03/20/2007 11:00PM

Gander's people reemerge with talented Sports Town


FLORENCE, Ky. - By earning more than $1.8 million, Gander became one of the great New York-bred horses. Trainer John Terranova and his wife, Tonja, saw the gray gelding through his 60-race career, and it figured to be a while before their racing stable got a horse of similar caliber to replace Gander, who raced for the last time in July 2004.

Not that it's right even to begin to compare Sports Town to Gander, but Tonja Terranova, who accompanied Sports Town to Turfway Park for the Lane's End Stakes on Saturday, said "the talent is definitely there" for Sports Town to develop into a standout.

"He trains like a superstar," said Terranova, a lifelong racetracker who once worked with the Bob Baffert-trained horses Point Given and Congaree. "He probably has more raw ability than Gander, although obviously he has a lot to do to live up to what Gander did."

Sports Town, a Kentucky-bred colt by Belong to Me, is owned by the New Hampshire family of Mike, Teddy, and Matthew Gatsas. The Gatsases also owned Gander.

Sports Town had two eye-catching wins at Aqueduct late last year before finishing third in his lone stakes try, the Feb. 10 Whirlaway.

"He came out of that race sick and had a couple of real easy weeks after that, but he's fine now," said Terranova. "We think he'll like the Polytrack. In his workout here [Tuesday], he seemed to just float over the track."

Sports Town, who was assigned post 3 in a full field of 12 in the Lane's End, will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan.

Approval Rating taking a shot

Last year, trainer Mark Casse sent out Seaside Retreat to a second-place finish in the Lane's End behind longshot winner With a City. This year, Casse is back with Approval Rating, a chestnut colt who was fourth in the local prep, the March 3 John Battaglia.

"We've never really gotten to see this horse at his peak, but I honestly think he's finally there," said Norm Casse, the son of and assistant to Mark Casse. "He's had to come back from a couple layoffs before, but after that race over this track, he's really coming around."

Casse said the Lane's End shapes up "a lot tougher than it did last year, because you've got some stakes winners like Hard Spun and Twilight Meteor in there."

Approval Rating is a Lemon Drop Kid colt who started his career with two flashy wins last summer at Woodbine. "[He] will have to run his best race to win, but he's doing awfully good coming into this," Norm Casse said.

Love Dubai out after flight delay

One hopeful missing from the Lane's End lineup is Love Dubai. A recent private purchase by the Equirace.com of Birmingham, Ala., businessman Ron Peltz, who won the Lane's End last year with With a City, Love Dubai was held up because of flight complications from England, said Mike Maker, who trained With a City and soon will have Love Dubai under his care.

Love Dubai, a one-time winner from four career starts in England, won't be released from quarantine in New York until Saturday, said Maker, who did not specify an alternative race for the E Dubai colt.

By winning at 48-1, With a City became the longest-priced winner in the 35-year history of the Lane's End. Sadly, the colt was euthanized four weeks after the race as a result of a blood-related illness.

Passport tops Rushaway cast

Passport, the Claiborne Farm colt who won the Cradle Stakes at River Downs last September, is among a contentious field of 11 3-year-olds entered in the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes on the Lane's End card.

Julien Leparoux has the mount on Passport, who will break from post 6 in the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway. Other contenders include Dubious Miss, Dominican, Trust Your Luck, Meritocracy, and Skip Code.

The Rushaway goes as the ninth of 12 races Saturday.

* Olivine, winner of the Busher Stakes, and recent allowance winners Floral Park and Silverinyourpocket are among an outstanding field of 3-year-old fillies in the $150,000 Bourbonette Breeders' Cup Stakes (race 8). The one-mile race will go with a full field of 12.

Also on the Saturday undercard, Awesome Hero, with Leparoux riding, looks like the one to beat in a field of 10 3-year-olds entered in the $50,000 Hansel (race 7), while Hot Storm figures as a solid favorite among 10 fillies and mares in the $50,000 Queen (race 11).

* The Saturday broadcast on ESPN of the Lane's End and Rushaway is scheduled to include an in-depth interview with Dr. Dean Richardson, the veterinarian who oversaw the treatment and rehabilitation of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro until the colt was euthanized last month.