03/19/2008 12:00AM

Medjool's owner glad to be outsider


FLORENCE, Ky. - California shipper Medjool was assigned the far outside in a field of 12 entered in the Lane's End Stakes on Saturday, which, according to the colt's owner, is a more preferable draw than one of the inside posts.

"All the trouble he's gotten into, it's been because he's been trapped along the inside," said John O'Hara, whose Equine Prep Management owns Medjool. "He's one-paced, a grinder. Being out there won't hurt us at all."

Medjool, by Monarchos, enters off a 4 1/2-length triumph in a Feb. 18 maiden route over the Cushion Track surface at his home track, Santa Anita. Although it took the colt six tries to notch that first win, trainer David Hofmans believes the best may be yet to come.

"He's a real nice horse and seems to be blossoming at the right time," said Hofmans. "I wanted to get a 1 1/8-mile race in him, which is why we skipped the San Felipe," a 1 1/16-mile race last Saturday at Santa Anita.

Medjool will be ridden by Michael Baze, who has been aboard the colt in each of his last five starts.

Hofmans, best known for his feats with Alphabet Soup and Touch Gold, will be represented by his first Lane's End starter. Coincidentally, his son, trainer Grant Hofmans, who relocated to Kentucky several years ago, also will have a starter in longshot Halo's King, marking the first such time for a father-son team since the race was first sponsored in 1982.

Later-than-usual post time

With post time for the Lane's End scheduled for 6:47 p.m. Eastern, the famous line attributed to the late football coach Bear Bryant years ago is becoming more and more applicable to racing.

"If TV needs us to play at 3 in the morning, that's when we'll kick off," Bryant is supposed to have said.

ESPN, with its racing team of Joe Tessitore, Randy Moss, Jerry Bailey, and other reporters at the ready, had the 6-7 p.m. time slot open for the Lane's End, and Turfway was only too happy to comply. As a nighttime track equipped with lights, Turfway would have no problem with the onset of darkness Saturday.

In recent years, post times for the Triple Crown series have gotten increasingly later than what had been traditional for many years because of television network demands. The Lane's End normally has been run before 6 p.m.

No second chances among jockeys

Since Pat Day won his fifth and last Jim Beam (as the the Turfway showcase was then called) in 1992 aboard the eventual Kentucky Derby winner, Lil E. Tee, no other jockey has won the race more than once. Indeed, 15 different riders have won the last 15 runnings, with names such as Curt Bourque, Paul Toscano, and Brice Blanc sprinkled in with Hall of Fame jockeys Chris McCarron, Mike Smith, and Eddie Delahoussaye.

That streak is sure to reach 16 on Saturday, since none of the 12 jockeys named to ride in the Lane's End has ever won it.

O'Neill stuck back home in Ireland

Apprentice rider Kieran O'Neill, who last rode at Turfway on Feb. 20, has experienced delays in his return to the United States after what was supposed to be a brief visit to his native Ireland. O'Neill, 20, won six races at the winter-spring meet.

"He had some issues with his visa but was supposed to be back in about 10 days," said agent John Herbstreit. "I haven't heard a word from him."

Martin back out on his own

Randy Martin is returning to training after seven years as an assistant to Paul McGee. Martin will be based at Delaware Park, where his main client will be the partnership of Dennis Foster and Raleigh Ralls, who had their horses with McGee.

Martin is a lifelong horseman who previously worked mostly in Florida and Chicago. On his own, his biggest victory came at Ellis Park in the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes in 1999 with Lines of Beauty.

* There will be no training Sunday morning at Turfway because of the Easter holiday.