Accomplished juvenile fillies Dream Empress and Sara Louise are both looking to add another graded stakes victory to their already impressive resumes in the $150,000 Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs. The race is part of the “Stars of Tomorrow II” card that features races limited exclusively to 2-year-olds.
Dream Empress has found her niche at the 1 1/16-mile distance, at which she broke her maiden on the Saratoga turf last summer, followed by an eye-catching victory in the Oct. 3 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I), and a runner-up finish in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Dream Empress’ most recent effort vaulted her career earnings to $748,850, which surpasses the rest of her Golden Rod rivals by a significant amount.
Trainer Kenny McPeek is hoping the daughter of Bernstein--Chinese Empress, by Nijinsky II, will prove versatile in the Golden Rod, which will mark her debut on a conventional dirt track. Carrying the colors of Kelly Colliver’s Livin the Dream Racing, Dream Empress will break from post three under jockey Kent Desormeaux.
Sara Louise will undoubtedly pose a threat to Dream Empress with the keen advantage of having already raced and won over Churchill’s main track, though the Golden Rod will mark her first time around two turns.
Like Dream Empress, Sara Louise also needed two tries to break her maiden, which she did at Belmont Park Sept. 21. But it was Sara Louise’s victory in the Nov. 11 Pocahontas Stakes (gr. III) that made trainer Dale Romans realize he really had something special.
Romans touted Sara Louise’s stakes record time of 1:34.57 in the one-mile Pocahontas, which was the first time a filly recorded a sub-1:35 clocking since the Pocahontas was extended from seven furlongs to one mile in 1981. In addition to those milestones, her time was three-fifths of a second faster than that of Capt. Candyman Can, who won the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at the same distance that day.
Campaigned by John Luke’s Eldon Farm, Sara Louise, a daughter of Malibu Moon , will break from post 1 and will be ridden by Robby Albarado, who also piloted her in the Pocahontas.
The Golden Rod also lured two other intriguing prospects: Dolphus Morrison’s Rachel Alexandra and Ron Winchell’s War Echo.
Rachel Alexandra, trained by Hal Wiggins, finished second to Sara Louise in the Pocahontas and this summer was runner-up in Churchill’s June 28 Debutante Stakes (gr. III).
War Echo, trained by Steve Asmussen, is a half-sister to multiple graded-stakes winner Pyro and ran a good fourth to Sky Diva in the Oct. 4 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) in her most recent start.
Rounding out the field are longshots Super Poni, Dance With Daddy, and Pearl of Valor.
$150,000 Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, 3:28 p.m. EDT), 2-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Sara Louise, 119, Robby Albarado
2. Super Poni, 119, Godofredo Laurente
3. Dream Empress, 119, Kent Desormeaux
4. Rachel Alexandra, 119, Calvin H. Borel
5. Dance With Daddy, 114, Diego Rodriguez
6. Pearl of Valor, 119, Jesus Lopez Castanon
7. War Echo, 119, Israel Ocampo