04/07/2010 11:00PM

Court Vision makes his mark on turf

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Much has been made about how Kentucky Derby also-rans tend to disappear into a black hole afterward. There are happy exceptions, of course, such as Court Vision, a 5-year-old who has blossomed into a genuine grass star in his Derby afterlife.

Court Vision has won three Grade 1 turf races in the nearly two years that have passed since he labored home 13th behind Big Brown in the 2008 Derby. And when the $300,000 Maker's Mark Mile is run Friday at Keeneland for the 22nd time, Court Vision will be a solid favorite to knock out a fourth Grade 1 when he faces seven other older horses.

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Court Vision was brought to prominence by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott before a partnership led by the IEAH Stables syndicate turned him over to Rick Dutrow last July. In his first race after having surgery to remove a testicle that had ascended into his abdomen, the horse won the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile here in October.

In his latest start, Court Vision added to his resume by winning the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap by disqualification. About two weeks after that Feb. 6 race, the horse came up with a bruised right front hoof, forcing Dutrow to skip the next hoped-for start, the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.

"Well, you've got to figure he's coming into this race the right way if we've even brought him there," Dutrow said Wednesday by phone. "The foot thing just cost him his last race, that's all. There was just a little infection that got in there, but it came out right away, and he's been training great ever since."

Court Vision will be ridden by Robby Albarado, the five-time Keeneland champion who got off to a good start at the 15-day spring meet by winning three straight races Saturday.

Probably the main challenger to Court Vision is Karelian, an 8-year-old gelding who defeated the highly decorated Gio Ponti by a nose in his last race, the Feb. 20 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup. That gritty effort helped erase the disappointment of his 2009 finale, in which he bore out badly before finishing eighth in the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

"We still don't know what happened over at Churchill," trainer Rusty Arnold said. "Obviously, he got back on track when he beat Gio Ponti."

Julien Leparoux has the mount on Karelian.

A few others are worthy of consideration in the Maker's Mark, including the uncoupled Roger Attfield pair of Society's Chairman and Passager.

Society's Chairman got a terrific trip and ride from Jose Lezcano in rallying to win the Grade 3 Appleton at Gulfstream in his last start, while Passager, the 2009 Maker's Mark runner-up, will be making his first start in nine months after being prepared this winter at Payson Park.

The rest of the field is Pictural, Cherokee Artist, Wesley, and Rogue Victory. Of those, Cherokee Artist rates the best longshot chance after narrowly missing against the highly regarded Courageous Cat in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream last out.

The Maker's Mark long has been a key early-season race in the older-male turf division while serving as a timely lead-in to the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf on the Kentucky Derby undercard. IEAH and Dutrow won the Maker's Mark in 2007 and 2008 with Kip Deville. Mott and Kent Desormeaux won last year with Mr. Sidney.

The Maker's Mark goes as the ninth of 10 races on a Friday card that starts at 1:05 p.m. Eastern.