06/05/2009 12:00AM

Lattice's comeback begins in tough spot


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When Inca King made his return from a nearly nine-month layoff in a turf allowance early in the Churchill Downs spring meet, trainer Steve Asmussen hedged his bets somewhat, saying he thought the multiple-stakes-winning gelding might need the race.

Inca King ran bravely but still lost, finishing third in that April 26 race. On Sunday, the 5-year-old Inca King returns to action with the benefit of that needed race while facing a group of turf veterans that includes another stakes-proven horse returning from an 11-month layoff.

Lattice, the winner of the Grade 2 American Derby in 2007 and the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap in 2008, is one of 10 opponents for Inca King in the Sunday feature at Churchill, a $58,800 classified allowance with a $100,000 claiming option. The ninth of 10 races goes at a mile on turf.

Lattice underwent ankle surgery shortly after a poor effort as the 3-2 favorite in his last race, the Stars and Stripes last July 4 at Arlington Park.

"After the surgery, we sent him to Bruce Jackson at Fair Hill in Maryland, and we've just taken our time with him," said Al Stall Jr., who trains Lattice for his breeders and owners, Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm.

"We're just trying to get him started," said Stall. "I don't know if this is his distance, and this race came up about 10 times tougher than I ever dreamt it would. But he does look like his old self, a great-looking horse, and he's run really well off the bench before," a reference to a solid effort in March 2008 at Fair Grounds.

As Stall said, the field for this race came up very deep. Besides Inca King, a five-time stakes winner on grass, the race also drew Wise River, a sharp winner of the April 26 allowance in which Inca King made his comeback; El Caballo, beaten a nose two starts back in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial at Fair Grounds; Demarcation, a dead-heat winner of the Grade 3 River City here last fall; and Jazz in the Park, a two-back winner of an allowance on the Churchill turf.

One other allowance (race 7) is carded for Sunday, when first post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.