03/20/2007 11:00PM

11 challenge Hard Spun


FLORENCE, Ky. - A handful of Florida shippers, led by the speedy Forefathers and the Todd Pletcher duo of Twilight Meteor and Bullara, will try to give favored Hard Spun a run for his money Saturday at Turfway Park in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes.

Hard Spun, with Mario Pino to ride, drew post 10 in a full field of 12 3-year-olds for the Grade 2 Lane's End. The 5-2 choice on the track's morning line, Hard Spun will try to become the first favorite to win the race since Event of the Year in 1998.

Hard Spun has shown a high turn of speed in all five career starts, so the presence of Forefathers should make for some interesting prerace strategy sessions leading into the 1o1/8-mile Lane's End.

Forefathers, the second choice on the morning line at 7-2, exits several rapid sprints, including a botched attempt in the Hutcheson Stakes, in which he failed to break cleanly as the favorite.

"This race should tell us whether or not we should stay on the Kentucky Derby trail," said trainer Nick Zito. "Obviously that last race wasn't an indicator of what he can do."

Twilight Meteor, a grass specialist trying to make a smooth transition to the synthetic Polytrack surface that Turfway has employed since September 2005, seemingly would stand to benefit from a killer tempo, having won two stakes from off the pace. The other Pletcher entry, Bullara, sports a front-running style.

Two other Florida shippers, Sedgefield and For You Reppo, also are in the lineup.

There were no exclusions from the field, although there was at least one notable absentee. Catman Running, the winner of the John Battaglia Memorial, will run next in the Illinois Derby or Lexington Stakes, said trainer Eric Reed.

One other fringe prospect, Chelokee, was not shipped from Florida by trainer Michael Matz and is being pointed instead to the Florida Derby a week from Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

The Lane's End will be televised live on ESPN on a one-hour broadcast that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern, with post time for the feature scheduled for 5:45. The $100,000 Rushaway Stakes, which also is part of the ESPN telecast, is one of four other stakes on Saturday's card.

The weather forecast for Saturday calls for sunny skies and a high temperature of 68.