02/25/2005 1:00AM

Battaglia up next for Magna Graduate


Trainer Pat Byrne said Magna Graduate will be shipped Sunday from south Florida to the Trackside training facility here and will be in the lineup of the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Saturday at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

Magna Graduate finished third to High Fly in his last start, the Jan. 8 Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Byrne said he hopes to use the Battaglia as a springboard to the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, the annual Turfway showcase that will be run three weeks later.

"I didn't really care for the trip my colt got in the Aventura, and High Fly really freaked that day," said Byrne. Magna Graduate, an Honor Grades colt owned by Elisabeth Alexander, rushed into early contention in the one-mile Aventura before fading and finishing third, beaten nearly 11 lengths.

Unless a more accomplished 3-year-old prospect surfaces in the next few days, Magna Graduate figures to be the favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia, a race that Turfway stakes coordinator Randy Wehrman said "should have a good, deep field."

"There's been quite a bit of interest from horsemen, so we're hopeful that both the Battaglia and the Lane's End will be excellent races," he said.

Wehrman said Turfway received 129 nominations to the Grade 2 Lane's End. The list was scheduled for release this weekend.

Byrne said he has another 3-year-old likely to race in the Rushaway Stakes on the March 26 Lane's End undercard: Catch Me, who defeated older horses in an entry-level allowance route Thursday night at Turfway. "He's headed the right way," said Byrne. "We might try him with blinkers in the Rushaway."

Sarvis set to return from suspension

Dean Sarvis, the leading rider at Turfway, will have the mount on Magna Graduate. Sarvis, who is serving a suspension for a riding infraction, is scheduled to return to action Thursday. Sarvis leads the winter-spring standings despite having already served a five-day suspension in early February.

In Sarvis's absence, Rodney Prescott had a terrific night Thursday, when he rode four winners.

Prescott, second in the standings with 33 wins, won aboard Azininer ($7.60) in the first, Shezarealpeach ($7.20) in the second, Pretty Swanky ($6) in the sixth, and Azidiscount ($22.40) in the eighth.

Zimmerman wasn't happy at track

Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman, who abruptly left Turfway after riding the Feb. 6 card, is living with his wife and infant son at his in-laws' residence in Laurel Hill, a small town about an hour east of Pensacola in the Florida panhandle.

Zimmerman, 23, was among the leading riders at Turfway but said he and his wife "just weren't happy there." He rode two races last weekend at Tampa Bay Downs but will be mostly inactive until the Fairmount Park begins March 25.

Zimmerman dominated Fairmount last year when finishing fourth in the national standings with 326 wins.

Before leaving Turfway, Zimmerman rode Snack to win the WEBN Frog Stakes on Feb. 5. Since then, a majority interest in Snack has been sold, and the colt has been transferred to Doug O'Neill in Southern California.

Butler begins recovery for leg injury

Jockey Dean Butler is recuperating in Louisville after having a metal rod inserted in his lower left leg Monday. Butler suffered multiple fractures in a Sunday spill at Turfway.

"He's supposed to be on crutches for three weeks, use a cane for two weeks, then start an intense rehab program," said the agent known only as Clarence, who represents Butler. "Dean is getting married June 20, so the realistic goal is Ellis Park," which begins July 13.

Butler, a 12-year veteran, hails from upstate New York but rode primarily in New Jersey before coming to Kentucky in 2002.

* Back-to-back allowance races help to close out the five-day race week Sunday at Turfway. Seven 3-year-old fillies will clash at a mile in the eighth race, and 11 older sprinters were entered in the ninth race. Both races carry $25,400 purses.

The 10-race Sunday card starts at 1:10 p.m. Eastern. After the usual two-day break, racing resumes Wednesday evening at 5:30.