One race after watching his Proud Accolade flop as the heavy favorite in the Rushaway, trainer Todd Pletcher's inexperienced Flower Alley surprised his rivals in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds Saturday at muddy Turfway Park.Ridden by Jorge Chavez for Melnyk Racing Stables Inc., Flower Alley came into the Lane's End off a maiden victory at Gulfstream Park in just his second start. The Kentucky-bred son of Distorted Humor , a $165,000 Keeneland sale in September of 2003, negotiated the 1 1/8-mile event in 1:50 1/5."Those maiden races at Gulfstream, at times, are some of the toughest 3-year-old races around," Pletcher said. "He trained well since then, and I trained him with Bandini and Ashado and he finished right there with those two."
Chavez said Flower Alley was green but, "He can run great, and he looks like a Derby horse." Sent off at 10-1 odds, Flower Alley challenged 2-1 favorite Spanish Chestnut for the early lead before taking back after a quarter mile in :23 and the half in :46 3/5. Magna Graduate pressured Spanish Chestnut.Flower Alley, who slipped back to fifth, made his move on the outside of his rivals coming off the turn after being forced to take up briefly when Magna Graduate angled in a bit. He rallied gamely under urging from Chavez in upper stretch and caught a weary Mr Sword inside the sixteenth pole, holding off Wild Desert by a half-length. Outrun early, Wild Desert advanced along the inside before angling out behind the winner as they came out of the turn.The stewards quickly disallowed an objection from the connections of the runner-up for interference in the upper stretch.Spanish Chestnut, Gary Stevens aboard, led through six furlongs in 1:11 while racing off the rail. Mr Sword, ridden by Norberto Arroyo, rallied from the back of the pack along the rail and edged to the front on the final turn. Mr Sword had a big lead in the stretch but the early move took its toll and he faded to third."Nothing happened, really," said Spanish Chestnut's trainer, Patrick Biancone. "He just didn't stay. He was attacked early, and it was just a little too far for him."We are going to go another program with him," Biancone said. Flower Alley will be pointed to the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) or Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) April 16, with the Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) a week later at Keeneland also a possibility, Pletcher said."We are on a tight schedule now," Pletcher said. "I think the Arkansas Derby or Blue Grass will be next." Saturday's victory was worth $300,000. Flower Alley, who had previous winnings of $21,660, had earned less than any of his Lane's End rivals. The chestnut colt began his career with a third-place finish at Calder Dec. 18. He returned two months later with a three-quarter-length win over Wall Street in a one-mile maiden test in 1:37 2/5. Since then, he posted the fastest six-furlong work ever at the Palm Meadows training center, going 1:11 4/5 handily.Flower Alley paid $22.40, $11.80 and $7.80. Wild Desert returned $8 and $5.60. Mr Sword paid $8 to show. The exacta was worth $179.60.Magna Graduate was fourth, followed by Andromeda's Hero, Spanish Chestnut, Mayan King, Diamond Isle and Texcess. (Chart, Equibase)