After posting a 5 1/2-length score in the Iroquois Stakes on October 28, Uncaptured will look to keep his momentum rolling while stretching back out to a two-turn distance in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. The Lion Heart colt can enhance his reputation as a leading Kentucky Derby candidate with a strong showing in the 1 1/16-mile event.
The Mark Casse pupil received a perfect starting position among 13 two-year-old rivals, drawing post 4 with jockey Miguel Mena, and Uncaptured will be looking for a bit of redemption after faltering in his lone previous two-turn test, the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine two starts back. That disappointing fourth-place effort represents his lone setback in six career starts, including three sprint stakes wins at Woodbine, and the dark bay colt did not display any distance limitations when making his first dirt start in the one-mile Iroquois, striding out well after the finish line.
"He's always acted like he was a little on the special side," trainer Mark Casse said. "The way these things go, it's about how they progress and he's progressed. It looks like he's a really nice horse, but we still have to figure out if he's top of the class. Hopefully on Saturday, he'll pass another test."
Part of the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, the Kentucky Jockey Club offers 10-4-2-1 points, respectively, to the top four finishers.
"Anytime you have a good two-year-old, you're thinking about the Derby," Casse said. ?That's why we brought him to Louisville and ran him in the Iroquois, to see how he handled Churchill. You always have a focus on the first Saturday in May. If he pulls off the win Saturday, I think he'd have to be considered one of the best two-year-olds in the country."
Tesseron and Indiano Jones, the second- and third-place finishers in the Grey, will both try dirt for the first time. Tesseron ships in from his Woodbine base for Josie Carroll while Indiano Jones should be more acclimated to the oval, recording four workouts under the Twin Spires since October 20 for Casse. Joha, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity on Keeneland's Polytrack two back, will also be making his dirt debut. The Kenny McPeek-trained colt experienced a rough trip from post 10 before eventually checking in eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last out, and Joha figures to show speed Saturday with jockey Joe Rocco Jr.
Iroquois runner-up Positively will return for conditioner Pat Byrne and there are several interesting maiden winners in the line-up. Will Take Charge, a half-brother to Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy, will step up to face stakes rivals for D. Wayne Lukas following his first career victory at Keeneland. Frac Daddy generated a 101 BRIS Speed rating for his 9 3/4-length maiden score at Churchill on November 3, and Track Rocker exits a 8 3/4-length romp at Delaware Park for Nick Zito.
Breeders' Futurity third-placer Java's War; recent allowance winners Dewey Square, Fear the Kitten and Lew and Mike; and Thistledown stakes winner Silver Tongued round out the field.
Saturday's "Stars of Tomorrows II" program, which contains 12 races exclusively for two-year-olds, also features the Grade 2, $150,000 Golden Rod Stakes for fillies.
Gal About Town sustained her first loss when finishing second in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs, but she won't have to face the winner of that one, Sign, and trainer Bret Calhoun is hopeful that his charge will build off that effort and prove best in the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod.
"I thought she ran well last time; she was just outrun," Calhoun said from Fair Grounds. "Everything went well, she just ran into one that was better that day. She came out of the race good and is training very well."
The one-mile Pocahontas was the first race at a distance greater than six furlongs for the City Zip filly.
"I think until you try it, the (distance) is a question," Calhoun said. "We came out of that race with a lot more confidence in her ability to go two turns based on what (jockey) Jesus (Castanon) said. He told us she galloped out very strongly. So, the distance wasn't an issue. We just got outrun."
As a ?Road to the Kentucky Oaks? race, the top four finishers in the Golden Rod will receive 10-4-2-1 points, respectively.
"We were enticed by the $500,000 in the (Grade 3) Delta Princess (on November 17), but I felt like in the long run this was the best path," Calhoun said. "So we waited, and went for the less money and are going to run her out of her own stall. I think in the long run, it'll be beneficial for her looking forward to her maybe turning out to be an Oaks filly."
Gal About Town will face eight rivals from the far outside post position, including Pocahontas third-placer Cloudy Vow.
Broken Spell, runner-up in the Grade 1 Alcibiades on Keeneland's Polytrack two back, exits a sixth versus better in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies for Hall of Famer Lukas, and Seaneen Girl will make her dirt debut for new trainer Bernie Flint following a second in the Grade 3 Mazarine on Woodbine's Polytrack.
Silver Strike exits a a close third in an allowance/optional claimer over the track and recent Churchill maiden winner Liberated is also entered.