03/18/2009 11:00PM

Fitz Just Right in top form


FLORENCE, Ky. - Gender equality is all good, but with the Kentucky Derby looming, the boys tend to get more attention than the girls.

And so it is that while the Lane's End Stakes takes center stage Saturday at Turfway Park, a nice little race for Kentucky Oaks hopefuls will be relegated to the background. The $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks, one of five stakes on the card, will serve as a potential springboard to the May 1 Kentucky Oaks when 10 3-year-old fillies clash at one mile over the Turfway Polytrack.

Fitz Just Right, with Cornelio Velasquez riding for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, looks like the filly to beat. She has won 3 of 4 starts, with her latest resulting in a wire-to-wire score in the Feb. 16 Ocala Breeders' Sales Championship. She will break from post 2 in the Grade 3 Bourbonette, which is the only graded race besides the Lane's End on the Turfway card.

Fitz Just Right is owned by the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate, which already has Justwhistledixie - who closed as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager last weekend - as their main hope. McLaughlin said it is conceivable that a win by Fitz Just Right would also take her to the Oaks.

"She just won over a synthetic surface at OBS, so now we want to try and get her some graded earnings," said McLaughlin.

The Bourbonette pace scenario looks fairly tricky, as Oculuna (post 7) and Instrumentalist (post 9), like Fitz Just Right, also have a lot of speed. If the race unfolds in favor of a closer, the logical candidates to pick up the pieces are Walloon, winner of the Feb. 21 Valdale at Turfway, and Stone Legacy, coming off a series of route races at Oaklawn Park for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Hansel: King Puma proven on synthetic

The connections of West Side Bernie, one of the favorites for the Lane's End, might have an opportunity to do a little celebrating before the big race if their representative, King Puma, runs to the public's expectations in the $50,000 Hansel Stakes (race 7).

King Puma, like West Side Bernie, is owned by Lori and George Hall, trained by Kelly Breen, and ridden by Edgar Prado. And just like his better-known stablemate, King Puma should vie for favoritism.

Winner of the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes last year over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Presque Isle, King Puma has shown that he can handle an all-weather track, and perhaps more importantly, he has illustrated the ability to successfully rally from behind horses.

The richest entrant in the eight-horse field, despite having made only three starts, he appears likely to get a favorable off-the-pace trip in a six-furlong race that is loaded with speed.

King Puma utilized his stalking style to win both of his starts at age 2, and then in his seasonal debut in the OBS Sprint over a synthetic track at the Ocala Training Center, he employed similar tactics and came from just behind the leaders to be second behind Pray for Action.

Another shipper, Turfiste, winner of the 5 1/2-furlong Black Gold Stakes on turf at Fair Grounds in his last start Jan. 31, also looms a contender, as do regular Turfway runners Music City, He Ain't Right, and Rudy Flyer.

- Byron King

Queen: Wide-open sprint for females

One of the better betting races on the card is the $50,000 Queen Stakes (race 6), which drew a well-matched field of 11.

Just for Keeps, winner of a Feb. 1 turf sprint at Gulfstream Park, looks like one of the top contenders. Julien Leparoux, who rode a Turfway record 167 winners at the 2006 winter-spring meet, has the mount on Just for Keeps, a 5-year-old mare representing the powerhouse team of owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker.

Others with a solid chance in the 23rd running of the six-furlong Queen include J Z Warrior, a classy filly trained by Bill Mott; Victorianna, back in Kentucky after a couple of months in south Florida; and Mrs. Petoski, a recent Turfway allowance winner who will have Edgar Prado aboard.

Hadavision, also trained by Maker but uncoupled for wagering purposes, will try to add to a hot streak compiled recently by the Elite Stables of Randall Van Dyke. Elite won five straight races in February through early March, including a Feb. 14 score by Hadavision in a Turfway allowance.- Marty McGee