04/09/2009 11:00PM

Thorn Song class of Maker's Mark

Barbara D. Livingston
Thorn Song is the only Grade 1 winner in Friday's Maker's Mark field.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Not rain nor chill nor what might be considered a subpar field will bother the typically festive Friday crowd that will turn out at Keeneland for the $300,000 Maker's Mark Mile. Historically, this race has been graced by genuine turf stars, but the seven-horse field entered for the 21st running Friday looks a tad thin.

Nonetheless, someone will become a Grade 1 winner for the first time - unless Thorn Song returns from a nearly five-month layoff to knock out a second one. The speedy gray 6-year-old hit a career peak here last fall when leading wire to wire in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile.

"He needed a little break, but I think he's come back real well," said Dale Romans, who trains Thorn Song for Zayat Stables. "He's really been working well. He likes the course there at Keeneland, and a little rain wouldn't hurt him at all."

Thundershowers and high temperatures in the low 60s have been forecast for Friday, although dreary weather has nothing to do with the somewhat disappointing turnout for the Maker's Mark. No doubt the North American turf ranks are in flux, with pro-tem leaders such as Einstein, Hyperbaric, Gio Ponti, and Kip Deville - winner of the Maker's Mark the last two years - all passing this race for one reason or another.

Their absence would seem to leave Thorn Song and jockey Robby Albarado to do what they will with fellow front-runner House of Silver, a 5-year-old gelding who came to hand this winter at Fair Grounds, winning back-to-back allowance races while flashing excellent speed. Romans demurred when asked about early strategy, but there seems little question that Thorn Song will be prominent from the start.

From behind those leaders, several will be attempting to fire late. The field also includes Mr. Sidney, a well-regarded 5-year-old from the Bill Mott barn; Fluke, a recent allowance winner on the Santa Anita turf for Bobby Frankel and Garrett Gomez; and Twilight Meteor, winner of the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park in his latest. Passager and Just as Well round out the cast.

The Maker's Mark is part of a late pick four (races 7-10) with a $200,000 guaranteed pool. The $100,000 Fort Harrod Stakes is part of an excellent undercard.

:: (DRF Plus)