04/14/2008 12:00AM

Adriano earns shot at Derby

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - A decision by trainer Graham Motion to go straight to the Kentucky Derby with Adriano has made things a bit easier for those trying to make the Derby by coming in the back door Saturday in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes.

Adriano, a powerful winner of the Lane's End Stakes last month, already has sufficient graded earnings to make the Derby field. He had been seriously considered for the Grade 2, $325,000 Lexington, for which he would have been a solid favorite, thereby lessening the chances that another Lexington starter could earn enough to make the Derby cutoff.

Motion, in consultation with breeder-owner Donald Adam of Courtlandt Farm, was swayed by a Sunday workout by Adriano at Churchill Downs. With Edgar Prado up, Adriano breezed a half-mile in 50 seconds in company with Longley, a 4-year-old stablemate.

"He just seemed to accelerate like he would on any surface," said Motion. "I couldn't say he went a lot differently than he would have gone on the turf or the Polytrack."

Although the colt ran poorly when finishing ninth in the only dirt race of his career, the Fountain of Youth Stakes, Motion said he believes bypassing the Lexington and pointing to the Derby "is the right thing to do at this point."

At least eight 3-year-olds are considered likely for the 1 1/16-mile Lexington: Atoned, Behindatthebar, Big Glen, Racecar Rhapsody, Red Sandy, Salute the Sarge, Samba Rooster, and Tomcito.

Loose shoe hindered Miner's Claim

Miner's Claim probably ran far better Saturday in the Blue Grass Stakes than his sixth-place finish would suggest. He stumbled twice soon after the break, dropping him back to last of 12 and causing a front shoe to loosen so that "when he was running, the shoe would go up and down," said trainer Mark Casse.

Despite the annoyance, Miner's Claim made a huge run along the rail down the backstretch, getting to just a few lengths from front-running Cowboy Cal before eventually fading.

"I know we've got a pretty good horse," said Casse.

With no graded earnings and just four career starts, Miner's Claim will leave soon for Woodbine, said Casse. "We'll give him some time and get him back on the winning path and maybe look at the Travers or Haskell later on."

Prado wins when it counts most

Prado won just twice from his first 28 mounts at the Keeneland spring meet, but boy did he pick the right spots to win: the $750,000 Blue Grass on Monba, and the $400,000 Commonwealth on Rebellion.

Prado now has won 32 Keeneland stakes since winning his first aboard Alannan in the 2001 Commonwealth. Pat Day, with 95, has the most stakes wins in track history.

On another max-out note, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has won with just 2 of 19 starters at the meet - but they, too, were very good ones: Little Belle in the $500,000 Ashland, and Keep Laughing in the $100,000 Lafayette.

Preemptive Strike heads Royal Chase

The fourth and last Grade 1 race of the meet - and the only steeplechase - is carded for Thursday, when the $150,000 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings goes as the eighth of nine races.

Preemptive Strike, a multiple graded winner with a front-running style usually anathema to steeplechasers, will certainly be the horse to catch in the 11th running of the Royal Chase. Seven horses were entered in the 2 1/2-mile race.

Other viable contenders in the Royal Chase field include the uncoupled Jonathan Sheppard entry of Sovereign Duty and Sweet Shani. The most puzzling entry is Feeling So Pretty, a 14-year-old mare with 86 career starts.

One interesting aspect to the Royal Chase is that it is part of the pick six - and if the Wednesday pick six goes unhit, bettors will be required to include the steeplechase in their continuing chase for a huge jackpot Thursday.

Ex-handicapper wins first as trainer

John Gaver III now can say he does more than pick winners - he saddles them, too.

Gaver, a Daily Racing Form handicapper and page editor for several years in the 1990s, sent out the first winner of his training career when Borobudur ($29.40), ridden by Kent Desormeaux, captured the Friday finale at Keeneland, a $48,300 turf allowance.

Gaver is no stranger to the backstretch. His father, John Gaver Jr., trained in the 1970s and 1980s for Greentree Stable.

Clement mulls Rutherienne's options

Rutherienne, the impressive winner of the Jenny Wiley on Saturday, was sent back Sunday to her winter base at Payson Park in Florida for about two more weeks before rejoining trainer Christophe Clement's main string at Belmont Park.

Rutherienne has won 9 of 11 career starts, although one of those wins was in a dead heat and another by disqualification. Clement said the Gamely at Hollywood or the Just a Game at Belmont are the next likely options.

* Registration for the Wednesday handicapping contest sponsored by Keeneland and Daily Racing Form begins at 11 a.m. Entry fee is $10, and prizes total $2,500.