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Mar 20, 2009

Louisville: More than a basketball town

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you believe much of the pro-Cardinals hype, the city of Louisville will witness history on the night of April 6. Nevertheless, May 2 is still the most important day on the city's calendar. The 135th Kentucky Derby is some six weeks away but there's a Grade II, three- year-old prep race worth $500,000 on tap at Turfway Park this Saturday.

The 1 1/8-mile Lane's End Stakes is the first of eight graded stakes events to be run at nine furlongs until the first Saturday in May. West Side Bernie is expected to be the post time favorite after a solid third-place finish in the Holy Bull on January 31. The colt broke slowly from post nine that afternoon, but rallied against the track bias to wind up 3 3/4-lengths behind Saratoga Sinner.

On the negative side, Bear's Rocket, who ran second that day, raced poorly in the Tampa Bay Derby last Saturday, and none of the other horses from the Holy Bull have come back with decent efforts.

The pick in the Lane's End is Bittel Road. The probable second choice has been racing under the radar since his first five career starts were on the turf. However, look for him to burst into the limelight with a huge effort on Polytrack.

After failing to win the Generous Stakes over the weeds at Hollywood Park, Todd Pletcher decided to move his charge off the grass, and the results were fairly impressive.

In the Cash Call Futurity, Bittel Road raced wide almost the entire race and still finished fourth to Pioneerof the Nile, I Want Revenge and Chocolate Candy. He ran fourth in the Robert B. Lewis next time out, but this time he was beaten just two lengths, and the margin could have been even less than that if I Want Revenge hadn't beared out right in his path at the 1/16-pole.

This race is his to lose, especially with an expected fast pace up front headed by Orthodox, A. P. Cardinal, Dynamite Bob and possibly Parade Clown.

The only horse with a chance of knocking off Bittel Road (besides West Side Bernie) is Loch Dubh. The bay colt had his three-race win streak snapped in the Southwest Stakes, but he ran surprisingly well to finish fifth at 55-1.

After giving out two consecutive boxed trifectas the last two weeks in the Gotham and Louisiana Derby, can a third be far behind?

The wager: Bittel Road over Loch Dubh and West Side Bernie.



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