02/26/2009 12:00AM

An afterthought ends up favored


That Fitzaslew emerged as the likely favorite Saturday in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park is typical of what occurs in the behind-the-scenes scrambles that frequently unfold at racing offices across North America.

"I hadn't really thought much about the Battaglia for him," trainer Ken McPeek said this week from south Florida. "But after an allowance race didn't fill for him at Gulfstream, I got a call from Tia [Borgemenke, the stakes coordinator at Turfway] asking if I had anything for the race. So we basically called an audible at the line of scrimmage. I said, 'You know what, let's go.' "

Fitzaslew will be making his fourth career start when facing seven other 3-year-olds in the $100,000 Battaglia Memorial, a 1 1/16-mile race conducted over Polytrack at Turfway in Florence, Ky. As a 2-year-old, Fitzaslew won a Churchill Downs maiden sprint before losing as the favorite in the Cradle Stakes on the River Downs turf. In his only subsequent start, a six-furlong allowance on Jan. 30 at Gulfstream Park, the colt flashed big speed before being nipped on the wire.

"This should be a good test for him," said McPeek. "How far he'll go, I don't know, but class-wise he fits real well. As long as he handles Poly and the distance, he'll be okay."

The main rival for Fitzaslew figures to be Parade Clown. A victory by Parade Clown would give his breeder-owner, the Donamire Farm of Don and Mira Ball, their third stakes victory this month at Turfway. Carrying their white-and-black silks, Parade Clown won the Feb. 7 WEBN, and Walloon won the Valdale for them last Saturday.

Outside considerations in the Battaglia, which goes as the 11th of 12 races on Saturday, include Oaklawn Park shippers Stratos and Proceed Bee. Four locally campaigned 3-year-olds round out the lineup. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Meanwhile, in an important change to the racing schedule, Turfway has announced that racing will be conducted on the first three Mondays in March, starting on March 2. Racing also will be held on Tuesday, March 17, in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

The additional dates will help make up for the weather-related cancellations of the last two months. The three Monday programs will offer autograph sessions by Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys. More information is available at turfway.com.