10/12/2008 11:00PM

Banker's Choice may relish turf

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Last Wednesday, Ian Wilkes had one of those days he may never forget. Wilkes sent out three winners at Keeneland, including one, Tiz to Dream, who appeared hopelessly beaten before passing two rivals in the last few jumps of an allowance race.

Wilkes laughed when he recalled the number of people who congratulated him in the minutes and days afterward.

"I wasn't counting," he said, "but it was more than five."

Wilkes is hoping for more backslaps and atta-boys this Wednesday at Keeneland, where he will have one of the logical contenders in the featured eighth race, an interesting-looking entry-level allowance for 2-year-old fillies. Wilkes will saddle Banker's Choice, a maiden winner over the Turfway Polytrack in her last start, in the one-mile turf race.

Banker's Choice, with Rene Douglas to ride, will break from post 4 in the field of 10. Before winning narrowly at Turfway, she ran respectably when fifth, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths, in a maiden turf sprint at Saratoga.

"She ran really well up there at Saratoga," said Wilkes. "Then when she won on the Poly, I don't think she was quite as home. I think she'll be much better on the turf."

The turf route represents something new not only to Banker's Choice, but to all but two of her rivals - a major unknown that gives the eighth of nine races its wide-open look. Other plausible contenders - assuming they will be able to negotiate what is new territory to most - include Saxxy Rose Lee, Loveyou Everybody, Keertana, Witch Princess, Dyna's Greeley, and Innovative.

Only Majestic Feline and Witch Princess, maiden winners at Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs, respectively, have raced as far as a mile on turf.

Wilkes, a longtime assistant and business partner with Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger, said he believes their combined stables are primed for a very productive next few weeks. Keeneland runs through Oct. 25, after which Churchill Downs runs Oct. 26 to Nov. 29.

"I'd like to think we're loaded," said Wilkes, a 42-year-old native of Australia, "but there are a lot of feathers in between that chicken."

The Wednesday feature anchors a card that also includes two other allowances, including the fifth, a 1 1/2-mile turf race. The day ends with a 1 1/4-mile starter allowance.