Leading up to the $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Turfway Park, trainer H. Graham Motion said his starter, Courtlandt Farms’ Adriano, would have to show an impressive effort in the race to merit a trip to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). On March 22 Adriano did just that, taking command at the head of the stretch and winning by 2 1/2 lengths under a confident hand ride from jockey Edgar Prado.
Unfortunately, the A.P. Indy colt’s ability to handle a dirt surface is still unknown. His two past victories – a Jan. 11 allowance event at Gulfstream and a Saratoga maiden win last August – both came over turf, while his only dirt effort, in the Feb. 24 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) resulted in a ninth-place finish, 17 lengths behind victor Cool Coal Man.
“I thought he was extremely impressive,” said Motion. “Edgar gave him a beautiful ride. We had to stay a little bit closer because you didn’t want to come from off the pace today. I thought that played right into our hands because I know at that pace he can go all day.
“I think we all agree that he’s probably more of a turf horse, but the Lexington is something we will definitely consider. The horse showed that on his day he can be brilliant. I thought another key was that he was very good in the paddock. He’s very hot-blooded. In the Fountain of Youth, he kind of fell apart that day. The fact that he was good today made a big difference.”
One thing’s for sure. Adriano loved Turfway’s Polytrack and the trip he got behind early pacesetters Rich Young Ruler and Duke of de Buke. Those two, vying for an early lead, set fractions of :23.03 and :47.18 as they were followed by Chitoz. Fifth at the start, Adriano stalked the pace in fourth while tracking four wide through three-quarters in 1:12.57.
When Duke of de Buqe faded up the backside, Prado set Adriano to the task at the three-eighths pole, and the colt responded to take the lead at the head of the stretch. He was chased by Halo Najib, who made a four-wide move off the turn but lacked finish, and Racecar Rhapsody, who was just passed by Medjool for the show as they went under the wire. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:50.20.
“I wanted to be in a tracking position, and I was happy almost every step of the way,” said Prado. “He put me in a great position at the eighth pole and every time I called on him, he responded.”
Chitoz, Cannonball, Macho Again, Turf War, El Aleman, Rich Young Ruler, and Duke of de Buke completed the order of finish. Halo’s King scratched.
The third choice in a field of 11, Adriano returned $11.60, $6.40, and $4.60. Favored Halo Najib and jockey Kent Desormeaux brought $5.40 and $4, while Medjool and Michael Baze paid $4.80.
Halo Najib, who ran sixth in the Fountain of Youth, finished three-quarters of a length in front of Medjool.
“My horse ran his race,” said Halo Najib’s trainer, Dale Romans. “He had a little rough trip around the turn, but I was real pleased with his effort.”
A Kentucky homebred out of the Mr. Prospector mare Gold Canyon, Don Adam’s Adriano now owns three wins and a second from seven starts. The $291,400 winner’s share of the Lane’s End purse boosted his earnings to $394,100.
“This is a very proud moment,” said Adam. “We’ve been in the business a long time, and we haven’t had major success. Days like this make up for the lean years. He’s a mid-May foal. He’s not even three years old. He’s very, very big, and he’s just starting to grow into himself.”