03/20/2006 1:00AM

Big field for Lane's End


Turfway Park officials are expecting a capacity field of 12 3-year-olds when the track's marquee race, the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, is run Saturday.

Strong Contender is the likely favorite in the Grade 2 Lane's End, but over the weekend, as favorites were defeated in three of the four Kentucky Derby prep races, trainers from around the country were taking a closer look at shipping their horses to Florence, Ky., with the opportunity to enter the wide-open Derby fray.

Among the new names to surface for the 1 1/8-mile Lane's End are More Than Regal, trained by Steve Asmussen; Tahoe Warrior, trained by Todd Pletcher; Special Interest, trained by D. Wayne Lukas; In a Flash, trained by Patrick Biancone; and either Bernardini or Songster, trained by Tom Albertrani.

They would join a list of prospects that already includes Strong Contender and the English shipper Silent Times, who was scheduled to clear quarantine at Keeneland early this week. Silent Times, trained by Eoghan O'Neill, will be ridden by Robby Albarado.

Strong Contender, trained by John T. Ward Jr., is unbeaten in two starts, having won an Arlington Park maiden sprint in August, then a first-level allowance mile at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 12. Edgar Prado, who rode him at Gulfstream, is scheduled to ride again Saturday. Strong Contender is by Maria's Mon, who also is the sire of Ward's 2000 Kentucky Derby winner, Monarchos.

More Than Regal, with David Flores to ride, has won his last two races after opening his career with four defeats. The More Than Ready colt won a Jan. 28 maiden race at Oaklawn Park, then a $50,000 stakes at Evangeline Downs on March 4.

Tahoe Warrior has done his best work on grass, having most recently won a Feb. 26 turf route at Gulfstream. Pletcher would be gunning for his third Lane's End victory, having won last year with Flower Alley and in 2001 with Balto Star.

Special Interest is still a maiden after seven starts, although he nearly won his last race, a March 4 turf mile at Santa Anita.

Bernardini and Songster both were unraced at 2 and have won 1 of 2 starts this year at Gulfstream. Both are well-bred colts owned by Darley Stable and based at Payson Park.

Another probable for the Lane's End is Seaside Retreat, most recently sixth behind Bluegrass Cat in the March 18 Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa. Seaside Retreat is owned by Will Farish Jr., whose family owns Lane's End.

At least three horses from the local prep, the March 4 Battaglia Memorial, are likely to run back in the Lane's End: Pair of Kings (who ran second), Malameeze (fourth), and With a City (eighth). The Battaglia winner, Laity, will run in either the Lane's End orthe $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, one of four supporting stakes on the Saturday card.

If Laity runs in the Lane's End, the favorite for the Rushaway likely will be High Cotton, trained by Pletcher.

Entry into the Lane's End field is governed by overall earnings totals. The race will be televised live on ESPN2 on a one-hour show that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern.

General admission on Saturday is $10. On all other days, admission to Turfway is free. Reserved seats are available; call (859) 371-0200.