03/23/2006 12:00AM

Pair of Kings keeps home fire burning


FLORENCE, Ky. - In any other year, having a horse in the Lane's End Stakes would have made Buff Bradley giddy. Based year-round in Kentucky, and a longtime regular at Turfway Park, Bradley never has had a 3-year-old good enough to crack the lineup of the track's premier event.

But when it rains, apparently it pours - and with Bradley in Dubai to run Brass Hat in the $6 million Dubai World Cup, it also happens that the 42-year-old trainer will be making his Lane's End debut Saturday with Pair of Kings.

"Sure, there have been a lot of years when I would've given just about anything to have a horse in the Lane's End," Bradley said before leaving last weekend for Dubai. "But taking Brass Hat to Dubai, this is icing on the cake, having my first horse for the biggest race at one of my home tracks."

Pair of Kings, bred and owned by Bruce Upchurch, is a late-running gray gelding by K One King, the runner-up in the 1999 Lane's End (known that year as the Galleryfurniture.com Stakes). In his last start, the March 4 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, Pair of Kings was closing fastest of all when he came up a half-length short of catching the victorious Laity. Before the Battaglia, Pair of Kings had won three of his previous four starts, all at Turfway, starting with a $15,000 maiden claiming race.

"We are pretty ambitious to step up to this spot, but we've done it before so we'll try it again," said Bradley, referring to a 38-1 upset by Brass Hat, then a maiden, in the Rushaway Stakes on the 2004 Lane's End undercard. "We do need speed in there to set up for him, but if we get the right kind of setup, we could be right there at the finish."

Rare Farish sighting

In the history of Turfway's marquee race, which has undergone several name changes, from the Jim Beam (1982-98), Galleryfurni-ture.com Stakes (1999), Turfway Spiral (2000), Spiral (2001), and, finally, to the Lane's End Stakes (2002-present), the Farish family has never had a starter.

Saturday, the Farish family, owners of the renowned Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky., will have its first starter in the race when Seaside Retreat starts as a longshot. Seaside Retreat, trained by Mark Casse, began his career with three wins from four races, all at Woodbine, before finishing fifth, beaten 12 lengths, in his only start this year, the Feb. 18 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Seaside Retreat is owned, and was bred in partnership, by William Farish Jr., the son of Will Farish, the former United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Over the last 40 years, Will Farish has owned more than 130 stakes winners and bred more than 230 stakes winners.

Service stretching Fidrych out

Fidrych, the WinStar Farm colt trained by John Servis, will make his first start around two turns Saturday when he ships in from Oaklawn Park for the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway.

"I wanted to stretch him out, and one option was to sit here and wait for the [April 15] Northern Spur," Servis said from Oaklawn. "But that race is too close to other races I might like to run him in later, like the [April 29] Withers. The timing of the Rushaway is perfect."

Fidrych is named for Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, who enjoyed momentary fame in 1976 as a rookie pitcher with the Detroit Tigers.

Only one lost day

Surely the relatively mild weather has helped, but going into Lane's End Day - the annual benchmark of how Turfway survived four-plus months of winter - the tally of cancellations has track officials smiling.

Turfway canceled just once, on Dec. 8, and that was because roads were hazardous because of ice. Track president Bob Elliston said that Polytrack, the all-weather surface installed last summer, has been a major factor in preventing cancellations, which in some previous winters have been as high as 15 full or partial programs.

"Polytrack has been absolutely fantastic," said Elliston.

'Dreamer' promotion on tap

Taking advantage of the natural tie-in to horse racing, representatives of the production company DreamWorks SKG will be at Turfway on Saturday to promote the recent release of the DVD of its movie "Dreamer."

Based on the life of Mariah's Storm, who upset Serena's Song in the 1995 Turfway Park Breeders' Cup Stakes, "Dreamer" was released in theaters in October. The DVD came out Tuesday.

* The 2005 Kentucky Thoroughbred Media Awards will be presented between races Saturday to representatives of owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trainer Dale Romans, and jockey Rafael Bejarano. They led their respective categories in wins during the year to earn the annual awards.

* First Samurai became the first major Kentucky Derby contender to arrive at Churchill Downs when he was vanned through the stable gate Wednesday morning following a flight from south Florida.