04/04/2013 3:35PM

Keeneland: Turallure seeks to regain form in talent-rich allowance


LEXINGTON, Ky. – There are allowance races, and then there are Keeneland allowance races.

Few American racetracks, if any, consistently offer the kind of non-stakes race that Keeneland will serve up Saturday as an appetizer to the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes. The fourth of 10 races, a $68,000 turf route, not only drew Turallure, an earner of more than $1.3 million, but also Forte Dei Marmi, Al Khali, and Air Support – all of them boasting big bankrolls and extensive graded-race experience.

Charlie LoPresti, who trains Turallure for the Four D Stables of Donna Arnold, said he was seeking a comeback spot for the 6-year-old horse “that you’d think would be easier than a stake. But obviously it’s not what we got.”

At this exact point last year, Turallure was widely regarded as a potential turf champion, a hard-charging gray who ended a sensational 2011 with a victory in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and an excruciatingly narrow defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

But those hopes didn’t pan out – not at all. After starting 2012 here in April with a solid runner-up finish in the Maker’s 46 Mile, Turallure ran seventh as the 2-1 favorite in the May 5 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and fourth as the 3-5 choice in the July 1 Firecracker Handicap, both over the Churchill Downs turf.

Deeply disappointed, LoPresti sensed something was wrong. Sure enough, Turallure was diagnosed with bone bruising that led his trainer to call it a year. Given months of rest, followed by a series of gallops and workouts at Keeneland, Turallure is finally ready to resume his racing career.

“All I want to see Saturday is a good effort and know that he’s back to himself,” said LoPresti. “You always want to win, but that doesn’t have to happen for me to come away satisfied. There’ll be a lot of opportunities later on. This kind of competition will give us all we can handle, I’m sure. Let’s just hope for a sign that we’ve got the ol’ guy back.”

Turallure isn’t the only contender in the seven-horse field returning from a layoff. Forte Dei Marmi, winner of the Grade 2 Sky Classic in August for Roger Attfield, has been away more than four months, while it will be nearly six months between races for Air Support, winner of the Transylvania Stakes here two years ago for Shug McGaughey.

“Some of us are in the same boat,” noted LoPresti.

Al Khali, who would surpass the $1 million earnings mark by finishing first or second, might rate a slight edge after getting a needed race last month when he captured a Tampa Bay Downs allowance following a six-month layoff.

Even the longshots in the field rate consideration, including Howe Great, a two-time stakes winner last year for Team Valor International and Graham Motion, and Sky Blazer, whose trip in a January defeat on the Gulfstream Park turf was traffic-plagued to the extreme.

Wise Dan sharpens for 2013 debut

Wise Dan, the 2012 Horse of the Year for LoPresti and owner-breeder Mort Fink, had his final tune-up for the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile when he breezed five furlongs Thursday in a minute flat over the Keeneland Polytrack.

It was the sixth breeze for Wise Dan since the gelding returned from his customary winter respite. Aside from official workouts, LoPresti has always insisted that Wise Dan “gets more than you know” out of his everyday training routine.

The $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile, which is run on turf, will kick off a terrific weekend of stakes action next Friday, April 12.

A slew of other workouts were expected over the next few days in anticipation of the weekend, including 3-year-olds being readied for the Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday. Uncaptured, one of the main contenders in what is expected to be a big Blue Grass field, is scheduled to work Saturday at Keeneland, said trainer Mark Casse, whose other Blue Grass prospect, Dynamic Sky, will work the same morning at Churchill.

“I’ll ship Dynamic Sky up to Keeneland a day or two later and school him during the week,” said Casse.

Rosario will make run at riding title

Joel Rosario will be among the missing jockeys here Saturday when in New York to ride Vyjack in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, but that will be a rare occurrence, according to agent Ron Anderson.

“The only other day we’ll miss is next Friday,” when Rosario goes to Oaklawn Park to ride Grace Hall in the Apple Blossom, said Anderson.

Rosario, fresh from a big meet at Gulfstream and his richest-ever score aboard Animal Kingdom last Saturday in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, is widely considered the top threat to unseat Julien Leparoux as leading jockey at this 16-day meet – especially in light of Anderson saying, “We’ve got a lot of action here, believe me.”

Leparoux has won or shared nine Keeneland titles, including the last five in a row dating to the 2010 fall meet.

◗ Unlike in some prior years, there is no stakes race here on the first Sunday of the spring meet. There are, however, four rich allowances on the nine-race program, most notably a $68,000, filly-and-mare turf route (race 3) matching the likes of Hungry Island, Karlovy Vary, and four others.