04/01/2011 2:18PM

Kentucky Derby prospect Machen will focus on shorter races

Lynn Roberts
Wilkinson, shown winning the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, will be pointed to the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

Trainer Neil Howard and owner Donald Adam lost one Triple Crown hopeful during closing weekend at Fair Grounds, but on the same day the pair appeared to gain another.

Machen finished fifth in the Louisiana Derby, running the same kind of race – good middle move, no late punch – he had in the Risen Star Stakes. Those two-turn results have strongly suggested to Machen’s connections that he’s a better horse at shorter distances, and Machen’s upcoming schedule will be adjusted accordingly.

“We think with him we’ll probably look more to the middle distances, one-turn races,” Howard said.

Earlier on the Louisiana Derby program, Prime Cut turned in an excellent route allowance performance, winning by three-quarters of a length over highly regarded Bind, who finished 12 lengths ahead of the third-place horse. Prime Cut ran one mile 70 yards in 1:41.20, by far the fastest such time of the meeting, and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 91.

Howard said no firm plans have been set for Prime Cut, who emerged from his win in good condition. One possible spot for his next start is the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, which has served some past runners as a stepping-stone to the Preakness.

Meanwhile, Lecomte Stakes winner Wilkinson rallied decently for sixth in the Louisiana Derby, a performance his connections deemed sufficient to point for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, where Wilkinson finished a close, closing second in his career debut last fall.

“I thought he ran pretty well,” Howard said of Wilkinson’s Louisiana Derby. “He wasn’t getting his feet under him early on.”