03/20/2008 12:00AM

A to the Croft proven on Polytrack


Clearly Foxy has stable history on her side in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park, with her trainer, Mark Casse, starting five prior winners of this race, including 2006 and 2007 winners Top Notch Lady and Sealy Hill. But A to the Croft has her own edge, that being experience over Polytrack, the synthetic surface in place at Turfway.

After running second in the Adirondack and Spinaway stakes last summer over dirt at Saratoga, A to the Croft was a close runner-up Oct. 5 in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland over Polytrack, losing by a length to Country Star, subsequent winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet.

On the basis of that race, A to the Croft looms a dominant force in the Bourbonette, despite not having started since running ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 27.

Trainer Ken McPeek said he bypassed other stakes opportunities for her this year to wait for the Bourbonette, noting A to the Croft likes the surface and believing the mile distance would prove less taxing than a longer race.

To win, she will have to outrun Clearly Foxy, winner of the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes last September over the Woodbine turf, local stakes winner Valentine Fever, and Maren's Meadow, second last time out in the Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park.

As for A to the Croft's distant loss in the Breeders' Cup, she appeared to have an excuse for tiring. She chased victorious Indian Blessing in the slop through hot fractions, and understandably weakened late.

Because A to the Croft was poorly drawn on the far outside in post 13 in the Breeders' Cup, McPeek said jockey Kent Desormeaux "gunned her away from there," which was not the pre-race plan, and the filly grew rank and went after Indian Blessing.

Blinkers, which were added for the Breeders' Cup, come off for the Bourbonette, and A to the Croft is expected to revert to her usual stalking/closing tactics. Robby Albarado rides A to the Croft, a Menifee filly owned by Koolmen Racing Stable.

Clearly Foxy finished in front of A to the Croft in the Breeders' Cup when she rallied to be sixth in her first start on dirt. That race followed two straight emphatic victories over the Woodbine turf course.

Like A to the Croft, Clearly Foxy is unraced since the Breeder's Cup. She has been training with Casse in New Orleans and Ocala, Fla., for her first start as a 3-year-old.

Maren's Meadow poses the biggest threat to A to the Croft and Clearly Foxy following a runner-up finish in the Martha Washington on Feb. 17.

Queen: Just for Keeps legit favorite

In the two stakes preceding the Bourbonette, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker will be well represented with contenders.

The Ramseys, who also have Targe in the Rushaway with Maker and Cannonball in the Lane's End with trainer Wesley Ward, have strong chances with Just for Keeps in the Queen Stakes, the eighth race, and with U. S. Cavalry in the Hansel, the ninth.

Just for Keeps appears a deserving favorite in the $50,000 Queen, having just run second to graded stakes winner Lady Belsara in her last start in the Wishing Well Stakes on Jan. 12.

Lady Belsara, third earlier this week against males in the St. Patrick's Day Handicap, has skipped the six-furlong Queen.

"It's nice she went there," Maker said. "That softened this field quite a bit."

Gem Sleuth, a Feb. 4 allowance winner at Gulfstream Park who would benefit if a fast pace develops, and Fan Time, a stakes-placed mare who moves from turf to Polytrack, are others who could contend.

Hansel: U. S. Cavalry formidable

U. S. Cavalry's proficiency over synthetic surfaces makes him the most probable winner of the $50,000 Hansel. A winner of 5 of 8 starts, he is perfect in four starts sprinting on Polytrack, circumstances he encounters in the six-furlong Hansel.

His only loss over Polytrack came in the Feb. 2 WEBN Stakes, where he faded to fourth when racing a mile, but he rebounded to win an open allowance March 6 at six furlongs, beating Hansel competitors G Areyoukidding and Bearsready.

Little Nick and Stormin Yank head U. S. Cavalry's opposition.