever got a clear trip he was going to win outright, and I was impressed that he didn't give up after getting pushed around so much. It started at the half. My pony continued to the wire. The horse kept running and I was real happy with him."
After three unmemorable efforts as a 2-year-old, Vow to Wager has come to hand in his sophomore campaign, breaking his maiden at Turfway in his first start of the year on January 31 before moving up in the Battaglia. But Romans never lost faith in his Broken Vow colt despite his less than auspicious beginning.
"Mentally he never figured the game out," he said. "He always trained well in the mornings, and he's one of the best-looking horses we have in the barn. But he just couldn't put it together in a race. And we kept thinking, with experience, eventually a switch would turn on, and I think it did when he won his maiden race. He ran a pretty powerful race. And we got a little ambitious and ran him back in the $100,000 (Battaglia) stakes, but he always trained so good, and I figured if he was (feeling) good and going to run the way he was training we might as well try a bigger spot. And it worked out for us."
Vow to Wager was not nominated to the Triple Crown at the time of the mid-January, $600 deadline, but Romans has no qualms about anteing up should things fall into place tomorrow. "If he runs one-two then we'd have to put up the $6,000 and look to run him in the Derby."
Margolis sends out two
Trainer Steve Margolis has a pair of promising 3-year-colts pointing to races on the Lane's End undercard. In the Rushaway, he will send out Instant Message.
"He ran long a couple of times at Oaklawn this winter, so I spoke to the partners (owners Columbus Circle Partners), and we decided to give him a try in the Rushaway," said Margolis. "His short races were okay so we stretched him out longer, and for a three-year-old going long, I like the way he's doing." Larry Sterling will ride.
Margolis also has Cool Bullet in the six-furlong Hansel, with Calvin Borel booked for the mount. "He's been a nice surprise," said Margolis. "He has stepped up ever since he won that $50,000 claiming race (in his third start). I think the last time (the Southwest) was a little too tough and a little too far for him. I think we've got two live horses here."
The Lane's End is the ninth of 12 races on Saturday’s card. General admission is $10; some reserved seats remain at $25 to $175. Tickets are available at the door for all remaining reserved seats.