03/20/2008 12:00AM

Medjool looking a tempting bet


NEW YORK - Saturday is a big day at Turfway Park, with the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes topping a card that has four other stakes events, including the Grade 3, $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks.

Lane's End Stakes

This is a terrific betting race, as the field lacks a standout favorite, and only a few of the 12 entered look to be certifiably overmatched. That said, Medjool is very appealing here from a betting standpoint.

Medjool did only just record his maiden win in his most recent start. But that was a decisive score at Santa Anita, and just because it came at the maiden level should not obscure the fact that Medjool has kept good company in his career. He finished third in his debut last fall to Colonel John, winner of the recent Sham Stakes and one of the favorites for next month's Santa Anita Derby, and late last year, he was second to the stakes-placed Coast Guard. Even Medjool's only off-the-board finish, a sixth in the California Derby two starts back, was a respectable effort, as he was beaten only four lengths by Yankee Bravo, who ran well finishing third to Pyro in the recent Louisiana Derby. I like Medjool's off-the-pace style, which fits the way this race sets up pace-wise, and which also fits the track. And Medjool having to break from post 12 does not bother me, as I much prefer my horses to be outside and in the clear on Polytrack so they can avoid the kickback.

The horse I fear most here is Adriano. Adriano was overmatched last time out in the Fountain of Youth, and a bad post only made matters worse for him. But he did win big on turf at Gulfstream before that in his seasonal debut, and he handled Keeneland's Polytrack reasonably well last fall when he was fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity.

Bourbonette Oaks

A to the Croft, runner-up last year in two Grade 1 events (one against the highly regarded Country Star) and a Grade 2 stakes, and Maren's Meadow, a sharp second most recently in Oaklawn's Martha Washington Stakes to Sky Mom, who came back to romp in last Sunday's WinStar Sunland Park Oaks, are obvious threats in this race. In fact, they are so obvious, there is practically no chance they'll be playable prices. But Clearly Foxy should be a playable price, and she is capable of winning on her best race.

Clearly Foxy has not raced since finishing sixth in the slop in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But she did win the first two starts of her career on turf before that. Most importantly, when Clearly Foxy won the Natalma Stakes last September in her second start, she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 83, a figure Maren's Meadow only just reached in the Martha Washington, and a level A to the Croft has yet to reach. This will be Clearly Foxy's first start on a synthetic surface, but her good turf form, and her experience working on the synthetic track most of the winter in Ocala, suggests she will handle the surface switch.

Shirley Jones Handicap

It might be nuts to try and beat Sugar Swirl on Saturday, what with the impressive way she won the First Lady and Hurricane Bertie handicaps earlier in the Gulfstream meet. But if Shaggy Mane is ever again going to be a player at the top of the filly-and-mare sprint division, she has a golden opportunity to show it in this spot, as she should be in complete control of the early pace.

Shaggy Mane's last three outings are throw-outs, as two came on synthetic tracks, which she clearly doesn't like, and the other came in the slop in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Before that, however, she was an excellent second in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney. And Shaggy Mane ran a giant race at Gulfstream last year when she won the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint.