03/22/2005 1:00AM

For Texcess to go on, Lane's End a must-win

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Texcess won the Delta Jackpot at 2.

He is the richest of them all, by far. But when the field assembles Saturday for the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, Texcess will only be among the middling wagering choices and just one wayward step from being bumped off the Kentucky Derby trail.

Indeed, among the nine 3-year-olds being pointed to the Grade 2 Lane's End, Texcess might be regarded as one of the lesser lights, even though his career earnings stand at a robust $763,427, most of it earned in December in the $1 million Delta Jackpot.

Trainer Paul Aguirre said he is well aware that Texcess, a California-bred gelding by In Excess, is not being prominently mentioned among the top Derby contenders despite his impressive bankroll.

"At first I was kind of miffed by that," Aguirre said Tuesday on a national conference call. "But he is a Cal-bred, and this is our first time down this road, so we're not what people would conclude to be top connections. And he is by In Excess, so maybe there will be a problem with distance. So I understand why we're not up there right now."

Regardless of the respect factor, the Lane's End will go a long way in determining the Derby fate of Texcess - as it will for virtually the entire field. Aguirre said that victory in the 1 1/8-mile Lane's End would convince him to keep Texcess on a path toward the May 7 Derby, whereas a loss would probably lead him to "start looking in another direction."

Texcess proved quite precocious last year by winning three of four races, concluding with the Delta Jackpot. But in two starts this year, he has finished third in the Jan. 15 San Rafael at Santa Anita and second as the odds-on favorite in the Feb. 12 San Mateo Mile at Bay Meadows, both times performing respectably.

"I didn't think I had him where I wanted him" going into the San Rafael, said Aguirre. "But I think he's ready for this race. He's been training very well."

Besides Texcess, the other probables for the 34th Lane's End are Andromeda's Hero, Diamond Isle, Flower Alley, Magna Graduate, Mayan King, Mr Sword, Spanish Chestnut, and Wild Desert. Silent Bid is possible for the race, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

The Lane's End, along with the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes, will be televised live on a one-hour broadcast on ESPN. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. Eastern and also will include replays of the Dubai World Cup and UAE Derby.

* The Rushaway often is an afterthought on Lane's End Day, but not this year. Proud Accolade, winner of the Grade 1 Champagne last fall, will try to advance along the Derby trail as a heavy favorite in a medium-sized field for the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he wanted an easier race for Proud Accolade because the colt recently recovered from a minor illness that kept him from running two weeks ago in the Louisiana Derby. Pletcher has given Jerry Bailey the mount.

Other Rushaway probables include Catch Me, Daddy Joe, and Pinpoint.

* Amazing Buy and Dance Away Capote are among eight or so 3-year-old fillies set to run Saturday in the $150,000 Bourbonette Breeders' Cup Stakes. Amazing Buy, a winner of her last four races in New York, including three stakes, is owned by Paraneck Stable and trained by Jennifer Pedersen, making her a stablemate of Mr Sword and Daddy Joe. Paraneck and Pedersen won the 2003 Lane's End with New York Hero.

The other Saturday stakes are the $50,000 Hansel and $50,000 Queen.