Saturday's $500,000 Lane's End Stakes (gr. II), which was being billed as the stakes debut of undefeated Strong Contender, now has turned into a 12-horse free-for-all with no big-name 3-year-olds.
Strong Contender, with only $36,000 in career earnings, didn't make the field, which is limited to 12 starters based on earnings.
With the star quality gone, the Lane's End is now pretty much a wide-open affair that will provide enough earnings for at least one horse to eventually make it into the starting field for the May 6 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
At least four horses will vie for the role of favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race. They are Claiborne Farm's Laity, winner of the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway; J.C. Fretwell's Silent Times, an English invader who hasn't started since dead-heating for win in the Champagne Stakes (Eng-II) at Doncaster Sept. 5; Tahoe Warrior, a winner of two races on the grass for Todd Pletcher; and the 7-2 morning line favorite, Superfly, who is coming off a well-beaten third in a Gulfstream allowance race, in which he may have displaced his palate.
Laity, trained by Frank Brothers, drew post 9 and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie; Silent Times will have the services of Robby Albarado and will break from the far outside; Tahoe Warrior drew post 5 with Chris DeCarlos aboard; and Superfly will break from post 3 and be ridden by Jeremy Rose. Superfly, a well-beaten third in last year's Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and fifth in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), will be one of two horses from the Nick Zito barn, joining Hemingway's Key, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado.
Without Strong Contender, the biggest star of the race just might be the Polytrack surface, which will be exposed on national television for the first time. Silent Times should be used to it having trained over it in England, including a race-like work held at Wolverhamption race course recently.
The supporting 3-year-old stakes on the card, the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway Stakes, actually has several horses that would have been highly regarded for the Lane's End. One of the most accomplished horses in either race, High Cotton, will head the Rushaway and will try and rebound from a dismal effort in a recent allowance race. The son of Dixie Union
did, however, finish second in last year's Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) and Iroquois Stakes (gr. III). Other promising 3-year-olds in the Rushaway include Final Copy and Fabled.
The field for the Lane's End:
1 -- Malameeze/John McKee/20-1
2 -- With a City/Brice blanc/30-1
3 -- Superfly/Jeremy Rose/7-2
4 -- Starspangled Gator/Charlie woods Jr./30-1
5 -- Tahoe Warrior/Chris DeCarlo/9-2
6 -- Sharp Attack/J. Garcia/15-1
7 -- Seaside Retreat/Patrick Husbands/12-1
8 -- Hemingway's Key/Edgar Prado/4-1
9 -- Laity/Corey Lanerie/4-1
10 -- More Than Regal/David Flores/15-1
11 -- Pair of Kings/R. Bracho/20-1
12 -- Silent Times/Robby Albarado/5-1