Updated on 09/16/2011 7:06AM

Just wait till the Oaks, Nafzger says of Belterra


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Carl Nafzger concedes that Take Charge Lady probably has the edge on Belterra in the Ashland Stakes on Saturday.

But, he cautions, things could get a lot more interesting after that.

Take Charge Lady "definitely has a better chance this time than she will the next," said Nafzger, who has said for months that the May 3 Kentucky Oaks is the long-term goal for his latest stable star, .

Nafzger said the Ashland may prove similar to the 1990 Blue Grass Stakes, when Summer Squall easily defeated the Nafzger star Unbridled. While Summer Squall had more tactical speed and used it to full advantage in a small field, Unbridled lumbered home third.

Although Nafzger hopes Belterra will win Saturday, he realizes that Take Charge Lady brings more speed into a race that could very well favor her style. The stretch run in 1 1/16-mile races at Keeneland is shorter by a sixteenth-mile than in other races, and considering the small field, the early pace could very well allow Take Charge Lady to have plenty in reserve to turn back the stretch-running Belterra.

Moreover, although Belterra won their only previous meeting last fall in the Golden Rod Stakes, Take Charge Lady has had a more productive year and was impressive winning both of her starts. Belterra's only start resulted in a third-place finish in the March 15 Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream.

Win or lose Saturday, Nafzger seems ambivalent. "I'm not a guy who thinks horses are supposed to win every single time they run a horse race," he said. "Generally, my horses are very consistent, but they don't win every trip. Nobody's do. I believe in letting horses do what they do best when they're in races. Some days that works for you, and some it doesn't.

"The main thing is I never change a horse's style to win a particular race. When I find out the way they want to do things, that's the way they'll do them, like with Unbridled. When I figured out he wanted to relax and make one run, that's the way he ran. It's like Vince Lombardi said: 'I'm not going to take my running team and make it into a passing team for just one game. I'm going to use what got me here.' "

Of course, Nafzger has the luxury of knowing how the Summer Squall and Unbridled rivalry unfolded. In their next meeting, Unbridled won the Kentucky Derby, with Summer Squall second.

He obviously wouldn't mind seeing that scenario repeat with the Ashland and Oaks this year.

"You always go into a race hoping to win," he said. "I want to win Saturday as bad as anybody. But at the same time, you have to take everything into consideration."

Wolford: Torn between two sports

Will Wolford is torn. He would like nothing more than to be at Keeneland to watch Colonial Glitter run in the Ashland, but previous obligations with his new day job probably will keep him in Louisville.

Wolford, the former All-Pro offensive lineman who played 13 seasons in the National Football League with Buffalo, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh, is the new owner-operator of the Louisville Fire, an arena 2 football team that will open its season Saturday night at 7 p.m. Eastern before a projected crowd of about 10,000 in Freedom Hall.

"I've got so much tied up in this team that I can't miss the opening," said Wolford, 38. "I'm probably going to Trackside," the simulcast facility in Louisville, "but it's killing me that I'm going to have a horse in a Grade 1 for the first time in my life and I won't be there."

Colonial Glitter competes in the name of 3rd Turn Stables, in which Wolford is majority owner. She opened her season with an allowance victory and a runner-up finish in the Davona Dale Stakes, then two weeks ago won the Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway Park by 10 1/2 lengths. She is the likely third choice behind Take Charge Lady and Belterra in the Ashland.

New 3-year-old maiden policy

Keeneland has amended its policy in regard to 3-year-old maiden special weight races, which perennially draw a huge number of entries.

For years, a trainer who wanted to wait for a race later in the meet would have had to enter his horse in races early in the meet to earn a "star," a designation that assigns preference. If the horse happened to be drawn into the race, but the trainer decided to scratch, the horse would lose its star and revert to the end of the line.

Under the new policy, a trainer can enter a horse as "star only," meaning the horse can continue to move up in line without having to run (provided the race is oversubscribed). A trainer can enter as many as three star-only horses per race.

"We've been fighting this for years," said racing secretary Ben Huffman. "This way is a little more trainer-friendly. So many trainers were frustrated by the old system that we decided to make the change."

The first maiden-special race this year, a 1 1/16-mile race on Friday, drew 30 entries, a typical number. Huffman decided to split the race, as often happens, which yielded two full fields and six exclusions.

Martin brings momentum

Eddie Martin Jr. has made Keeneland a regular stop in recent years, but he has never come into the meet with the kind of momentum he brings this year.

Martin, 38, was the leading rider at the long, always-competitive Fair Grounds meet that ended last Saturday, putting him on pace for the best year of his 23-year career.

"It was a mega-meet for me," said Martin. "I've done okay at Keeneland before, but hopefully what we got done in New Orleans will carry over here. I've set a personal goal of 10 wins at the meet."

Martin, whose agent is Bobby Kelly, enjoyed his best spring here three years ago when winning five races, including two stakes. He will miss the last three days of the meet to begin riding at Delaware Park, where trainers who used him frequently at Fair Grounds will team with him again there. "I thought it'd be the best move for me at the time," he said.

* Ocean Sound was expected to arrive here Thursday night from Oaklawn Park and will be part of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes field. Eddie Delahoussaye will ride Ocean Sound for trainer Jim Cassidy in the Grade 1 Blue Grass, which at this early date has four other confirmed starters: Harlan's Holiday, Booklet, Bunk N Ted, and Azillion. Request for Parole and Gold Dollar also are under serious consideration for the race.

* The Sunday feature is the $100,000 Lafayette, a seven-furlong race that often serves as a lead-in to the Derby Trial. Cashel Castle and Sky Terrace are the likely favorites in a race also expected to get Cicero Grimes, Laffit, Proud Citizen, and probably a few more 3-year-olds.