Powell: A closer look at the Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club
by DICK POWELL
Churchill Downs conducts one of my favorite days of racing on Saturday when all 12 races are run for two-year-olds. The dozen juvenile races attracted 142 starters for an average field size of 11.83 per race and none went below 10 starters.
One reason why these races are so popular among horsemen is that they know the races are going to fill. The problem, and it's a good problem to have, is that there are 26 horses on the also-eligible lists and 45 others that didn't even make it that far. A tribute to Director of Racing & Racing Secretary Ben Huffman and his staff.
I like two-year-old racing. I like first-time-starters, first-time turfers and first time two-turn horses, so I will be in my glory. It doesn't mean I will kill it at the windows, but I like small-sample races where pedigree and trainer data becomes extra important.
The two highlights on Saturday's Churchill Downs' card are the Golden Rod (G2) for juvenile fillies going a 1/16 miles on the main track and its counterpart, the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), run under the same conditions.
The Golden Rod attracted a field of 12 in race nine. Brad Cox sends out the 8-5 morning line favorite in MONOMOY GIRL, breaking from post 6. She is undefeated in three career starts and won the prep race for this, the Rags to Riches, by six lengths in what was her dirt debut after winning her first two starts on turf. Who knows how good she is, but she has a fast win at a mile here and the Cox barn has been firing on all cylinders here lately.
Ken McPeek is always dangerous with developing youngsters and he has the prototype in STRONGER THAN EVER breaking from post 8. She made up 11 lengths in the last quarter-mile to break her maiden by a neck here going six furlongs then went to Keeneland to dominate two-turn allowance foes. Since then, McPeek has drilled her three times and the $310K yearling purchase had enough dirt route pedigree being by Congrats and out of a dam by Broken Vow.
Brad Cox may have gotten a break last out when his KELLY'S HUMOR was bumped at the start and never recovered in the Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland. She was a good second in the Pocahontas (G2) from post 12 back in September and a good race at Keeneland might have meant a trip to the Breeders' Cup which is not always a good thing in a young horse's development. Cox adds blinkers and Ricardo Santana Jr. to the mix and she has already shown that she can run well from a wide draw here.
Watch out for Mark Casse's ROAD TO VICTORY. She won her only start going seven furlongs on the turf at Woodbine in good time then worked brilliantly on the dirt here. Her sire screams dirt with Abel Tasman and Caledonia Road his latest dirt successes going long against Grade 1 company.
The Kentucky Jockey Club drew a full gate of 14 starters with many possessing decent early speed, so the run into the clubhouse turn should be interesting. ENTICED began his career on closing day at Saratoga on a terrible muddy track. He broke poorly from post 1 and somehow was able to overcome the footing when he navigated to the outside to win going away. His race was so strong, it earned him a start in the Champagne (G1) going a one-turn mile where he was a good third. Second that day was Good Magic, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) while still a maiden. Enticed has strong company lines and draws post 6 with Junior Alvarado back aboard.
Dale Romans sends out a pair of colts in a race that he has surprisingly not won yet. PROMISES FULFILLED broke his maiden here by four lengths going six furlongs in fast time then came back to beat allowance foes by a neck going seven furlongs at Keeneland. He has had three straight bullet workouts for this but will have some company on the pace.
TIZ MISCHIEF took a while to get his act together although he was bet strong in all three starts. In his two-turn debut at Keeneland, he overcame a rough trip and early traffic problems to win going away by a length. While it didn't break any speed-figure barriers, it was very impressive visually. Robby Albarado rides back.
The one I like in the Kentucky Jockey Club is QUIP. He was a game winner from post 1 in his career debut here going six furlongs where he had to battle every step of the way then he came back at Keeneland going two turns and crushed an allowance field in good time. Any improvement off that race puts him over the top and Florent Geroux riding back only adds to my confidence.
Of the rest, if there is a scratch out of the body of race five, I love LADY INTO MISCHIEF drawing in and getting the money. The rest of the field look like they want to go longer than the six-furlong distance and some of the trainers are not known for prowess with debut runners. Lady Into Mischief is trained by Steve Asmussen who wins 16% with first-time starters and the dam has produced seven winners from seven foals to race. Ricardo Santana Jr. gets the ride -- 22% riding for Asmussen the past two months.
(Monomoy Girl photo: Coady Photography)