Lion Tamer Favored in Major Derby Prep
Mar. 21, 2003
FLORENCE, Ky. (AP) _ Lion Tamer is not all that robust a horse, needing plenty of time between races.
But he gets to run Saturday as the 6-5 early favorite in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, this weekend's major Kentucky Derby prep.
Lion Tamer, winner of three of four career starts, is described by trainer Todd Pletcher as ``a lightly made horse.''
``He would remind you more of a filly than a colt,'' Pletcher said.
Lion Tamer will start from the outside post in the nine-horse field. Champali, named for Muhammad Ali, has won six of seven starts and was made the 7-2 second-favorite after Thursday's draw.
Lion Tamer won a maiden race at Belmont in September, an allowance race at Gulfstream in January and the 7-furlong Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 15. The 1 1-8 mile Lane's End, formerly known as the Jim Beam Stakes, will be his first trip around two turns.
``I think you've got to take your horse into consideration and what fits your horse best,'' Pletcher said. ``I believe that what fits Lion Tamer best is plenty of time between races.''
A win Saturday would put Lion Tamer squarely into the Derby picture, which has been muddled by injuries to Vindication, Toccet and Sky Mesa, three of the nation's top 2-year-olds.
Contenders that have emerged this spring include two trained by Bobby Frankel _ Empire Maker, winner of the Florida Derby, and Peace Rules, winner of the Louisiana Derby.
Pletcher said he and owner Michael Tabor decided not to test Lion Tamer against top talent too early.
``We did kick around the idea of jumping off and going into the Florida Derby before the race,'' Pletcher said. ``But I felt like sticking to our original plan and giving him five weeks from the Hutcheson to the Turfway race, and then six weeks to the Derby made sense for this particular horse.''
Champali is the leading money winner in Saturday's race with earnings of $250,474. But he has never raced outside of Kentucky and has not raced on a fast track in the past three starts, all at Turfway Park.
``He likes a fast track, but if it rains through Saturday, that would be fine, too,'' trainer Greg Foley said.
Champali has won at all four Kentucky tracks _ Ellis Park, Keeneland, Churchill Downs and at Turfway Park _ losing only in a Grade II race at Churchill in November.
``Lion Tamer will be the favorite only because he's run in a more prestigious race than I've been in,'' Foley said.
The field, from the rail out, with jockey and morning line odds: Saintly Look, Shane Sellers, 9-2; Champali, Jason Lumpkins, 7-2; Lots of Sizzle, Luis Rivera Jr., 30-1; Ozzie Cat, Martin Pedroza, 15-1; Wendlar, Perry Ouzts, 30-1; New York Hero, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 30-1; Chicken Soup Kid, Brian Peck, 20-1; Eugene's Third Son, Pat Day, 4-1; Lion Tamer, John Velazquez, 6-5.