03/17/2008 12:00AM

Lane's End favorite is anyone's guess


At least 10 3-year-olds are likely to run Saturday at Turfway Park in what shapes up as a wide-open 37th running of the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, the lone major Kentucky Derby prep race of the coming weekend.

Favoritism in the Grade 2 Lane's End could go any number of ways, partly because the Polytrack surface at the Florence, Ky., track has drawn horses with good turf form and others with good dirt form.

Some Lane's End prospects have even proven themselves on synthetics, including Turf War, a Dixie Union colt who dead-heated for win in his 2-year-old finale, the Delta Jackpot, before finishing a disappointing ninth as the 2-1 favorite in his lone race at 3, the Southwest Stakes. In earlier races at 2, Turf War ran four times over Polytrack at Woodbine, winning twice.

Patrick Husbands will be back aboard Turf War in the 1 1/8-mile Lane's End, trainer Mark Casse said Monday. Calvin Borel rode the colt in his last two starts.

"We didn't get the best of trips in the Southwest," said Casse. "He was 24 lengths out of it after a half-mile, and I've already talked it over with Patrick, and that's not going to happen Saturday. He's going to get him into the race and get a position where he doesn't have to make up so much ground."

Casse said Turf War has "trained very well" over the Safetrack synthetic surface at his winter base, the Ocala Training Center in Florida.

Besides Turf War, two other Lane's End prospects have shown flashes of brilliance on synthetics: Halo Najib won the Ocala Breeders' Sales Championship last month, and Medjool recently won a Santa Anita maiden race by 4 1/2 lengths.

Other viable contenders include Adriano, a romping allowance winner over the Gulfstream Park turf in January; Cannonball, a Ken Ramsey homebred who has fared respectably in several turf stakes in south Florida this winter; Racecar Rhapsody, a stretch-running colt who will be making his season debut; Macho Again, a recent allowance sprint winner at Fair Grounds; and the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Duke of de Buqe and Chitoz.

El Aleman, a locally based maiden who appears overmatched, also is being pointed to the race.

Entries for the Lane's End will be drawn at the traditional media luncheon on Wednesday at the track.

Television coverage of the Lane's End will be provided live during a one-hour ESPN broadcast starting at 6 p.m. Eastern. Post time will be easily the latest in race history, at about 6:47, with the Lane's End carded as the last race of the day.

The Lane's End has produced just one Kentucky Derby winner, Lil E. Tee in 1992, but several of its winners have moved on to Churchill Downs as highly regarded contenders, including Hansel (1991), Prairie Bayou (1993), Stephen Got Even (1999), Perfect Drift (2002), and Hard Spun (2007).

The Lane's End is one of five stakes to be run Saturday. The others are the Grade 3, $150,000 Bourbonette Stakes, the $100,000 Rushaway, the $50,000 Hansel, and the $50,000 Queen.

The Rushaway is for 3-year-olds and has long been a useful overflow race for horsemen. Several recent Rushaway winners have gone on to fare quite well, including Brass Hat (2004), High Cotton (2006), and Dominican (2007). Turfway officials are expecting a big field for the 1o1/16-mile race.

The $50,000 Fairway Fun for fillies and mares will be run the following Saturday, March 29, and not on the Lane's End undercard, as was reported last weekend in Daily Racing Form.