03/21/2007 11:00PM

Pletcher, Pitts, Casse all over the place


Even beyond the Lane's End Stakes, the focus at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., on Saturday is on the 3-year-olds. Three of the day's four supporting stakes are restricted to that age group, led by $100,000 Rushaway Stakes and the $150,000 Bourbonette Stakes, a Grade 3 contest for fillies.

Trainers Todd Pletcher, Helen Pitts, and Mark Casse will be well represented. Pletcher and Casse have entrants in the Lane's End, Rushaway, and Bourbonette, and Pitts has entered horses in those three races plus the other 3-year-old race, the $50,000 Hansel Stakes.

Pletcher, who has Bullara and Twilight Meteor in the Lane's End, has Meritocracy in the Rushaway and Panty Raid in the Bourbonette. Casse, who entered Approval Rating in the Lane's End, has Skip Code in the Rushaway and Sealy Hill in the Bourbonette. And Pitts, who entered For You Reppo in the Lane's End, has Trust Your Luck in the Rushaway, Silverinyourpocket in the Bourbonette, and Stormin Baghdad in the Hansel.

Although these trainers have strength in numbers, winning just one race will be difficult. The stakes on Lane's End Day are competitive, particularly the Rushaway and Bourbonette.

Two of the leading contenders in the Rushaway, a 1 1/16-mile race, are Reata's Rocket, who comes off fourth-place finishes in the Swale and Hutcheson stakes at Gulfstream Park, and Dominican, who is set to make his first start of the year after a third-place finish behind Tiz Wonderful and Any Given Saturday in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last Nov. 22.

Both are facing hurdles. Reata's Rocket has yet to race two turns or on Polytrack, and Dominican does not have the benefit of a recent start. He had some "hiccups" in his training earlier this year, trainer Darrin Miller said, but is now ready for his return.

"I think we're coming into it good," said Miller, who also entered Sedgefield in the Lane's End.

Working in Dominican's favor is that he is proven over Polytrack, having won a maiden race on the surface at Keeneland last fall.

Other Rushaway threats include Dubious Miss, who is unbeaten in two starts, and Passport, winner of the Cradle Stakes at River Downs last year.

The Bourbonette, which precedes the Rushaway as the eighth race on the card, pits a group of quick dirt horses vs. those with established form racing over Polytrack.

Silverinyourpocket, from the Pitts barn, figures to draw heavy support following a pair of striking victories at Gulfstream this winter. A half-length winner of her debut Feb. 4, she returned to win a first-level allowance field by 6 1/4 lengths Feb. 28. That performance earned her a 95 Beyer Speed Figure, the top figure in the race.

Sealy Hill, starting for Casse, lost her only start in Florida this winter, finishing second to Autobahn Girl in a second-level allowance, but unlike Silverinyourpocket, she has won over Polytrack.

Last fall, she won a pair of races on Polytrack at Woodbine in fast time. She won a maiden race by 7 1/4 lengths, earning a 91 Beyer, and came back to win the Glorious Song Stakes by 8 1/4 lengths, running an 86 Beyer.

Floral Park - a winner of 3 of 5 starts, all in sprints - is another contender, as is Pletcher's runner Panty Raid, who will attempt to rebound from a poor showing in her first start of 2007.

Our Dancing Babe appears strongest of those that have been based in Kentucky over the winter, having won three in a row at Turfway, including the Feb. 24 Valdale Stakes.

Hansel: Reed fields strong entry

The first of five consecutive stakes is the $50,000 Hansel, a six-furlong race that drew a field of 10 3-year-olds. Trainer Eric Reed appears to have a capable entry in Awesome Hero and Pete the Poet, who both took quick trips to the Fair Grounds this winter for stakes engagements while based primarily at Keeneland.

If neither of the Reed horses can get the job done, then Weather Warning, who faltered when trying two turns in the Risen Star Stakes last month at the Fair Grounds, looks like a viable alternative.

Queen: Hot Storm formidable

Hot Storm doesn't necessarily need to take her track with her, having performed respectably to extremely well virtually everywhere she has gone, but with the 5-year-old mare having won three stakes at Turfway from just four starts, she sure looks like the one to beat among a field of 10 fillies and mares entered in the $50,000 Queen Stakes.

Hot Storm, with Rafael Bejarano to ride, will break from post 5 in the Queen, a six-furlong race carded as the last of the five Saturday stakes.

The main challengers to Hot Storm look like Mary Delaney, who stuck around Turfway after winning the Jan. 13 Wishing Well as a solid favorite, and New Dimension, a Rusty Arnold-trained mare making her Polytrack debut.

- additional reporting

by Marty McGee