04/12/2009 11:00PM

Square Eddie due in town


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Square Eddie was scheduled to arrive Tuesday afternoon at Keeneland, the site of his most important victory, as the colt will begin final preparations for what could be his back-door entry into the Kentucky Derby.

Square Eddie, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity here last fall, had been all but eliminated from Derby contention when he was sidetracked by a cannon bone injury in early February. But following a series of four workouts at Hollywood Park from March 22 through Saturday, owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O'Neill have decided to give the colt an 11th-hour shot at making the May 2 Derby by running him Saturday in the Grade 2 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Square Eddie breezed six furlongs in 1:12.20 Saturday morning at Hollywood, giving O'Neill the green light to try the Lexington, the last stop on the Derby trail. O'Neill had seriously considered bringing the Smart Strike colt into the Derby off workouts alone, but "we all know a race is more useful," he said.

A large field is taking shape for the 28th running of the $300,000 Lexington, a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race that will be televised live on ESPN2. Square Eddie, whose outstanding record includes a runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall, looks like a solid favorite in a field that could get close to the 14-horse maximum when entries are drawn Wednesday.

Rafael Bejarano has ridden Square Eddie in his last three starts, but with Bejarano committed to the Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem for the Derby, the mount goes to Edgar Prado.

Besides Square Eddie, other top contenders for the Lexington include two other Southern California shippers, Mythical Power and Jeranimo, along with El Crespo, Conservative, and Omniscient. Other probable starters include Masala, Advice, Parade Clown, His Greatness, Pitched Perfectly, and either of the Nick Zito duo of Santana Six and Brave Victory.

The Southern California horses were booked on a Tuesday charter flight that was scheduled to depart from Ontario, Calif., and touch down shortly before 3 p.m. Eastern at Bluegrass International Airport in Lexington after making two earlier stops.

A Thursday flight from Ontario was scheduled to transport Pioneerof the Nile, one of the Derby favorites, to Louisville International Airport. That flight is to arrive shortly before noon Eastern.

The Lexington tends to produce at least one starter for the Derby, although the last two winners, Slew's Tizzy (2007) and Behindatthebar (2008), did not go on to Churchill. The only horse to win both the Lexington and the Derby was Charismatic in 1999.

Leparoux jumps out to lead

Julien Leparoux and Kent Desormeaux have been winning races in bunches so far this spring at Keeneland. As the 15-day meet hits its midpoint Wednesday, Leparoux has taken a commanding lead atop the jockey standings, having already posted 15 wins.

Leparoux, the 25-year-old Frenchman who has won or shared three Keeneland riding titles, has been particularly hot. He has been active on six of the seven programs here so far and has won at least two races every day.

Desormeaux has been streakier. Also active on six of the seven programs, he has accumulated his nine wins largely by posting a four-win day on April 4 and again on Friday.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are these meet statistics for several highly accomplished jockeys: Robby Albarado, 1 for 52; Alan Garcia, 1 for 33; Prado, 1 for 25; and Jesus Castanon, 0 for 33.

Habaya heads Appalachian

Habaya, winner of the Grade 3 Miesque last fall at Hollywood Park, is the biggest name for the Thursday feature at Keeneland, the Grade 3, $100,000 Appalachian Stakes, which drew a full field of 10 3-year-old fillies, plus two also-eligibles.

Owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Habaya was assigned post 8 in the Appalachian, which goes at one mile on the turf. Garcia has the call.

From the hedge, this is the Appalachian field: Our Dahlia, More of the Best, Afternoon Stroll, Hot Cha Cha, Abbott Hall, Fast Tigress, Simplify, Habaya, Obsequious, and April Pride. The two also-eligibles are Complicity and Walloon.

Blue Grass winners to face off

The winners of the 2007 and 2008 runnings of the Blue Grass Stakes are both being pointed for the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes here Sunday.

Dominican, the 2007 Blue Grass winner, and Monba, the 2008 winner, are among about 10 older horses likely for the $150,000 Ben Ali, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack. Sterwins, the 2008 Ben Ali winner, is another probable starter.

* The Crown Royal American Turf, the longstanding turf race for 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill, will now simply be called the American Turf, with Crown Royal having dropped out as the title sponsor.