02/28/2002 1:00AM

Hard to look past entry in Battaglia


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Stephen Margolis-trained entry of Request for Parole and Thunder on Land, first and third in the WEBN Frog Stakes at Turfway Park four weeks ago, will likely be favored in Turfway's next test for 3-year-olds, Saturday's $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial at 1 1/16 miles.

The Battaglia is the final local prep for the richest event of the meet, the $500,000 Lane's End Spiral Stakes on March 23.

Request for Parole, the more highly regarded part of the entry, had great success last year, which accounted for his 3-5 odds in the WEBN Frog. In addition to his victory in the Ellis Park Juvenile, Request for Parole finished second behind Harlan's Holiday in the Cradle Stakes at River Downs and the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, and closed out his season with a second-place finish behind Repent in the Kentucky Jockey Club, also at Churchill.

"I couldn't be happier with how both my horses are coming into the race," said Margolis, who was impressed with both colts' final works for the Battaglia last week. Brian Peck has the return mount on Request for Parole. Thunder on Land, who served more or less as a pacesetter for his stablemate in the WEBN Frog, could have the same responsibilities Saturday, but will have a new rider in Charlie Woods.

Bettors will likely decide on Perfect Drift as the logical second choice behind the favored entry, considering he split those two in the WEBN Frog. Margolis admits Request for Parole had to "fight a little bit" to get past Perfect Drift the last time they met, and suspects he will be the main threat once again.

Perfect Drift, who fell 1 1/4 lengths short in the WEBN Frog, had won the Turfway Prevue at six furlongs in his previous start, defeating Thunder on Land. Tony D'Amico, who recently lost high-profile mounts on highly regarded Derby prospects Harlan's Holiday and Repent, might yet get to Louisville with Perfect Drift, who he rides again Saturday for trainer Murray Johnson.

Jerry Carroll, the former owner of Turfway Park now involved in auto racing at nearby Kentucky Speedway, owns the aptly named Piston, who makes his stakes debut in the Battaglia. Piston is undefeated in two starts at Turfway this winter, and successfully stretched out to a mile with a convincing wire-to-wire win in an entry-level allowance Feb. 9.

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