03/24/2008 11:00PM

Derby attempt unlikely, Adriano connections say


FLORENCE, Ky. - Adriano would be a cinch to make the field for the 134th Kentucky Derby after raking in $285,000 in graded earnings by capturing the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes, but while trainer Graham Motion is leaving open the possibility of pointing in that direction, he called the Derby "unlikely" for the A.P. Indy colt.

Adriano, bred and owned by the Courtlandt Farms of Donald Adam, was a 2 1/2-length winner Saturday at Turfway Park in the lone major Derby prep of the weekend. The colt was scheduled to return by air to the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida on Tuesday, said Motion. The April 19 Coolmore Lexington Stakes on the Keeneland Polytrack is the likely next start, he added.

As for the Derby, "We've still got to talk about it some more," Motion said Monday from Florida. "I wanted to get the horse back here to train while I'm in Dubai. I'll see how he's doing when I get back and assess it further. The Derby? It's unlikely at this point, but like I said before the race, never say never. Let's get him back here and see how he's doing."

While Adriano has raced primarily on turf, he now has a win and a fourth in two Polytrack tries. His lone dirt try, a ninth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes four weeks before the Lane's End, is somewhat difficult to gauge, said Motion.

"So much of why he ran well Saturday was because of his behavior," said Motion. "He's a horse that can get very shook up, but he was great before this race. He was pretty shook up before the Fountain of Youth, so it's a little hard to read into how much his poor performance was due to his behavior and how much to the track. Obviously, a day like Derby Day wouldn't be easy for him."

The respective 2-3-4 finishers in the Lane's End - Halo Najib, Medjool, and Racecar Rhapsody - all are possibilities to run back against Adriano in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington, according to their connections.

Meanwhile, purely from a Turfway Park perspective, the victory by Adriano was not ideal, if only because the track would prefer to have the winner of its showcase race move forward to the Derby. Turfway president Bob Elliston acknowledged last week that the nature of Polytrack is such that a turf horse might one day win the Lane's End and bypass the Derby. That possibility clearly exists this year.

Big Glen probably not Derby-bound

Big Glen, a narrow winner of the Rushaway Stakes over previously unbeaten Miner's Claim, is not nominated to the Triple Crown, and it seems doubtful his connections will move that way, barring unforeseen developments. Trainer Frank Brothers said earlier this year that he did not believe Big Glen was up to top company in main-track races in South Florida, so he has had Big Glen at the Skylight training center east of Louisville for most of the spring, with Tom Drury overseeing the colt on his behalf. Big Glen also is likely for the Lexington.

Mitigation comes up lame

Euphoria quickly turned to bitter disappointment in the Mitigation camp. The morning after the gelding posted his third straight victory by winning the Hansel Stakes on the Lane's End undercard, he was lame in his right front leg. Subsequent X-rays revealed a condylar fracture of the cannon bone, and surgery was performed Sunday afternoon at the Rood and Riddle equine clinic in Lexington to have two screws inserted to repair the injury.

Trainer Paul McGee called the sudden turnabout "a shame. Obviously he was just getting good. We'll hope he heals up right and try to bring him back later in the year."

Mitigation is owned by the Jay Em Ess Stable of Mace and Samantha Siegel.

Maren's Meadow to Woodbine Oaks?

Larry Jones is looking down the barrel of a sensational spring with his 3-year-old fillies. After saddling Maren's Meadow to a 7-1 upset of the Bourbonette Oaks on Saturday, Jones didn't raise any eyebrows when he failed to mention the Kentucky Oaks as a long-range goal for the May 2 filly classic. After all, Jones already has arguably the top contender for the Oaks in Proud Spell, along with another top prospect, Eight Belles.

Maren's Meadow probably will have another race before the May 16 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico, after which she could be the filly to beat versus Ontario-breds in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on June 8.

Maren's Meadow already has a claim to fame, being a "sponging" victim in October at Delaware Park. Jones said the filly "is over all that."

Day's handle up 3 percent

Although ontrack attendance (18,680) for Lane's End Day failed to hit the 20,000 mark for the first time since 2002, all-sources handle on the 12-race program ($9.8 million) exceeded 2007 business by about 3opercent, according to track officials. Overall, despite mid-30s temperatures and a brisk wind that kept fans huddling inside a crowded grandstand, the day was a success.

Weather in late March in the Cincinnati area obviously is hit-or-miss. Once in a while, it's almost balmy, like when Event of the Year won the day after a freak power outage in 1998, or when Globalize won in 70 degree weather in 2000. And then there were the years that With a City (2006) won amid snow flurries and Sinister G and Flower Alley (2004-05) won in miserable rain.