Mission Impossible? A horse to beat Birdstone in the Lane's End

By Ryan Driscoll

On paper, The 33rd running of the Grade II, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes looks like a one horse race. You guessed it, Birdstone, the even money morning line favorite.

I want to try to beat this horse at likely closing odds of 2-5, or 3-5 if the betting public is generous. I just can't find a horse who is fast enough to upset Birdstone or even one that can run fast enough to match the par figure that is usually earned to win the Lane's End.

DRF's Byron King noted in his race analysis that since 1994, the average winning Beyer figure is a 104. The only horse in the race who can probably top a 100 speed rating is Birdstone. So, a short price beats a long face and we'll try to match up some exactas and trifectas using the huge favorite on top.

Birdstone is not in my top five Derby choices prior to the Lane's End, but a big effort by the little son of Derby winner Grindstone could change my opinion. What has he really accomplished to this point? He was an awesome maiden winner first time out at Saratoga for trainer Nick Zito, who traditionally doesn't win with first timers. He had a perfect stalking trip behind sprinter Chapel Royal in the one-turn Champagne at Belmont Park. His only two turn win came against allowance
runners in his 2004 debut at Gulfstream Park. I guess I'm still trying to convince myself to pick against him. Simply put: Birdstone is just much faster than the others, so I'll stick with him on top reluctantly.

I think that Stolen Time may stand the best chance to upset the big favorite. Trainer Bill Mott, who usually avoids Derby Fever, brings Stolen Time back on short rest after an even performance in the Louisiana Derby. Mott doesn't just "take a shot" at races like this, so he likely knows something that myself and the betting public don't know.

As a two-year-old, Stolen Time ran a 93 Beyer and he posted an 86 in his first start of the year and first start for Mott.

He has a nice breeze since his last race and looks to be a horse who is capable of moving up 14 points to a winning-type effort.

Silver Minister is a sharp local horse with top local connections. Trainer Greg Foley (39% winners at the meet) saddled local favorite Champali to a third-place finish in the Lane's End last year. Jockey Bejarano (32% winners at the meet) has ridden him to victory in each of the three local preps.

The track has been muddy all week and should be drying out or dry by the time they run the big race. When the track has been muddy this week, the rail has been extremely dead. If the track does come up muddy, Silver Minister will move up a few points. He won two of the preps over tracks holding moisture, and his #7 post will be a much better lane than Birdstone's #1 position. My longshot to pick up part is That's an Outrage. He has been facing some of the best in California and has a good style for this track.