03/04/2006 12:00AM

Laity pressed late, hangs on

Pat Lang
Laity powers toward the wire under Corey Lanerie in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes on Saturday - giving trainer Frank Brothers a second victory on the day in a stakes for 3-year-olds.

FLORENCE, Ky. - Mere minutes after a disqualification was announced in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, handing victory to the Frank Brothers-trained First Samurai, Brothers got another triumph in a stakes race for 3-year-olds when Laity held off a swarm of challengers in the $100,000 at Turfway Park.

Ridden by Corey Lanerie, Laity was prominent throughout the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia but appeared doomed to defeat when several rivals came abreast in the midstretch. With four horses across the track, plus a hard-charging Pair of Kings seemingly poised to surge past them all, Laity somehow dug down and held on for a half-length victory.

Laity, owned by Claiborne Farm, returned $15.80 after finishing in 1:46.88 over Polytrack. Pair of Kings, a 33-1 shot, finished second, another half-length ahead of 66-1 shot New Awakening.

Laity, by Pulpit, was making his first start in three months. He had trained in Florida with the rest of the Brothers stable after being soundly defeated in the Breeders' Futurity and Iroquois Stakes. Before those losses, he was an 11 3/4-length winner of the Cradle Stakes at River Downs. Brothers was at Gulfstream on Saturday.

On a sunny but cool afternoon, Laity broke sharply from post 2 before taking a tenuous lead into the first turn of the Battaglia. Down the backstretch, three rivals pressed him from the outside, but he continued resolutely while racing closest to the rail. Inside the eighth pole, he was still head-and-head with New Awakening before finally edging clear and holding Pair of Kings safe.

Kilimanjaro, a California invader and the 2-1 favorite in the field of 12, finished seventh, while several other well-bet horses fared even worse: Trailing Twelve (7-2) ran ninth, Go Bucky Go (7-2) 11th, and Warrior Within (6-1) 12th.

The Battaglia is the local prep for the annual Turfway showcase, the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, to be run March 25.

* Brass Hat, the Turfway-based gelding who races next in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 25, worked a solid five furlongs between the seventh and eighth race Saturday. With regular rider Willie Martinez aboard, Brass Hat finished in 1:00.60 without urging. "He doesn't normally work that fast," said trainer Buff Bradley, who later saddled Pair of Kings. "He's doing great."