04/10/2007 11:00PM

Showing Up stars in Maker's Mark Mile

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Alex Evers/Horsephotos
Showing Up begins what trainer Barclay Tagg hopes is a championship year in the Maker's Mark.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Regardless of weather, Keeneland had a longstanding history of rarely switching races off its grass course - until last fall. In a nod to the resilience and stability of Polytrack, considerably more races than usual, including the Valley View and Franklin County Stakes, were transferred from turf to Polytrack on wet-weather days during the 2006 fall meet.

Barclay Tagg took notice of this, and as a steady rain fell Wednesday at Keeneland, the veteran trainer was hoping conditions would be sufficiently dry Friday when his turf star Showing Up is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut in the $250,000 Maker's Mark Mile.

"I'm not going to run him if the race is run on the Polytrack," Tagg stated flatly from New York.

Fans are hoping for better weather by Friday afternoon - the forecast called for chilly but mostly clear conditions until Friday night, when more rain is expected to fall - because losing a horse of the caliber of Showing Up surely would take some luster off the 19th running of the Grade 2 Maker's Mark.

Besides Showing Up, whose 7-for-9 record last year at 3 years old included smashing scores in two Grade 1 grass events, the Secretariat and Hollywood Derby, the Maker's Mark also drew such turf standouts as Kip Deville, winner of the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile in his last start; Remarkable News, whose last seven races have resulted in triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures; Bayeux, a stretch-running gelding whose torrid surge barely missed catching Kip Deville in the Kilroe Mile; and Sky Conqueror, the Sovereign Award winner for top turf male last year in Canada.

In all, a field of nine older horses was entered in the Maker's Mark, the ninth of 10 races Friday at Keeneland. Showing Up, with Cornelio Velasquez to ride, will start from post 8. Tagg said he had hoped to get a prep race into the Strategic Mission colt at Gulfstream Park this winter, "but it just didn't work out, so this is what we're going to do."

Tagg said he would like to run Showing Up on Kentucky Derby Day in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, then five weeks later in the Grade 1 Manhattan on the June 9 Belmont Stakes undercard.

"I'd love to win a couple of Grade 1s with him this spring," said Tagg, who trains Showing Up for the Lael Stables of Barbaro fame. "Then if we got another one or two in the fall, that could make him a champion."

Asked which Breeders' Cup race, the Mile or Turf, he might consider for Showing Up in October, Tagg said: "I don't have a clue yet."

Showing Up will start just to the inside of Kip Deville, the former one-dimensional speedball whose career has ascended to the next level since he has shown a willingness to rate off the pace under the tutelage of trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. Since blowing a 15-length lead and finishing second to Showing Up last June in the Colonial Cup in Virginia, Kip Deville has undergone a radical change in running style, resulting in three stakes wins, with the Kilroe the most recent.

Bayeux looms as the most dangerous stretch threat. Trained by Patrick Biancone, Bayeux upset the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs last fall in his North American debut, then closed ferociously when just missing in two subsequent races, both at Santa Anita.

"His race in the Kilroe was very, very good," said Biancone.

The others in the Maker's Mark field are Free Thinking, Storm Caller, Old Dodge, and Purim.

Besides the Maker's Mark, the Friday card also features the turf debut of Jazil, the 2006 Belmont Stakes winner. Jazil, with Fernando Jara to ride, is part of a full field of older horses entered in the fifth race, a $58,000 second-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

Three other allowances (races 4, 7, and 8) also are on tap for Friday, when first post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

o The Maker's Mark is part of a late pick four with a pool that Keeneland is guaranteeing at $100,000. Sponsored in part by TVG, the late pick four is conducted on races 7 through 10 every Friday of the meet. All picks 4s at Keeneland can be bet in minimum denominations of 50 cents.