Because of successful juvenile campaigns, West Side Bernie and Bittel Road both already have enough graded earnings to ensure themselves a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 2. But the connections of each colt will now get to see if they have legitimate contenders in their barns when they go to post in the $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) March 21 at Turfway Park.
West Side Bernie and Bittel Road, the morning-line favorites for the 1 1/8-mile test on Polytrack, will both make the second start of their respective seasons. They are the only two graded stakes winners in a field of a dozen 3-year-olds. The Lane's End is the feature on a Turfway program that also includes the $150,000 Bourbonette (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies and the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile event for sophomores. The Rushaway and Lane’s End will be televised from 5-6 p.m. EDT on ESPN2 and broadcasted on the Horse Racing Radio Network.
Owned by George and Lori Hall, West Side Bernie has a significant edge thanks to his three-length victory in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) on the Turfway Polytrack last September. That win set the son of Bernstein up nicely for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita, but he finished sixth after breaking slowly and getting a wide trip.
West Side Bernie closed out his 2-year-old season by finishing runner-up in the $750,000 Delta Jackpot (gr. III), which earned him a lofty $150,000. Trainer Kelly Breen sent the dark bay south for his 3-year-old debut, where he ran third in the Holy Bull (gr. III) Jan. 31 at Gulfstream Park. He has stayed in Florida to train since that race. Breen is optimistic that he’ll be ready to go this weekend.
“I'm looking for a big race,” he said. “I think that he’s matured a little bit coming into this year. I know he has only had one race this year, but I think that he’s ready. He has shown me on the track that he’s been maturing. He’s come a long way since the first race where he was very (green).
“Now he is more focused. He’s running straight. His head is on straight. He’s shown me some nice workouts and I think he’s run against enough of elite horses right now to say that he belongs.”
Breen has hired Edgar Prado to ride West Side Bernie for the first time. Elvis Trujillo had been the rider in the colt’s last two races. Prado won the Lane’s End last year aboard Adriano.
“We teamed up with Edgar Prado, because I think that we’re so close to the Kentucky Derby,” Breen said. “Elvis Trujillo had been riding him, and George had asked, “You know, who do you think is one of the top riders in the country?
“He ran it by me. Elvis Trujillo is a great jockey; up and coming, but it came down to just the overall experience of Edgar. I’ve known Edgar for a long time, he’s a great jockey.”
West Side Bernie, who was bred in Kentucky by Polo Green Stable and Andrew Savas, will break from post four and was installed as the 3-1 morning-line second choice. He is out of the Gilded Time mare Time Honored.
James Scatuorchio and John Iracane’s Bittel Road made the first five starts of his career on turf–three of which were victories. The last win came in the $200,000 Woodford Reserve Bourbon Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland in October. After a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Bittel Road turned in a runner-up performance in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT), and then moved to Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track for the CashCall Futurity (gr. I), where he was fourth to Pioneerof the Nile.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Bittel Road met Pioneerof the Nile again for his 3-year-old debut in the Feb. 7 Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) at Santa Anita and also finished fourth, but was beaten just two lengths by the West Coast’s leading Kentucky Derby contender.
Garrett Gomez will fly in from California to ride Bittel Road, who is by Stormy Atlantic, out of the Sultry Song mare Sultry Sal. They will break from post 2. Bittel Road was made the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
The top local hopes are Parade Clown and Proceed Bee, who each won a prep at Turfway. Parade Clown won the WEBN Stakes at Turfway Feb. 7 before finishing runner-up to Proceed Bee in the final Lane’s End prep, the Feb. 28 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes.
Loch Dubh, who was claimed out of his maiden win at Churchill Downs last November, is also in the field. The Friends Lake colt won the Turfway Prevue Stakes by two lengths back in January. Most recently, he finished fifth to Old Fashioned in the Feb. 16 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park.
Other starters to consider are John Glenney’s Orthodox, who was seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and enters off an allowance victory at Fair Grounds; WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back, who makes his first start of the season after finishing fifth in the Remsen (gr. II) in his 2-year-old finale; and Mike Maker trainee Jack Spratt, winner of the Dania Beach Stakes on the Gulfstream turf in January before being well-beaten in the Feb. 28 Fountain of Youth (gr. II). Julien Leparoux will get the mount.