12-Year-Old Proven Cure Planning for Saturday's Littlebitlively

(April 21, 2006) - The remarkable 12-year-old gelding Proven Cure might just teach the youngsters a lesson in Saturday's $40,000 Littlebitlively Stakes at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas. The three-time stakes winner with more than $700,000 in earnings was entered in the five-furlong turf sprint, but his status for the race remains up in the air.

"He'll tell us if he's ready to run," trainer John Locke said.

Proven Cure normally enjoys at least one month between starts, but the Littlebitlively comes up just two weeks after his all-out effort in the Houston Turf Sprint Cup, which he lost by a nose to Charming Socialite.

Locke entered a trio of geldings for the Littlebitlively, though only two, at most, will start. His other entrants are Oncearoundtwice, winner of last year's $100,000 Beck Auto Group Turf Sprint over a yielding course, and Prince Warner, who finished a length back despite traffic problems in this race last year. The Locke entry was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite.

"If Proven Cure runs, Oncearoundtwice probably won't," the trainer said. "Horses go through periods where they're doing okay, then they're doing great, then they're not doing good. Oncearoundtwice is not doing great but he's doing okay."

With the deep field expected for the Littlebitlively, "doing okay" probably won't be doing enough.

The way Cody Autrey's horses have run lately, he'd be worthy of consideration no matter what he entered. The fact that he's bringing a pair of accomplished turf sprint veterans in April's Lucky Boy, 5-1 on the morning line, and Ranger B., 20-1, makes him impossible to ignore.

Autrey won three races on a card for the first time Saturday night and topped it with his first four-bagger on Wednesday. He currently leads the trainer standings with 10 wins from 16 starters (63%).

"April's Lucky Boy probably needs a race," Autrey said of the Oklahoma-bred quadruple stakes winner. "We didn't want to run him a mile first time out so we're going to try five-eighths and he likes that. I claimed him and they claimed him back, but the owner sent him to me about 2 1/2 months ago. He's training really well so I expect him to run a good race fresh off the layoff."

Ranger B. doesn't boast as impressive a resume as his stablemate, but is eight-for-32 overall and three-for-five with a second and a third over the Lone Star sod.

"We ran him on the dirt at Oaklawn because we knew he needed a prep for the stakes race here," Autrey said. "He loves five-eighths on the grass and loves this course. We won two with him here last year so I expect him to run really well."

Bret Calhoun also saddles a pair-Mr. Meso, 8-1, a high-priced claiming winner at Oaklawn Park trying the turf for the first time, and Total Command, 15-1, second in a tough optional claimer at Oaklawn since being claimed from the D. Wayne Lukas barn. Calhoun won the inaugural edition of this race last year with Orphan Brigade.

Nuttyboom's turf sprint experience is limited, but he has run well in stakes throughout the region, including a second in the $80,000 Zia Park Express. The Ralph Irwin trainee is 6-1 on the morning line.

Runs Naked, 6-1, won two turf sprints over this course last year, both in optional $40,000 claiming events. She is three-for-seven lifetime over the Lone Star grass.

Vanning in for an upset shot will be Inalako, 12-1, a speedy Louisiana-bred making his first start outside of his native state. The 4-year-old colt posted a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure in his most recent win at Evangeline Downs.

K D King, 15-1, is two-for-three since switching to the turf, including the $40,000 Red McCombs for state-breds at Retama Park in October. The 4-year-old gelding has trained well at Lone Star for a return from a five-month layoff.

Grand Bank, 15-1, won the $50,000 Island Whirl Handicap at Louisiana Downs last summer with a 102 Beyer but has not come close to replicating that effort since.

The Littlebitlively is carded as the 10th of 11 races with an approximate post time of 5:19 p.m. CT.

Here's the complete field for the $40,000 Littlebitlively Stakes, restricted to older horses without a stakes win in 2006, at five furlongs on turf, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Mr. Meso (Bobby Walker Jr., Bret Calhoun, 8-1), Nuttyboom (Don Pettinger, Ralph Irwin, 6-1), Ranger B. (Cody Autrey, Justin Shepherd, 20-1), Oncearoundtwice (Quincy Hamilton, John Locke, 8-5), Prince Warner (Filemon Rodriguez, Locke, 8-5), Proven Cure (Hamilton, Locke, 8-5), K D King (Jeremy Collier, Keith Dunaway, 15-1), Runs Naked (Casey Lambert, James King, 6-1), Total Command (Larry Taylor, Calhoun, 15-1), April's Lucky Boy (Glen Murphy, Autrey, 5-1), Grand Bank (Jamie Theriot, Cole Norman, 15-1) and Inalako (Jeffrey Burningham, Connie Daniels, 12-1).

More Than a Little Bit Lively: Ten Years of the Texas Mile

Has it really been 10 years already? Lone Star Park's signature race, the Grade III Texas Mile, will reach the 80-furlong mark next Saturday, April 29. It seems like only yesterday the rough-and-tumble affair was a brand new event, but the Texas Mile already boasts a storied history of heroic performances and stunning upsets. Here, then, are summaries of the nine renewals, ranked by their respective place in Lone Star Park lore. Where will this year's running rank among the Texas Mile Top 10?

No. 9 -- April 30, 2005 -- High Strike Zone (Ricky Faul, jockey; Amos Laborde, trainer; Donald Erickson, owner): Delta Downs Mile hero High Strike Zone wore down Texas champion Yessirgeneralsir and outkicked even-money favorite Supah Blitz, a Grade I-winning millionaire, to win by 1 1/4 lengths. At 7-1, paying $17.40 for a $2 win bet, it was the biggest upset in Texas Mile history.

No. 8 - April 27, 2002 - Unrullah Bull (Anthony Lovato, Cole Norman, James and Treasa Donnan): Acquired in a claiming race for $25,000 less than a year before, Unrullah Bull rallied wide from off the pace and kicked clear in the final furlong to win by 1 ½ lengths, giving trainer Cole Norman his first graded stakes win. Two-time Grade I winner Hal's Hope finished fourth as the favorite. Said Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, rider of runner-up Reba's Gold, "We got Cole-d."

No. 7 - April 24, 2004 -- Kela (David Nuesch, Mike Mitchell, Jay Manoogian): Over a "sloppy" track, the only time the Texas Mile was ever run on a surface not labeled "fast," Southern California invader Kela took the lead in upper stretch and drew off to an impressive 5 ¼-length victory, the second-biggest win margin in stakes history. Those left in his wake included runner-up Supah Blitz, trainer Bobby Frankel's favored Snorter and the reigning Lone Star Park Horse of the Year, Pie N Burger. The winning Beyer Speed Figure of 114 remains the highest in stakes history.

No. 6 - April 26, 2003 - Bluesthestandard (Martin Pedroza, Ted H. West, Jeffrey Sengara): Breaking from the disadvantageous ninth post, jockey Martin Pedroza hustled Bluesthestandard out of the gate and masterfully guided the 6-year-old gelding down to a perfect stalking position entering the first turn. The popular Southern California veteran gained the lead at the top of the stretch, winning by four lengths. Bluesthestandard was the first post-time favorite to win the Texas Mile in the race's seventh running. Another popular older gelding, Grade I winner Bonapaw, was second. Bluesthestandard went on to finish second in that year's Breeders' Cup Sprint and remains in training.

No. 5 - April 19, 1998 - Littlebitlively (Carlos Gonzalez, Bobby Barnett, John Franks): In his first Texas Mile win, Littlebitlively bounded to an early lead on the backstretch, but lost it to Bob Baffert's inaugural Lone Star Derby winner Anet at the quarter-pole. The pair of 4-year-olds battled the length of the stretch, with Littlebitlively gaining a half-length advantage before another surge from Anet coming to the wire. Littlebitlively, a John Franks homebred, won by a neck. Favored Reality Road, coming off a Grade II win in the San Carlos Handicap, finished last.

No. 4 - April 22, 2000 - Sir Bear (Eibar Coa, Ralph Ziadie, Barbara Smollin): With the purse raised to $300,000 from $250,000, multiple Grade I winner Sir Bear regained his best form as a 7-year-old making his first and only Texas appearance. The millionaire raced near the back early on, moved up four-wide around the final turn, then engaged 96-1 pacesetter Lexington Park in an all-out duel to the finish. Sir Bear got the nod by a head, his first victory since the previous year's Grade I Metropolitan Mile, and remains the Texas Mile's oldest winner. Eibar Coa and Ralph Ziadie had teamed up a half-hour earlier to win the Lone Star Derby with Tahkodha Hills.

No. 3 - April 28, 2001 - Dixie Dot Com (David Flores, William Morey Jr., Carole Chaiken and Mr. and Mrs. Barton Heller): In the most dominating performance in Texas Mile history, 6-year-old Dixie Dot Com pulled away effortlessly to win by 6 1/2 lengths over subsequent millionaire Mr Ross. It was the second Texas Mile win for jockey David Flores. Trainer Bob Baffert's Wooden Phone, who had upset Horse of the Year Tiznow two months earlier, finished fourth as the odds-on favorite. Dixie Dot Com would go on to become the only horse to win the Texas Mile and Lone Star Park Handicap in the same season.

No. 2 - April 18, 1999 - Littlebitlively (Carlos Gonzalez, Bobby Barnett, John Franks): The first graded stakes race in state history attracted a stellar field led by 1998's champion 3-year-old Real Quiet, the first Kentucky Derby winner to race in Texas. Defending Texas Mile champ Littlebitlively and jockey Carlos Gonzalez once again sprinted to an early lead and fell back to second with a quarter-mile to run. The odds-on favorite Real Quiet looked poised to win as he assumed command on the outside, but those who saw another Bob Baffert colt, Anet, do the same thing to Littlebitlively one year earlier knew the race was far from over. Littlebitlively, second by as much as a half-length at the top of the stretch, fought back gamely and recaptured the lead on the inside. Real Quiet and Gary Stevens didn't give up, either, though, making one more desperate surge at the wire that came up a neck short. Allen's Oop finished third with Julie Krone aboard on her final day as a jockey. Littlebitlively remains the only repeat winner of the Texas Mile.

No. 1 - April 20, 1997 - Isitingood (David Flores, Bob Baffert, Terry Henn and Mike Pegram): The setting was opening weekend at the brand new Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie. The favorite was multiple Grade I winner and the previous year's 3-year-old champion, Skip Away. Because the inaugural Texas Mile had yet to receive graded status, it was the only non-graded event Skip Away appeared in during a stretch of 30 races (including 22 Grade Is) from the 1996 Florida Derby to his final race, the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic. The 4-year-old went off as the odds-on favorite at 0.60-1 despite a talented field that included Bob Baffert stablemates Isitingood, winner of the New Orleans Handicap a month prior, and Semoran, a multiple graded stakes winner. The speedy Isitingood broke sharply from the rail, taking the lead and setting a reasonable opening quarter-mile fraction of :23 2/5. Skip Away, meanwhile, with Shane Sellers aboard, broke slowly and had to go four-wide around the first turn. Picking it up down the backstretch, Isitingood and David Flores maintained a one-length advantage through a half-mile in :46 1/5, with local longshots Western Trader and Spiritbound tracking close behind. Skip Away was gaining gradually, improving to fourth, just 3 1/2 lengths back at the quarter-pole, as Isitingood continued to lead by a length through six furlongs in 1:09 3/5. Moving easily into the stretch, Isitingood managed to increase his advantage, while a stunned crowd watched a dull Skip Away fight to make up ground. Isitingood motored home his final eighth-of-a-mile in :12 1/5, stopping the timer in an eye-popping 1:34.44, a track record that stands to this day. It was three lengths back to 27-1 Spiritbound in second with Ronald Ardoin up, followed by Skip Away another 4 1/2 lengths back in third. Skip Away became the first of two Eclipse Award-winning champions, along with Real Quiet, to falter in the Texas Mile. He also was the first in a string of six beaten favorites in the race.

Preachinatthebar, Texcess and Yes He's a Pistol Lead Texas Mile Noms

A trio of Santa Anita stakes winners - Texcess, Preachinatthebar and Yes He's a Pistol - are known probables among the 43 nominees to next Saturday's Grade III Texas Mile at Lone Star Park. Connections of the three Southern California-based runners have alerted the Lone Star Park racing office of their intention to run in the $300,000 event and a plane is scheduled to deliver the horses to Dallas Love Field on Tuesday.

Preachinatthebar and Texcess ran one-two, respectively, in the Grade III Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita on April 1. Both of their trainers have won the Texas Mile once before.

A son of 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, the 5-year-old Preachinatthebar is conditioned by Bob Baffert for owner Mike Pegram, who teamed up with co-owner Terry Henn to win the inaugural Texas Mile with Isitingood. The Tokyo City was Preachinatthebar's second stakes win to go with his Grade II San Felipe Stakes triumph in 2004. He has an overall record of 22-7-0-3 with $473,240 in earnings.

Texcess is best known as the winner of the $1 million Delta Jackpot in 2004. Since then, the gelded son of In Excess has continued to earn big money in major stakes races. Earlier this year he finished third in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic. Overall, Texcess sports a record of 15-3-4-2 with $947,485 in earnings. Trainer Mike Mitchell, who won the 2004 Texas Mile with Kela, has enlisted Lone Star Park's leading jockey, Cliff Berry, to ride.

Yes He's a Pistol is undefeated in two starts this year, including an impressive win last time out in the $109,450 Santana Mile Handicap at Santa Anita. Jockey Garrett Gomez will be aboard again for trainer Doug O'Neill, who found success in Grand Prairie last year, winning the Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap with Supah Blitz. The 4-year-old Yes He's a Pistol has a career record of 16-4-3-0 with $191,051 in earnings.

Other top horses nominated to the Texas Mile but whose status is unknown include Texas-bred Santana Mile runner-up Dixie Meister (trained by Julio Canani), Peruvian-bred UAE Derby fifth-place finisher Dominguin (Dante Zanelli Jr.), defending Texas Mile champion High Strike Zone (Amos Laborde), Grade II San Fernando Breeders' Cup Handicap winner Minister Eric (Richard Mandella) and 10-length Gulfstream Park allowance winner Venetian Sunset (Todd Pletcher).

Trainer Darrell Vienna said Friday that Grade I Santa Anita Handicap runner-up Magnum will skip the Texas Mile and train up to the Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on Memorial Day, May 29.

DOWN THE STRETCH: Saturday's sixth race is the first leg of the New Trieste Starter Series. The series is comprised of five turf races open to older horses that have started for a claiming price of $18,000 or less in 2005-06, at increasing distances from one mile to 1 1/2 miles. Purses will increase from $18,000 on Saturday to $32,000 for the July 22 finale. The New Trieste Turf Starter Series will continue May 13, June 3, June 24 and July 22...Saturday brings another installment of Budweiser "True Music" Saturday to Lone Star Park with live music by Mars Hill from noon to 4 p.m. in the Courtyard of Champions...Also Saturday, 100.3 JACK-FM presents the Jackass Derby, a 10-mule race (sorry, no wagering) set to go off prior to the first live Thoroughbred race. JACK-FM will be on hand with prizes beginning at 11 a.m.

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