03/05/2010 1:00AM

Mixed emotions after sale of colt


There are mixed feelings, understandably. Allen Crupper grew up in Kentucky horse country and dreams of winning the Kentucky Derby someday. But for now, he is satisfied with having sold a Derby prospect for a huge windfall. In partnership with his brother Keith, Crupper bought Tiz Chrome as a yearling for $5,000 in September 2008, then raised and trained the colt for 14 months before selling him to clients of Bob Baffert.

"Your heart is screaming, 'I should've kept him, I should've kept him,' " said Crupper, who runs Whispering Oaks Farm in Paris, Ky., with his brother and who trains a 25-horse string at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, Ky. "But we did what we set out to do. We bought a couple of colts and tried to make it work. We break them and sell them, and once it's done, you move on. There's always the next one."

Baffert was watching from Santa Anita during Breeders' Cup week last November when he became enamored with the way Tiz Chrome, by Tiznow, won his career debut for Crupper at Churchill Downs by 3 1/4 lengths. Crupper soon agreed to what he characterized as a high-six-figure deal, "a fair deal in a down market," to sell the colt to the partnership of Terry Lanni, Ernie Moody, and Bernie Schiappa.

Since then, Tiz Chrome has won a restricted stakes and finished fourth in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis for Baffert, who also has Lookin At Lucky and Conveyance as 2010 Derby contenders.

"He was always a colt who did everything right, really special," said Crupper, 41. "He was always laid -back and would lie down and sleep in his stall. I'd plan on working him early in the morning and have to change work times because he wouldn't get up."

Crupper has remained such a huge fan of Tiz Chrome that he and his wife, Kim, flew to California at their own expense just to watch the colt race in the Lewis at Santa Anita, scheduled for Feb. 6. But the race was washed out and postponed until a week later, with the Cruppers winding up as Southern California tourists before returning home.

"We hung around the barn a little and looked in on the horse," Crupper said. "We went to Hollywood and did all that kind of stuff. We'd never been to California before."

Keith and Allen Crupper already have experienced Derby success on the fringes. At Whispering Oaks, they board broodmares for the Double Eagle Ranch of Mark Allen, the co-owner of 2009 Derby winner Mine That Bird, and say they were peripherally involved in the sale of Mine That Bird from his previous connections in Canada. Also, as an aside to their 2010 Derby story, the Cruppers board the Double Eagle mare Shadow of the Moon, who foaled The Program - another current Derby prospect for Baffert - at Whispering Oaks in March 2007.

Allen Crupper was working as a car mechanic when he and his brother decided to go full time into the horse business nine years ago. Their parents had owned and worked with Thoroughbreds since they were kids, and horses are their true passion.

"We had $3,000 between us and just said, 'We're going to give this a go,' " he said.

Tiz Chrome will try to advance along the Derby trail when he runs next Saturday in the San Felipe at Santa Anita. Crupper said he will surely be watching, probably from home.

"You know who I'll be rooting for," he said.

Big Lane's End field looks possible

With their annual showcase race just three weeks away, Turfway officials are taking an optimistic view on the March 27 Lane's End Stakes and believe the 1 1/8-mile race will get a big field. According to stakes coordinator Tia Murphy, the 3-year-olds already confirmed for the Lane's End are the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Northern Giant and the Dale Romans pair of Quiet All American and Vow to Wager.

In addition, Murphy said trainer Todd Pletcher informed her that "he likely will have two for the race, but he won't know which two until we're closer to the race." Pletcher trains 13 of the 151 nominees.

With its Grade 2 ranking and $500,000 purse, the Lane's End gives the winner a virtually certain berth in the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill stable area reopens

Churchill Downs opened its stable area Friday morning after closing for the traditional nine or so winter weeks for maintenance and repairs. Training was to begin Saturday.

Typically, most of the first small group of horses to settle in at Churchill are from the nearby Trackside training annex or farms, while the majority trickle in as the Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, and Gulfstream meets begin to wind down and the Keeneland spring meet nears. The 15-day Keeneland meet runs April 2-23.

Statue of Perennial located

The search for the Perennial statue was over almost as quickly as it began. The statue that once graced the entrance of Turfway Park (then Latonia) in Florence, Ky., now marks the ground where Perennial is buried on the farm of his trainer, D.F. Abner, in the eastern Indiana town of Laurel.

Several interested parties had been unable to trace where the Perennial statue had gone since his jockey, Gene York, died last September. Abner, a mainstay at Latonia and River Downs, retired long ago.

Perennial, a foal of 1967, won 46 of 216 starts while racing to age 15.

* The onset of racing on Thursdays during March seemed to have had an immediate impact on field size at Turfway, at least initially. Whereas 10- to 12-horse fields had been the norm for Friday evening cards during January and February, when racing was conducted just three times a week, there were only 93 horses on the 12-race program for this Friday (March 5), an average of less than eight per race.

* Tommy Pompell rode four of the nine Thursday winners at Turfway to give himself a little breathing room atop the jockeys' race, which has been hotly contested for weeks. Into Friday night action, Pompell had 38 winners, three more than John McKee and four more than Rex Stokes.

* The likeness of University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari will be featured on limited editions of Maker's Mark bottles that are the focus of an autograph session that draws thousands of fans to Keeneland every spring. Calipari and Keeneland president Nick Nicholson will sign the bottles on April 9, the same day the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile is run.

* A memorial service for jockey Justin Vitek, who died Jan. 28, is set for next Saturday after the races at Turfway.