03/16/2006 1:00AM

Ball Four, Leparoux look good


When Ball Four finished second at 45-1 last September in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park, the one question that many fans asked in the aftermath was this: Who rode him?

The answer came soon enough. The rider was apprentice Julien Leparoux, who was making his first appearance of note on the Kentucky circuit. Ball Four led most of the way before settling for second behind Shaniko in the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic, giving Leparoux his first of many Turfway thrills.

In the six months since, Leparoux has become the dominant jockey at Turfway. By riding his 124th and 125th winners of the year Wednesday night at the Florence, Ky., track, Leparoux maintained his sizable lead atop the North American win standings. Saturday, when Ball Four makes just his second start since the Kentucky Cup, and his first since a disappointing last-place finish in the Sycamore Stakes last October at Keeneland, Leparoux once again will be aboard, and Ball Four returns as one of the deserving favorites in the $50,000 Tejano Run.

is trained by Leparoux's fellow Frenchman, Patrick Biancone, who took Leparoux under his wing nearly three years ago. Leparoux, 22, credits Biancone for laying the groundwork that has allowed him to become a top rider.

Ball Four, 5, tends to run on or near the pace, and partly because he is returning from a 5 1/2-month layoff, he figures to be especially prominent through the early stages of the 1 1/8-mile Tejano Run. He will break from post 8 in a field of 11.

Probably the most dangerous challenger for Ball Four is (post 10), a 9-year-old gelding whose last two races over the Turfway Polytrack resulted in easy victories.

Another notable starter is (post 5), upset winner of the Feb. 18 Dust Commander at Turfway.

The Tejano Run, named for the 1994 Kentucky Cup Juvenile winner who went on to finish second behind Thunder Gulch in the 1995 Kentucky Derby , is the 10th of 12 Saturday races. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

The Tejano Run is the last stakes at Turfway before the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes, the track's annual showcase.

The $500,000 Lane's End is one of five stakes to be run here next Saturday, March 25.