03/22/2006 1:00AM

Pletcher and Zito both taking aim at Lane's End


Arguably the two most prominent trainers in the recent history of the Lane's End Stakes will be well represented again Saturday when Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher both have horses among a large field expected for the Turfway Park showcase.

Zito informed Turfway racing officials Wednesday that he plans to run Hemingway's Key and Superfly in the $500,000 Lane's End, while Pletcher already had confirmed Tahoe Warrior for the Grade 2 race. Entries were to be drawn Thursday at the Florence, Ky., track.

Zito won the Lane's End with Stephen Got Even in 1999, the only year the race was known as the Galleryfurniture.com Stakes. In all, he has had 10 starters in the last 10 years, with his most notable also-ran being Birdstone, who was fifth in the 2004 Lane's End as the odds-on favorite before winning the Belmont and Travers later that season.

Pletcher has had fewer starters (three) but more winners (two) in the Lane's End. His first starter, Balto Star, won in 2001 by 12 lengths, a race record that still stands, and Flower Alley won his first stakes when he captured the Lane's End last year. The only other Pletcher starter, Lion Heart, ran fourth as the favorite in 2003.

Hemingway's Key, a Notebook colt owned by the Kinsman Stable of George Steinbrenner, opened his career with two wins but in two subsequent starts ran 11th in the Holy Bull and eighth in the Fountain of Youth.

Likewise, Superfly is seeking his first victory as a 3-year-old following two defeats. Owned by Robert LaPenta, Superfly, by Fusaichi Pegasus, was good enough to run third in the Champagne and fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to end his 2-year-old season, but has finished second and third in allowance races at Gulfstream Park this year.

Tahoe Warrior, a Carson City colt owned by Edgewood Farm, is winless on dirt, having lost his first six races, but has fared considerably better since being switched to turf, with two wins from three starts. Pletcher, who will be in Dubai Saturday, said earlier this week that Tahoe Warrior is "coming into the race the right way, and we saw this winter that some horses with decent grass form have been able to transfer that over with success onto the Polytrack," the new racing surface at Turfway.

Pletcher might also have the favorite in High Cotton for the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes, one of four supporting stakes on the Lane's End undercard.

Turfway stakes coordinator Randy Wehrman said Wednesday that he expects a capacity field of 12 3-year-olds to be entered in the 35th running of the 1 1/8-mile Lane's End. Besides Tahoe Warrior and the Zito duo, the other probables are Strong Contender, In a Flash, Silent Times, More Than Regal, Pair of Kings, Seaside Retreat, Starspangled Gator, Special Interest, Malameeze, and With a City. Exclusions will be based on career earnings.

Laity is a strong possibility for the Lane's End, although his trainer, Frank Brothers, said he would not decide until Thursday whether to run in the Lane's End or the Rushaway. Laity, owned by Claiborne Farm, earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the March 4 John Battaglia Memorial, his first race since being gelded.

Two Tom Albertrani-trained 3-year-olds, Bernardini and Songster, were ruled out of consideration Tuesday.

The probable Lane's End favorite, Strong Contender, was scheduled to leave south Florida by van Wednesday afternoon and arrive Thursday at Turfway, according to trainer John T. Ward Jr. Edgar Prado has the mount.

In a Flash, trained by Patrick Biancone, will be ridden by apprentice Julien Leparoux, the runaway Turfway leader who leads all North American jockeys in wins in 2006.

* Besides High Cotton and Laity, other prospects for the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway include Fidrych, Kings Challenge, Warrior Within, New Awakening, Bear Character, Sadler's Trick, and Mark of Success.

* This is the first year that the previously ungraded Bourbonette Breeders' Cup Stakes will carry a Grade 3 ranking. Among the probable starters for the $150,000 race at one mile are Capozzene, Classical Ryder, Coronado's Vision, Dance Daily, Ermine, Lady Danza, Sabatini, Lemons Forever, and Top Notch Lady.

* In the two other Saturday stakes, Hot Storm and the undefeated filly Listen could be the horses to beat in the Queen Stakes for fillies and mares, while Final Copy, trained by Greg Foley, figures tough in the Hansel Stakes. Both are $50,000 races at six furlongs.

* The Rushaway and Lane's End will be televised live on ESPN2 on a one-hour broadcast beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.

* Chilly weather has been forecast for the area Saturday, with a high temperature of 47 and a slight chance of rain.