02/28/2008 12:00AM

Big Glen part of synthetic crew


The Southern California route on the Kentucky Derby trail travels over all synthetic surfaces for the first time this year. Meanwhile, the old pro, Turfway Park, is hosting its major 3-year-old events on Polytrack for the third year, and perhaps more than ever the track-surface variable is making it difficult to determine whether the races will carry any lasting meaning.

The three logical favorites among a field of 11 entered Saturday at Turfway in the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes have done virtually all of their work on synthetics or turf, and therein lies the question of just what impact the Battaglia could have on the Derby picture. Big Glen, Cherokee Triangle, and Briarwood Circle are the top contenders in the 1 1/16-mile race, which serves as a prep for the main event at the Florence, Ky., track, the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes on March 22.

"This time of year, the Derby's always in your mind, although we've all got a lot to prove to get there," said Mark Casse, trainer of Briarwood Circle.

Big Glen looks like the horse to beat with his 3 for 3 record at Turfway. The Cactus Ridge colt most recently captured the Feb. 2 WEBN Stakes despite being carried very wide on both turns. The colt has found a niche, but that does not necessarily mean he can compete with the elite of the 3-year-old class, and trainer Frank Brothers has said he is "not thinking the D-word" for Big Glen.

"I didn't think he'd want any part of the good 3-year-olds down here," Brothers said recently from his winter base in south Florida. "He's done very well at Turfway, and there just happens to be logical spots for him there at this time of year. You don't really need to read a lot more into it."

Brothers has entrusted Tom Drury, who has a large stable at the Skylight training center in Skylight, Ky., to look after Big Glen since the colt shipped north in late January.

"Obviously he's very fond of that racetrack up at Turfway," Drury said earlier this week at Skylight, where a Pro-Ride synthetic surface was installed last summer on the six-furlong track. "The colt has really done well here. Everything's in good order. Frankie's just taking everything one race at a time."

Big Glen, with James Lopez back aboard, will break from post 3.

Briarwood Circle (post 11) will run back in the Lane's End if he runs well Saturday, said Casse. Likewise, trainer Mike Maker said Cherokee Triangle (post 9) is trying to advance along the Derby trail and would be a prime candidate for the Lane's End, with the Derby "always in the back of your mind." Both colts will be making their first starts of the year Saturday.

Other contenders in the 27th running of the Battaglia include Your Round and Mr. Harry, the respective two-three finishers behind Big Glen in the WEBN, and Chicago shipper Instill, most recently fourth in the Jan. 21 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park. The most surprising entrant is Absolutely Cindy, the lone filly in the cast.

The Battaglia is named for the late general manager of Turfway, which was then known as Latonia. It goes as the 11th of 12 races on a Saturday card that starts at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.