03/29/2010 11:00PM

Many factors point to Dean's Kitten


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If one simply drew a line through the speed-figure column of the past performances of Connemara in Saturday's Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, he would appear a legitimate 9-5 morning line favorite. He is 3 for 4 on synthetic tracks, which includes a victory over the Turfway Park Polytrack strip last fall, and he is the only graded stakes winner in the race, having won the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on Feb. 20.

But that's a line through the past performances I'm not drawing. And if one looks at his Beyer Speed Figures, it seems likely Saturday's Lane's End's End Stakes is ripe for an upset.

Connemara's top Beyer Figure, an 83, posted in winning the El Camino Real, falls short of the top and last-race figures of several of his opponents and is well below par for the level.

In four runnings of the Lane's End since the track installed its Polytrack all-weather surface in the fall of 2005, the winning figures have been 87 (With a City, 2006), 101 (Hard Spun, 2007), 92 (Adriano, 2008), and 99 (Hold Me Back, 2009).

So if Connemara is not fast enough without a jump forward, who is? Only Doubles Partner, Kettle River, Northern Giant, and Dean's Kitten have at least run an 87 Beyer, matching the lowest of the Lane's End winning Polytrack figures.

Of those, Dean's Kitten's, a 5-1 shot on the morning line, looks like the horse most likely to run to his potential Saturday.

In contrast to Doubles Partner and Northern Giant, he has a top-three finish on a synthetic track, running third in a 4 1/2-furlong dash at Keeneland when he debuted last spring.

Unlike with Kettle River, who disappointed when he finished eighth in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita earlier this month, form is not a concern for Dean's Kitten. His last two efforts, a fourth in the Hallandale Beach and a second in the Grade 3 Palm Beach, both on the Gulfstream Park turf course, were quality races in which he showed his class, competitiveness, and staying power.

He is well drawn in the Lane's End for his style, in post 9 in 10-horse field, where he should be get a good stalking trip while largely avoiding kickback - a key for a horse inexperienced on the synthetic.

His trainer, Mike Maker, currently winning at a 32-percent rate at Turfway and regularly one of the track's leading trainers, is also adept at getting horses to win major 1 1/8-mile races over this Polytrack strip. Besides With a City, who won this race for him in 2006, the Maker-trained Furthest Land won the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway last fall before going on to take the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

Mission Impazible may surprise

Turning south to the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, a potentially rewarding value play exists on Mission Impazible in the Louisiana Derby.

One of two Todd Pletcher-trained runners, with the other being morning-line favorite Discreetly Mine, Mission Impazible could slip past the betting public a bit. Although he has never won a stakes race, he has performed at a high level in four starts while matched against tough competition.

He was narrowly beaten by stakes winner Three Day Rush in an allowance Jan. 9 at Gulfstream when he returned from a lengthy layoff, and then was a close fourth in the Grade 3 Southwest Feb. 20 at Oaklawn Park when he got hung three to four wide throughout.

Starting from post 2 in the Louisiana Derby, he should be able to save much more ground. And with his tactical speed, that should put him right behind the lead group.

Throw in that Mission Impazible has paired up Beyers in the upper 80s this year, and he takes on even more appeal. Off a favorable pairing up pattern, he is more likely to move forward than some of his opponents.

He also has pedigree appeal, as a son of Unbridled's Song and out of a dam who foaled Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity winner Forest Camp and Grade 3 Fifth Season Breeders' Cup winner Spanish Empire.

Even so, he is not without fault. He has never raced the 1 1/8 miles of the Louisiana Derby, is not as accomplished as other runners, and has not run quite as quickly as some of the leading contenders.

But at 8-1 on the morning line, the potential reward offsets those disadvantages.