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Saturday, March 22, 2008



Some fringe Kentucky Derby prospects are assembled in 2 stakes at Turfway today – the races go off late so get the chores done and then turn on the TV/computer.

MARK CASSE has horses in all the stakes events.

He shoots for his 6th straight BOURBONETTE STAKES with Clearly Foxy; has the undefeated Miner’s Claim in the Rushaway and Turf War in the lane’s End.

Also in the Bourbonette is the Canadian-bred filly MAREN’S MEADOW (by Meadowlake)


race 9 - Hansel Stakes: U.S. Cavalary

race 10 - Bourbonette Stakes (G3): Maren's Meadow

race 11 - Rushaway Stakes : Big Glen

race 12 - Lane's End (G2): Halo Najib, Macho Again, Medjool


From AND Union-Tribune


Unknowns get chance at Turfway

The established names on the Kentucky Derby Trail are off this week. They're all either fresh from running a week ago or waiting final Derby preps in the coming weeks at Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Santa Anita, Aqueduct or Keeneland.

Which makes today's $500,000, Grade II Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., an opportunity for one of the 12 lesser-known 3-year-olds in the field to make a name for itself and assure a place in the Derby.

Turfway Park has a Polytrack main surface, the same brand that Del Mar installed a year ago. It's the 37th running of an event now called the Lane's End, the third time that the track's signature race will be run on Polytrack. Hard Spun, the 2007 winner, ran second to Street Sense in the Derby.

The surface, the fact that the race is in Kentucky – although Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River, is a lot closer than Louisville – and the money are the main enticements for the connections of the dozen entrants.

Halo Najib is the 7-2 opening-line favorite of Turfway oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, seven of the 12 are 8-1 or lower. Halo Najib, trained by Dale Romans and to be ridden by Kent Desormeaux, is one of only three stakes winners in the race, that coming in the Ocala Breeders' Sales Championship at Gulfstream Park.

Turf War is one of them, although his stakes mark was in a dead-heat for first in the Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs last December. Patrick Husbands will ride Turf War, who has two wins on record over the Polytrack at Woodbine.

“We've been training all winter on Polytrack and at Ocala (Fla.) on an all-weather surface like Polytrack, so this race figured,” Turf War trainer Mark Casse said on a teleconference call earlier this week.

A California connection in the Lane's End is Medjool, a winner in his fifth career start last month at Santa Anita. Medjool, trained by Dave Hofmans and to be ridden today by Michael Baze, shipped in Tuesday from Santa Anita.

“We're pleased with the way he shipped in and the way he's looking and acting,” Steve Bajer said yesterday by phone from Turfway Park. Bajer, a Sierra Madre resident, co-owns Medjool with his Equine Prep bloodstock agency partner John O'Hara.

While the surface was a major consideration for some of the Lane's End group, distance, money and the competition weighed heavily with the Medjool connections.

“We've been waiting to run a mile-and-an-eighth race ever since we got this horse,” Bajer said. “We don't know about the others, but we know he'll have no problems getting the distance.”

After Medjool broke his maiden in February, thoughts were given to staying at Santa Anita for a prep there and then the Santa Anita Derby in two weeks. But the Lane's End beckoned.

If there are more than the maximum 20 entered in the Kentucky Derby, the field will be determined by graded stakes earnings. Most of the Lane's End starters are at zero in that regard right now, but the winner, collecting over $200,000 will have punched his ticket to the Run for the Roses.

Derby Trail mix

Kent Desormeaux has been given the mount on Georgie Boy, the Del Mar Futurity winner who took the San Felipe Stakes a week ago at Santa Anita, for the Santa Anita Derby. Michael Baze was aboard for the San Felipe after regular rider Rafael Bejarano was injured and trainer Kathy Walsh indicated immediately following the race that Baze would likely keep the mount.

“It was a tough call, but a mutual decision (with owner George Schwary),” Walsh said. “Michael is a fine rider and did a good job in the San Felipe, but Mr. Schwary felt a more experienced rider was in order.”


Top Kentucky Derby contenders (with starts, firsts, seconds, thirds, earnings, trainer and probable jockey).

1. Pyro (6-3-2-1, $1,057,718. Steve Asmussen, Shaun Bridgmohan): Breeders' Cup runner-up finished behind War Pass three times but he is clearly the top contender now that the champ has been beaten. ... Became a millionaire with workmanlike victory in Louisiana Derby. ... Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland April 12 is scheduled to be his final Derby prep.

2. Cool Coal Man(7-4-1-0, $307,531. Nick Zito, Kent Desormeaux): Stalked the pace and came home strongly to win the Feb. 24 Fountain of Youth for his second straight victory over 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream. ... Although nobody is sure exactly how fast he ran because of a timing glitch (estimates range from 1:49.58 to 1:50.07), that performance, his first stakes win, earned him enough graded stakes money to get to the Derby. ... His final prep will be in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 12 at Keeneland.

3. Elysium Fields(5-2-2-1, $108,960. Barclay Tagg, Eibar Coa): Got a perfect trip behind the pace makers in the Fountain of Youth, but couldn't hold off the charge of Cool Coal Man. ... He might have done better if he hadn't had to rush up to get early position from the No. 9 post. ... He'll get another chance in the Florida Derby.

4. Big Truck(7-3-1-1, $336,880. Barclay Tagg, Eibar Coa): New York-bred has steadily improved with each race and showed a great stretch kick in catching Atoned in the last 40 yards to win the March 15 Tampa Bay Derby. ... Next start could be the 1 3/16-mile Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on April 12.

5. Atoned (8-2-5-0, $196,757. Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Looked like a winner down the stretch in the March 15 Tampa Bay Derby until Big Truck caught him at the end. ... It still was an impressive performance for his 3-year-old debut, his first race since he clipped heels, stumbled, then rallied to get lead before finishing second in 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.

6. War Pass(6-5-0-0, $1,433,400. Nick Zito, Cornelio Velasquez): What happened? The 2007 champion 2-year-old colt got more education than most everybody expected when he got bumped around and finished seventh and last in the March 15 Tampa Bay Derby. ... It certainly was a tougher test than his easy victory at a mile (in 1:36.38) in a $36,000 workout for his 3-year-old debut in an allowance race on Feb. 24 at Gulfstream Park . ... Will Zito turn him around? Or is he just a freshman phenom who can't carry his form as a sophomore? ... The next few weeks be very interesting. ... His next start probably will be the April 5 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

7. Court Vision(5-3-1-1, $292,542. William Mott, Garrett Gomez): Scored impressive win at 1 1/8 miles in Aqueduct's roughly run Remsen Stakes in November for third straight victory while beating Big Truck by five lengths and Atoned by a neck. ... Grandson of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat came from 12th to third in the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth in his sophomore debut. ... It was his first out-of-the-exacta finish but still was a good showing for his first race in three months. ... Next start is the Wood Memorial April 5 at Aqueduct.

8. Colonel John (5-3-2-0, $375,300. Eoin Harty, Corey Nakatani): Son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow looked good in two come-from-behind victories and a runner-up finish to Into Mischief in Southern California. ... Has been working "bullets" (fastest of the day at the distance) at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita. ... Stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in winning the $200,000 Sham Stakes against four others, including No. 9 El Gato Malo, by a half-length. ... Santa Anita Derby on April 5 will be his final prep race for the Derby.

9. Georgie Boy (7-4-2-1, $496,806. Kathy Walsh, Michael Baze): Speedy gelding looked like he was comfortable with running longer distances when he won the March 15 San Felipe Stakes rather easily in his first try around two turns. ... Because of an injury to jockey Rafael Bejarano, Michael Baze got the mount. ... Next race could be the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

10. Cowboy Cal (5-3-0-1, $164,708, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Won Laurel Futurity and Tropical Park Derby on grass, as did Barbaro en route to 2003 Derby victory. .‚.‚. After runner-up finish in grassy Hallandale Beach on Feb. 16, Pletcher probably will switch to synthetic surface in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in his next start on April 12.

11. El Gato Malo (4-3-1-0, $200,200, Craig Dollase, David Flores): Set Santa Anita record for a mile in 6 1/4-length win in San Rafael Stakes on Jan. 12. .‚.‚. Suffered first defeat, finishing a half-length behind No. 6 Colonel John, when he stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on March 1. ... His connections are planning for a rematch in the April 5 Santa Anita Derby.

12. Denis of Cork(3-3-0-0, $198,552. Dennis Carroll, Julian Leparoux): Made impressive stakes debut with solid finish to win Feb. 18 Southwest at Oaklawn Park at a mile. ... Connections decided to skip the March 15 Rebel Stakes and race in the April 5 Illinois Derby.

13. Visionaire(5-3-1-1, $228,260. Michael Matz, Jose Lezcano): Came flying through the fog to win the Gotham Stakes over the Aqueduct slop on March 8. ... In his only other stakes appearance he was 2 3/4 lengths behind Pyro in the Risen Star on Feb. 9. ... Wood Memorial (April 5) is next logical step.

14. Z Humor(7-2-0-2, $566,450. William Mott, Rene Douglas): Earned $400,000 as a dead-heat winner (with Turf War) in the Dec. 7 Delta Jackpot for 2-year-olds. ... As a 3-year-old he shows two medoicre efforts, most recently a fourth-place finish, 8 1/2 lengths behind Cool Coal Man, in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 24. ... Will try to made amends in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 5.

15. Z Fortune (5-3-1-0, $186,600, Steve Asmussen, Garrett Gomez): New York-bred has not progressed in two outings since scoring a 2 3/4-length victory in Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 12. ...Couldn't hold lead against stablemate Pyro in Risen Star. ... Then failed to fire as 7-10 favorite in March 15 Rebel Stakes, where he finished almost 10 lengths behind Sierra Sunset.

16. Tale of Ekati (5-2-1-0, $313,200. Barclay Tagg, Edgar Prado): Won Belmont Futurity with big stretch move. .‚.‚. Fourth in Breeders' Cup after botched workout went too fast. ... Posted nine timed workouts at Palm Meadows training center between Jan. 16 and March 3 but finished sixth, 6 1/2 lengths behind Pyro in Louisiana Derby in his 3-year-old debut. ... Tagg said he had his head turned sideways when the gate opened and lost all chance. ... He'll get another chance in the April 5 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

17. Fierce Wind (5-3-0-0, $146,200. Nick Zito, Cornelio Velasquez): Fourth Zito horse on this list finished five lengths in front of Z Humor in Sam Davis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 16, so time will tell if he deserves a higher ranking. ... He will next appear in the March 29 Florida Derby.

18. Blackberry Road (9-1-2-2, $158,235. David Carroll, Robby Albarado): Runner-up to Z Fortune in Jan. 12 Lecomte Stakes had lots of traffic trouble in Feb. 9 Risen Star and emerged with some minor cuts and scrapes. ... Then he finished fourth in Louisiana Derby after a switch to Albarado from Calvin Borel. ... Looks like the April 5 Illinois Derby is next but he will need another new rider.

19. Turf War(6-3-1-0, $518,548, Mark Casse, Patrick Husbands): Followed dead-heat win (with Z Humor) in Dec. 7 Delta Jackpot with a ninth-place finish in Feb. 18 Southwest Stakes, where he suffered a minor heel injury. ... Look for him in the March 22 Lane's End Stakes, where he's drawn the 11th post and is 5-1 on the morning line at Turfway Park.

20 Massive Drama (5-2-0-3, $235,200. Dale Romans, Kent Desormeaux): Under new management (Romans replaced Bob Baffert as trainer) and in a new country (training for the UAE Derby in Dubai on March 29), he made this list after former No. 13 Sierra Sunset was injured and knocked off the Derby trail.


The THOROUGHBLOG leader of Canadian-breds, SUGAR SWIRL is seeking her 3rd straight stakes win at Gulfstream today in the Shirley Jones Handicap. The Touch Gold-Astrapi 5yo mare has won 8 of 18 races and $591K. She just topped her own Beyer Figures with a 100.

COOL N COLLECTIVE, the 11-year-old stakes winning Canadian-bred, is in action at Aqueduct today for $10,000 claiming. The old-timer is in another new barn having been claimed half a dozen times recently. He is a 12-time winner in 62 races.


CLEVER FELLOW kicked off the Stampede Park racing season last night when he won the first race for Bar None Ranches (who also race in Ontario). The Othello gelding won his maiden for $7,000 claiming.

Bar None also won the 4th race with ALL THE TOYS, an Include-Miss Double Dip Alberta-bred, in a $20,000 maiden claiming race.

NINE-YEAR-OLD (9) …A GOOD DAY TO RUN (Sea Wall-Govan) won at Mountaineer last night for $5,000 claiming. He’s an Ontario bred from Minshall Farms and now owned by Ruberto racing.

OWNER/TRAINER LES FROST won at Mountaineer with his friend HOPE ON THE RUN (Porto Foricos-Numberonetreasure) in a $10,000 claiming race.

LICKETY LEMON was 4th beaten more than 6 lengths in the Bedanken Stakes at Fair Grounds yesterday. The Charles Laloggie owned, Mark Casse trained miss was making her season debut.


  • At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am also an owner at Woodbine who enjoys claimimg Ontario breds. I have also heard about the change of the bonus structure by the cths. I would like to know who to voice my opinion to. Although I am sure it will not change their decision. It seems like they are trying to phase out claimimg all together. They shouldn't forget that's where many owners get their money from to buy yearlings. Who cares if an Ontario bred has been claimed. If they are good enough to win they should be entitled to the bonus, claimed previously or not.

  • At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How about Fort Erie? How much insentive is this for Ontario Breds at a track that is nearly all claiming. Who came up with this program? It was obviously WEG.

  • At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Bob Summers said…

    Hi Jen. Happy Easter and thanks for the plug today. I hope I don't look TOO stupid come Derby Day. Bob Summers

  • At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Daryl G. Ezra said…

    Sorry Bob Summers [A.K.A. The Happy Handicaper], where is BIG BROWN on your list?

  • At 12:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Photos from Turfway Park on Saturday...

    Lane's End, Rushaway, and Hansel:

    Bourbonette Oaks and Queen:

  • At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jennifer, please clear up this discussion - my understanding is that this was not WEG's initiative.


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