03/11/2010 12:00AM

Heavy hearts in Tejano Run


Mike Maker will run two horses Saturday in the $50,000 Tejano Run Stakes at Turfway Park but is up against an overwhelming sentimental favorite.

A memorial service is being held after the Saturday card at Turfway in Florence, Ky., to honor jockey Justin Vitek, who died Jan. 28 in Texas after a two-year battle with leukemia. It just so happens that the logical wagering favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Tejano Run, Timeless Fashion, was the last of 739 winners ridden by Vitek; they won a Turfway allowance together Feb. 2, 2008.

"There's definitely a lot more than just a horse race going on with this one," said Timeless Fashion's trainer, Tom Drury Jr., who was a close friend of Vitek's. "Timeless Fashion was Justin's big horse, and there's going to be a whole lot of people pulling for us because of Justin."

Jimmy Lopez will ride Timeless Fashion.

Maker, based in south Florida with his top string of horses, said he sympathizes with the situation. "But as we all know, this is horse racing," said Maker, who has the uncoupled duo of Cherokee Triangle and Forest Attack in the field of six. "If one of my horses wins, I'll be happy."

On paper, Timeless Fashion appears very much the horse to beat. A 6-year-old gelding owned by Judy Miller and Bob Liedle, he has won 7 of 13 starts, including a 1 1/4-length win in the Dec. 12 Prairie Bayou Stakes at Turfway in his last start.

"Hopefully, everything will go well for him, for all of us," said Drury.

If Timeless Fashion disappoints, Maker is the most likely to capitalize. Forest Attack won the Feb. 13 Dust Commander Stakes at Turfway by four lengths and has been in good form since overcoming a variety of physical issues.

"When he's good, he's very good," said Maker.

Drury, Lopez, and the owners have all pledged 10 percent of their earnings to an education fund for Vitek's 6-year-old daughter, Bree. More information on the fund is available at turfway.com.