03/27/2006 1:00AM

With a City headed straight for Derby

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FLORENCE, Ky. - With a City, the longest-priced winner in the 35-year history of the Lane's End Stakes, will not run in another Kentucky Derby prep race and will train up to the May 6 Derby, owner Ron Peltz said Monday.

Peltz and trainer Mike Maker said in the boisterous aftermath of the , which was run amid snow Saturday at Turfway Park, that With a City could prep for the Derby in the Arkansas or Illinois derbies. But Peltz, noting that the $300,000 winner's share for the Lane's End ensures With a City a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby, said With a City already has plenty of seasoning and can afford to go six weeks without a race.

"He's already run 12 times, which is more than any other Derby contender," Peltz said Monday from Charlotte, N.C., where he was attending a paving convention.

Peltz, 55, is a paving contractor from Birmingham, Ala., who has been involved in racing for 18 years. He runs under the stable name Equirace.com LLC, and although he typically sells shares in the horses he owns, he said he "got no takers" on With a City before the Lane's End, when he was offering 25 percent shares for $75,000.

"Now the big boys are calling," said Peltz. "I don't think anyone will buy into him, though, because I'm keeping at least 50 percent, and I'm insisting he stays with Mike Maker," he said, referring to the former D. Wayne Lukas assistant based at the Trackside training center in Louisville, Ky. "Plus, the price obviously has gone up since before the horse won."

Peltz, who agreed to pay a $6,000 late-nomination fee to make With a City eligible for the Triple Crown "even before we got out of the winner's circle Saturday," confirmed that he paid $150,000 to With a City's former owner, Jose "Pepe" Mendez, when buying With a City early this year. With a City had run several times for a $40,000 claiming price, most recently in early December. When asked why he didn't just claim With a City then, Peltz said: "I was a little reluctant. I wanted to make sure he was going to get good. His brother didn't run until he was 3, and I really felt he was going to get good when he was 3."

With a City, who earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in the Lane's End, is a half-brother to The Daddy, winner of the Grade 2 Super Derby last fall.

At 48-1, With a City triggered some huge mutuel payoffs, and Peltz was among those who cashed. He said he bought one of the six 10-cent superfectas that returned $19,783.69, and he also had a $1 trifecta that paid $7,840.20. With a City, wearing saddlecloth No. 2, returned $99.60 as the longest shot in a field of 12.

"I bet a 2-all-all-all super," which cost $99, said Peltz. "And I bet a 2-all-all in both the trifecta and late pick three. If you ask me, he was the most underrated horse of all time, at least in the betting."

Peltz acknowledged that by the time the Derby rolls around, With a City is sure to be a forgotten horse.

"Absolutely, he'll be a huge price again," he said. "People will say he's a turf horse, or the one race over the Polytrack was a fluke, and it'll be six weeks since the Lane's End. That's okay. All I know is we're going to be there."

Seaside Retreat to train at Churchill

Seaside Retreat, the Lane's End runner-up, was scheduled to ship from Turfway to Churchill Downs on Tuesday and begin training toward the April 15 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, trainer Mark Casse said Monday from Ocala, Fla. Patrick Husbands will retain the mount.

Seaside Retreat will be accompanied to Churchill by the filly Top Notch Lady, winner of the on Saturday at Turfway. Top Notch Lady "is going to be supplemented to the Kentucky Oaks" for $25,000, said Casse. "She ran hard Saturday, and I don't feel like I need to run her again before then."

The Kentucky Oaks will be run May 5 at Churchill.

Top Notch Lady, owned by Robert J. Wilson, was making her first start in four months in the Bourbonette.

No changes for next Lane's End

While Turfway officials had some regrets that Strong Contender was excluded from the Lane's End field because of insufficient earnings, they say they are not inclined to make any changes for next year.

One of the provisions that might have allowed Strong Contender into the race was an also-eligibles list, although there were no scratches. Turfway provides for also-eligibles in all stakes except for the Lane's End, an exception that exists because the track does not want to take away any starters from the Rushaway Stakes, also a two-turn race for 3-year-olds. The track does not permit cross-entering in same-day races.

"If you have two decent horses on the AE's for the Lane's End and neither gets in, that's two decent horses that could've made the Rushaway a better race for you," said Turfway racing secretary Rick Leigh.

Another option would be to invoke the rule that Keeneland and Churchill Downs use for maiden turf races: Horses who have never run for a claiming price get preference over those who have.

But guess what? That would have given Strong Contender preference over Pair of Kings and the ultimate Lane's End winner, With a City.

"We're not going to go that way," said Leigh.

High Cotton ships to Keeneland

High Cotton, winner of the , shipped to Keeneland on Sunday with assistant Mike Dilger and logically will be pointed to the Blue Grass or April 22 Lexington Stakes, although trainer Todd Pletcher, who was in Dubai over the weekend, was not immediately available to confirm those plans.

Pletcher, the leading trainer at Keeneland last spring, will have strings of horses at Keeneland and Churchill this spring.

Skeleton Crew could try dirt next

Skeleton Crew, winner of the six-furlong , may run next in the Lexington or the April 29 Derby Trial, said owner Ed Anthony. Either race would mark his first on dirt.

"Obviously we don't know if he can go long," said Anthony. "That's what's up in the air."

Skeleton Crew, a gelding by Elusive Quality, not only has made all five career starts on Polytrack at Turfway, but also trains over Polytrack at the High Point training center near La Grange, Ky. He earned a 95 Beyer in the Hansel.

* First Samurai, the first major Derby contender on the grounds at Churchill, had his first serious work since shipping up from south Florida, breezing five furlongs Sunday in 1:02.20. Donna Brothers was aboard First Samurai for her husband, trainer Frank Brothers, who said, "He was well within himself and was happy."