Updated on 09/17/2011 10:08AM

Lane's End: Who is for real?

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Lion Tamer, winning Gulfstream's Hutcheson, is the likely Lane's End favorite. If he handles the 1 1/8-mile distance, he could be Kentucky Derby-bound.

FLORENCE, Ky. - Six weeks and counting - and doesn't everyone with a Kentucky Derby contender know it.

The connections of the nine horses that will clash Saturday in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park are keenly aware that the 129th Derby will be run May 3 at Churchill Downs. They also are aware that whichever horse is good enough to win here Saturday will most likely will have earned a ticket to Louisville.

However, getting to that enviable point figures to take a big effort. The trainers of the four major contenders in the Grade 2 Lane's End - Lion Tamer, Champali, Eugene's Third Son, and Saintly Look - readily concede that the 1 1/8-mile race should reveal plenty.

"We're all going to find out pretty important stuff Saturday," said Greg Foley, trainer of Champali, a locally based colt who has won all but one of his seven career starts.

Pat Byrne, trainer of Eugene's Third Son, said, "It's time to see what we've got."

Todd Pletcher trains the likely favorite, Lion Tamer.

"You never know until they do it, but I'm optimistic my colt can handle what we're asking him to do Saturday," Pletcher said.

The theme of intrigue reverberates from top to bottom in the Lane's End, in no small part because none of the starters is proven against the top flight of North America's 3-year-old class. Some, such as Eugene's Third Son, have never even run in a stakes race. And even if a horse such as Lion Tamer is to emerge victorious Saturday, then the question most likely will linger until the Derby: Just how good is this field assembled for this 32nd running of the Lane's End?

"You never know, but this race could end up being something," Byrne said. "Or it might not."

The outcome of the Lane's End could be highly dependent on what unfolds in the opening few furlongs. All four of the favorites are speed types, so it should be very interesting to see what kind of pace develops.

"It's going to be a good jock's race," Foley said. "Whoever can get their horse to rate or relax the best and save something for the finish [could win]."

Champali, owned by a syndicate based in Madison, Wis., has emerged as a local hero, having already won the three Turfway preps leading up to the Lane's End - the Prevue, WEBN, and John Battaglia Memorial. No horse has ever swept all four of Turfway's Derby prep races.

Pat Day, who rode Champali in two wins last year, chose to ride Eugene's Third Son over Champali. Foley said he was surprised because of the edge in experience that Champali brings into the race. Conversely, Byrne said he was pleased that Day picked Eugene's Third Son, "because when Pat's on your side, it leads you to think you might have something."

Day is easily the leading rider in Lane's End history, having won the race five times. Foley is sticking with Jason Lumpkins, who rode Champali in his last two wins. Lumpkins, a former leading rider on several other circuits, has been the biggest story of the Turfway winter-spring meet, having dominated the rider standings in his first year here.

Among the other five horses entered in the Lane's End, perhaps Ozzie Cat is the most interesting. He represents one of the last Derby hopes this year for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has run at least one horse in 21 of the last 22 Derbies. Ozzie Cat has been badly beaten in his last two starts.

The Lane's End field is rounded out by Lots of Sizzle, Wendlar, New York Hero, and Chicken Soup Kid.

The Lane's End, which will be televised live on a one-hour program on ESPN2 starting at 4 p.m. Eastern, is named for the prominent central Kentucky breeding farm owned by Will Farish. Inaugurated in 1972 as the Spiral Stakes, the race has since been known by several other names, including the Jim Beam, Galleryfurniture.com, and last year, the Lane's End Spiral.

Lil E. Tee (1992) is the only horse to win the Lane's End (then the Jim Beam) and the Derby. Several other horses have won the Lane's End and other jewels in the Triple Crown.

The weather forecast for Saturday in the Greater Cincinnati region calls for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 54 degrees.

First post for the 12-race card, which is void of claiming races, is noon Eastern. The Lane's End is carded as the 10th race with a 4:40 p.m. post.

THE FIELD

LANE'S END STAKES

Purse: $500,000, 1 1/8 miles, Grade 2

PPHORSEJOCKEYODDS
1Saintly LookS. Sellers5-1
2ChampaliJ. Lumpkins9-2
3Lots of SizzleL. Rivera Jr.30-1
4Ozzie CatM. Pedroza10-1
5WendlarP. Ouzts99-1
6New York HeroN. Arroyo Jr. 12-1
7Chicken Soup KidB. Peck30-1
8Eugene's Third SonP. Day 4-1
9Lion TamerJ. Velazquez6-5

All starters carry 121 pounds

Odds by Byron King

Television: 4-5 p.m., Eastern, ESPN2

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