Unbeaten odds-on favorite Tiz Wonderful, ridden by John Velazquez, fought back after being passed in the stretch by Any Given Saturday to regain the lead near the finish and post a half-length victory in the 80th running of the $223,800, grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes for two-year-olds on the closing day of the 21-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.The son of Tiznow covered the 1 1/16 mile distance over a "fast" track in 1:42.84 and paid $3, $2.20, and $2.10 as the heavy 1-2 favorite. Any Given Saturday, piloted by Rafael Bejarano, lost for the first time in three starts as he finished second and paid $3.60 and $2.80. Dominican, a 30-1 shot with Robby Albarado in the irons, finished another 5 ¾-lengths back in third and paid $7.40.
Owned by Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stable LLC and trained by Scott Blasi, Tiz Wonderful remained unbeaten from three starts. His win total includes a sweep of the grade III Iroquois Stakes and the Kentucky Jockey Club, Churchill Downs' fall meet stakes races for 2-year-olds. The Kentucky Jockey Club victory earned the ridgling $133,208 to more than double his career bankroll to $228,792.
"He's just learning to run; he's still trying to put it all together," said Blasi, who was the leading trainer in the Churchill Downs meet. "I think, when he learns to relax a little more off the pace, we'll know a lot more about him. Right now, he's just figuring it out, and I think when that horse (runner-up Any Given Sunday) came at him he ran in spurts, but he got the job done." Longshot Starbase was hustled to the early lead by jockey John McKee, but Tiz Wonderful was just off his hip and Any Given Saturday tracked in third as the leader carved out solid fractions of :23.76 for the quarter-mile and :47.52 to the half-mile. Tiz Wonderful poked his nose in front on the far turn as Starbase began to falter, but was quickly joined by Any Given Saturday, who accelerated to the front approaching the stretch, and longshot Going Ballistic rallied alongside the new leader. Velazquez went to work on the favorite, who hugged he rail as he dug in and reclaimed the advantage from Any Given Saturday and gradually edged clear in the run to the wire.
"We're excited," said Jackson, the founder of the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates and owner of Tiz Wonderful. "We think he ran super. He's doing very well, considering his age and youth. He doesn't have full growth, so we're very pleased that he's doing as well as he is at his age."
Tiz Wonderful was bred in Kentucky by Dale Kalmar and sold for $475,000 at this year's Fasig-Tipton Florida February sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Winning jockey John Velazquez notched his 16th stakes win under the Twin Spires and his second of the 2006 Fall Meet. He also captured the $150,000-added River City Handicap aboard Bayeux Nov. 3.
Going Ballistic finished fourth, followed by Joe Got Even, Starbase, What a Tale, U D Ghetto, and Mr. Blackstone.(Chart, Equibase)