A couple of years ago WinStar Farm and Todd Pletcher used the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) as a springboard to winning the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with Super Saver. They hope history will repeat itself, as likely favorite Gemologist leads a field of 11 juveniles in the Nov. 26 race at Churchill Downs.
The $150,000 Kentucky Jockey Club shares top billing with the $150,000 Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) on Saturday’s 12-race all-juvenile card. The Golden Rod, for 2-year-old fillies, also drew 11. Both races are at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.
While 2009 Jockey Club winner Super Saver was a homebred for WinStar, Gemologist was bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey and Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust. WinStar, buying under the name of Maverick Racing, paid $310,000 for him at the Keeneland November 2008 breeding stock sale. Lane’s End, agent, consigned the bay colt, who is by Tiznow out of the Mr. Prospector mare Crystal Shard.
Gemologist broke his maiden by five lengths in his Sept. 24 debut at Turfway Park, wiring the field on the Polytrack at six furlongs. On Oct. 30 in an optional claimer at Churchill, Gemologist was stretched out to two turns and he responded by going wire-to-wire once again, winning this time by two lengths under Javier Castellano, who will ride again.
Gemologist is the only two-time winner in the field. Five of the entrants are entering off maiden scores, maybe the most impressive of those being Ever So Lucky, a 3 1/4-length winner Nov. 11 at Churchill. Owned by Augustin Stable and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, Ever So Lucky was bought for $600,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale. He is by Indian Charlie out of the Summer Squall mare Bally Storm.
Leading Churchill rider Julien Leparoux will keep the mount on Ever So Lucky, who drew the rail.
The top two stake- tested contenders are Fine and Optimizer. Silverton Hill’s Fine broke his maiden in August at Hoosier Park, then finished a distant second to eventual Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Hansen in the Sept. 24 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway. Most recently, the Flatter colt was fourth in the Oct. 30 Iroquois (gr. III) at Churchill.
Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer was eighth in the BC Juvenile, one start after finishing third in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland and second in the With Anticipation (gr. IIT) on the Saratoga turf. The English Channel colt broke his maiden in his Aug. 6 debut at Saratoga, also on turf. He is trained by D. Wayne Lukas.
Also stakes-placed is Mr. Prankster, an It's No Joke colt co-owned and trained by Mike Maker. He was second in the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes Oct. 1 at Presque Isle Downs & Casino.
In the Golden Rod, the field is led by Anita Cauley’s On Fire Baby, winner of the Pocahontas (gr. II) at Churchill in October. The Gary Hartlage-trained daughter of Smoke Glacken won that race by three parts of a length under a patient ride from Joe Johnson.
Prior to that she was fifth in the Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) and was a debut maiden winner at Ellis Park. Johnson has the call once again.
The third- and fifth-place finishers are also back from the Pocahontas, Glinda the Good and Golden History. Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Glinda the Good was beaten 2 1/2 lengths in the Pocahontas, one start after finishing second in the Blue Hen Stakes to Grace Hall—the eventual Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) runner-up. The Hard Spun filly broke her maiden at Monmouth Park for trainer Steve Asmussen.
John Oxley’s Golden History was trying stakes company for the first time in the Pocahontas. Her debut came in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Woodbine Oct. 2, a race she won by nearly three lengths.
Golden History is one of two entrants for Oxley and trainer by Mark Casse. The other is Spirited Miss, who has made all three of her starts at Woodbine. She exits a narrow runner-up performance in the Oct. 8 Mazarine Stakes.
Another top contender is Glen Hill Farm’s Customer Base, who finished 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT). Her previous two tries were wins—a maiden score at Del Mar and an allowance triumph at Keeneland. Leparoux has the mount for trainer Tom Proctor.
$150,000 Golden Rod (gr. II, Race 9, 4:42 p.m.), 2YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, Trainer 1 Back Spin (KY), J K Court, 119, W H Fires
2 Annie Russell (KY), B J Hernandez Jr., 119, G R Arnold II
3 Spirited Miss (KY), J Castellano, 119, M E Casse
4 Goldrush Girl (KY), M R Cruz, 119, K G McPeek
5 Spring Eclipse (KY), E S Prado, 119, D R Vance
6 On Fire Baby (KY), J M Johnson, 119, G G Hartlage
7 Jamraa (KY), J L Castanon, 119, T Girten
8 Customer Base (KY), J R Leparoux, 119, T F Proctor
9 Golden History (KY), S Bridgmohan, 119, M E Casse
10 Glinda the Good (KY), C J Lanerie, 119, S M Asmussen
11 Karlovy Vary (KY), R Albarado, 119, G R Arnold II
$150,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II, Race 11, 5:42 p.m.), 2YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, Trainer 1 Ever So Lucky (KY), J R Leparoux, 122, J E Sheppard
2 Africanist (KY), C J Lanerie, 122, E Kenneally
3 Timely Tally (KY), C H Borel, 122, I R Wilkes
4 Mr. Prankster (KY), E S Prado, 122, M J Maker
5 Cyber Secret (KY), S Bridgmohan, 122, C C Brown
6 Optimizer (KY), R Albarado, 122, D W Lukas
7 Fine (OK), B J Hernandez Jr., 122, W B Calhoun
8 Atigun (KY), M R Cruz, 122, K G McPeek
9 Gemologist (KY) , J Castellano, 122, T A Pletcher
10 Seve (KY), M Guidry, 122, D L Romans
11 Saint Honore (KY), J L Castanon, 122, N P Zito