04/06/2005 11:00PM

Arnold has confidence in Letgomyecho

Letgomyecho wins the Forward Gal, giving her trainer, Rusty Arnold, plenty of confidence in her as she stretches out to two turns for the first time in Saturday Ashland Stakes.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Rusty Arnold didn't need to know anything about the Ashland Stakes other than how his unbeaten filly Letgomyecho was coming into the race.

"I know it's supposed to be real tough, but I can't tell you much about the other fillies in there," said Arnold. "All I know is my filly is doing exceptionally well since her last race. That's all I need to know."

Letgomyecho, a Menifee filly owned by Dixiana Stables, will be making her first start around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland Stakes on Saturday. After opening her career by winning a Jan. 1 maiden race at Calder and a Feb. 6 allowance at Gulfstream Park, both at six furlongs, Letgomyecho rallied to win the March 5 Forward Gal, a Grade 2 stakes at seven furlongs, swooping past heavily favored Maddalena and several other fillies.

Arnold, a Paris, Ky., native who was leading trainer at Keeneland at three meets in the mid-1980's, is confident Letgomyecho will provide a major presence in the Ashland.

"I really don't think she'll have a problem stretching out," he said. "She's bred to go two turns, her running style says two turns, and she's always given me the impression that she wants more ground. I'd be very surprised if she doesn't handle the extra distance Saturday."

Arnold, 50, began his career in Kentucky in 1975 but has made a circuit of New York and Florida since the early 1990's. He still makes a point of returning to Keeneland with a string of horses every spring and most every fall, and with the exception of one meet in the late 1980's during which he did not have a starter, Arnold has won at least one race at every Keeneland meet since the spring of 1978. Overall, his 188 career victories at Keeneland are second among trainers only to D. Wayne Lukas's 254.

Understandably, Arnold would like to inch closer to the 200-win mark by watching Letgomyecho earn a Kentucky Oaks berth with another big effort in the Ashland.

"Let's just say I am very optimistic she's going to run well," he said.

Shortened Lafayette goes Sunday

Stakes action on the opening three-day weekend ends Sunday with the $100,000 Lafayette Stakes, which has undergone a revision since Bwana Charlie won it last year for jockey Shane Sellers and trainer Steve Asmussen.

The Grade 3 Lafayette now will be run at six furlongs, an eighth-mile shorter than its seven-furlong distance from 1982 to 2004. In a previous incarnation, from 1937-81, the Lafayette was for 2-year-olds.

Keeneland officials said the race was shortened primarily to make it more alluring to 3-year-olds that show no inclination to go a distance. For the 68th running on Sunday, the prospective field includes Crimson Stag, Falcon's Peak, More Smoke, Perceived, Ransom Demanded, and Razor.

Blue Grass next week

Next week promises to bring some of the best racing of the meet. The Wednesday feature is the $200,000 Vinery Madison, with the brilliant Madcap Escapade making her second start of the year, while the meet highlight, the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, will be run here next Saturday before a huge crowd.

Dollase now a Kentuckian

Wally Dollase isn't a tourist in Kentucky anymore. Dollase, who began training horses in California in 1967, has moved his entire operation to Kentucky, where he now has 32 horses split between Keeneland and Churchill Downs.

Through the years, Dollase has made frequent trips to Kentucky for racing and horses sales. He said he and his wife, Cincy, have always wanted to stay for several months.

Dollase said he plans to be in Kentucky for the next seven months before returning to the Los Angeles area for the winter.

Part of the reason for coming east, Dollase said, is that his daughter Michele and her three children are living on a farm in nearby Finchville, Ky.

Meet the other Jeff Talley

"Hostage," a popular suspense movie released this winter, has Bruce Willis in a starring role as a character named Jeff Talley.

A Louisville horse trainer named Jeff Talley was making a name for himself at Turfway Park this winter. Talley, a businessman who turned to training less than two years ago, won with 11 of 27 starts at the winter-spring meet that ended Thursday night.

"A lot of people have been saying things to me about Bruce Willis," said Talley.