02/09/2012 5:13PM

Turfway: La Gran Bailadora looks solid for Likely Exchange


Most horseplayers don’t mind being whispered a hot tip, but some races just don’t avail themselves to such. When a horse has dominant form and deserves to be an odds-on favorite, there usually isn’t much gold to be mined from the race. There are very few whispers going around.

This seems the case Saturday at Turfway Park with the $50,000 Likely Exchange Stakes, where La Gran Bailadora will be the proverbial blinking light when facing a familiar cast of fillies and mares in the one-mile Polytrack race. The 22nd running of the Likely Exchange goes as the 10th of 11 races on a Saturday matinee that starts at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

La Gran Bailadora, a 5-year-old Afleet Alex mare, was bred and is owned by Tracy Farmer, the central Kentucky banker who serves as the vice chairman of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. After La Gran Bailadora struggled through 10 races, winning just once, trainer Mike Maker found her hole card: synthetics, particularly the Turfway Poly.

In seven starts over the Florence, Ky., surface, La Gran Bailadora has 5 wins, 1 second, and 1 third. She won the Likely Exchange in going-away fashion last winter, and in September she won the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Distaff over a solid group. The last time there was a race at Turfway for her, the Dec. 10 My Charmer, she won by three convincing lengths as the 3-5 favorite.

“She just likes that track there,” said Maker, who has his best horses stabled in south Florida but still has dominated virtually every category among Turfway trainers this winter, including stakes. “It made sense to just leave her there all winter and see what she could run out.”

Maker has given the call on La Gran Bailadora again to his go-to Turfway jockey, Victor Lebron, who entering this week of action had doubled the victory total (42-21) of his closest pursuer, John McKee, atop the winter-spring jockey standings.

If La Gran Bailadora somehow fails to come through, the upset could go to Lou’s Angel or Hot Hot Mama, the respective 1-2 finishers in the six-furlong Wishing Well Stakes four weeks ago, or to Helen Belen, primarily a sprinter but a three-time winner over the Turfway surface.

The Likely Exchange is named for the standout racemare trained by Tommy Stevens Sr. on the Kentucky circuit in the 1970s.