01/17/2013 4:41PM

Turfway: Likely Exchange's mile distance should be ideal for Lotta Lovin


Mike Maker trains five of the 28 horses that were nominated to the $50,000 Likely Exchange Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park, but he felt all along he would run just one: Lotta Lovin.

Maker, the perennial kingpin at Turfway despite taking his best horses to Florida and Louisiana for the winter, is keenly aware of the filly’s record over the Polytrack surface at the northern Kentucky track: 3 wins and 1 third from 4 career starts, all in stakes.

“She really peaked at this time last year, and I think she’s cycling back into that top form again,” said Buck Butler, the New York businessman who owns Lotta Lovin. “Mike had me sweating with all those other horses he nominated, but he kind of told me we were the one he wanted to get in there.”

Lotta Lovin, with Shane Sellers to ride, will break from post 7 in an oversubscribed field in the one-mile Likely Exchange, the ninth of 10 Saturday races. She reeled off victories in the Gowell, Cincinnati Trophy, and Valdale last winter and most recently finished third in the six-furlong Holiday Inaugural seven weeks ago at Turfway.

“She should be even more at home at a mile than she was sprinting last time,” said Butler.

Probably the main competition for Lotta Lovin is Yankee Union, a gray 4-year-old based at the Skylight training center with trainer Tommy Drury. Yankee Union (post 2, Albin Jimenez) comes off a sharp runner-up finish versus male rivals in the six-furlong Holiday Cheer three weeks ago.

“It looks like the race came up right way for us,” said Drury. “I certainly think she’ll fit with those fillies. I thought she ran a winning race last out but the winner got a better trip. We weren’t going to run if we drew an outside post, but the 2-hole pretty much made our decision for us.”

Other notables in the field include stakes winners Dreamin Big, Fortune Play, and Rattlin Gypsy. Fourteen were entered, although only as many as 12 can start.

First post Saturday is 1:10 p.m. Eastern, with the Likely Exchange going at 5:11.

The Likely Exchange is named for a star racemare trained by Tommy Stevens Sr. in the mid-1970s. The upset 2012 winner was Whisked Away, trained by Rowena Beck. Whisked Away, now 7, is back this year with Tommy Pompell riding from post 1.