03/21/2009 11:22AM

First Saturday of Spring


The first Saturday of Spring starts a relatively light racing weekend, with just seven G2 and G3 races around the country including a single Derby prep, today's Lane's End at Turfway:

On the multirace-wagering front, unlike last Saturday, there are no carryovers in either the Aqu or SA pick-six or the Magna 5. There's the usual $250k guarantee on the Aqueduct late Pick-4. Turfway is running five straight stakes from races 6 through 10, but there's nothing more exotic than rolling pick-3's linking them; the Pick-4 is on the usual last four races, which today are the Rushaway, Lane's End, and two firster-loaded maiden sprints.

Hats2 The Lane's End kicks off ESPN's scaled-back 2009 racing coverage with a one-hour ESPN2 telecast from 5 to 6 pm ET. (Racing got bumped to The Deuce by the Juan Carlos Gomes-Vitali Klitschko heavyweight fight.) ESPN, which is behaving like it's sorry it ever signed up to broadcast horse races, recently announced it was dumping its scheduled coverage of the Kentucky Oaks, which will instead be broadcast by Bravo in what is expected to be hat-centric coverage.

The Lane's End is widely perceived as a two-horse race between Bittel Road (5-2) and West Side Bernie (3-1) in a weak renewal that drew only one of the 23 individual betting interests from the Pool 2 Derby Futures crew -- West Side Bernie closed as the 16th choice in last weekend's betting at 43-1. Bittel Road comes in off a pair of fourths (beaten 3.5 and 2 lengths) behind Pioneerof the Nile out west against what look like better horses than he's facing today, but his future is probably on the grass.

The Lane's End is the first of 12 final opportunities for Derby aspirants to pick up graded-stakes earnings:

The list above does not include grass races (such as the G3 Transylvania at Keeneland April 3), foreign races (such as the $2 million Group 2 UAE Derby March 28) or races restricted to fillies.