Peachtree Stable’s Lord Nelson, a runaway winner of the $101,000 Speakeasy at Santa Anita from the power-packed barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, landed post nine and was made the 5-2 morning line favorite in a field of 12 juveniles that were entered for Saturday’s 88th running of the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) at Churchill Downs.
Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile race is the co-headliner on the penultimate day of the 26-date Fall Meet. Billed as “Stars of Tomorrow II,” each of the 12 races is exclusively for 2-year-olds that may have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next spring’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks.
The Kentucky Jockey Club – a “Prep Season” race on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” in which the Top 4 finishers will receive 10-4-2-1 points, respectively – goes as Race 11 at 5:35 p.m. (all times Eastern). First post is 12:40 p.m.
Lord Nelson is one of four stakes winners in the field of a dozen 2-year-olds. The race also attracted Canada’s Grey (GIII) victor International Star, trained by Mike Maker and owned by Churchill Downs’ all-time leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey; Jerry Durant’s Iroquois (GIII) champ Lucky Player from the barn two-time KJC winner Steve Asmussen (Private Vow in 2005 and Tapiture in 2013); and Godolphin’s Pilgrim hero (GIII) Imperia, who’ll race on dirt for the first time for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Graded stakes placed El Kabeir, runner-up to Blofeld in the Nashua (GII) at Aqueduct, also was entered and is the 7-2 second betting choice on oddsmaker Mike Battaglia’s morning line. The Scat Daddy colt is owned Zayat Stables, LLC and is trained by John Terranova II.California-based Lord Nelson, a Kentucky-bred son of Pulpit out of the Seeking the Gold mare African Jade, won the Oct. 13 Speakeasy in his third career start. He clocked six furlongs that day in 1:09.25 just 16 days after finishing fourth behind American Pharoah, Calculator and eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red in Santa Anita’s FrontRunner (GI).
“He was coming back so quick, but he sort of needed the race,” Baffert said after the Speakeasy. “He got a little tired (in the FrontRunner). I didn’t run him towards the end there at Del Mar. He’d been working well and he’s got a lot of speed, but he’s ready to go further. … (Peachtree owner John Fort) wants to go to the Kentucky Derby badly. The horse will go long. He’s fast. He really needed that race (FrontRunner). He’s a heavy horse. He’ll get better with age.”
Lord Nelson enters the Kentucky Jockey Club with a record of 3-2-0-0—$123,000. His regular rider Martin Garcia will be aboard for the mount.
Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, won back-to-back renewals of the Kentucky Jockey Club in 1998-99 with Exploit and Captain Steve, respectively.
The complete Kentucky Jockey Club field from the rail out (with jockeys and morning line odds): Sky Hero (Julien Leparoux, 6-1); Eagle (Brian Hernandez Jr., 12-1); International Star (Rafael Hernandez, 8-1); Moonlight Bandit (Cornelio Velasquez, 30-1); El Kabeir (Calvin Borel, 7-2); Lucky Player (Ricardo Santana Jr., 6-1); War Point (Channing Hill, 50-1); Imperia (Robby Albarado, 8-1); Lord Nelson (Garcia, 5-2); Majestico (Jon Court, 15-1); Flashaway (Shaun Bridgmohan, 15-1); and Jumpin Frac Flash (15-1).
Sky Hero, Flashaway and Moonlight Bandit are a three-pronged entry by owner John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse, who teamed to win the 2012 Kentucky Jockey Club with Uncaptured. Oxley has won the KJC two other times with Jambalaya Jazz (1994) and Beethoven (2008).
Flashaway, a runner-up to stablemate Sky Hero in a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance/optional claiming race at Churchill Downs, and opening day maiden winner Moonlight Bandit were cross-entered in Saturday’s $400,000 Remsen (GII) at Aqueduct. A decision looms for Casse as to which race they’ll contest. Earlier this week, he was concerned about an outside post in a large field, which could be disadvantageous for Flashaway, who was drawn in post 11.
William S. Farish’s Eagle, conditioned by Neil Howard, enters the KJC off an eye-catching allowance win over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland on Oct. 22.
“He’s a lovely colt, and so far he’s been doing real well,” Howard said. “He had a little bit of growing up to do, but he made tremendous strides and I’ve been very pleased with him.”
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Jumpin Frac Flash wheels back 16 days after a visually impressive, five-length maiden win at Churchill Downs going one mile for trainer Kenny McPeek, a winner of the 2001 Kentucky Jockey Club with Repent.
“His last race was real impressive and I think he wants two turns instead of the flat mile,” McPeek said.
Like Imperia, Calumet Farm’s Majestico will try dirt for the first time after winning a maiden special weight on turf at Keeneland. His trainer, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, has won the Kentucky Jockey Club a record four times: Notebook (1987), Grand Canyon (1989), Dance Floor (1991) and Cape Town (1997).
War Point, a victor on grass last time out at Indiana Downs, hails from the same camp that campaigned this year’s Kentucky Derby seventh-place finisher Ride On Curlin: owner Dan Dougherty and trainer Billy Gowan.
Saturday’s forecast for Louisville calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high near 55 degrees and chance of sprinkles after 8 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.
All starters will carry 122 pounds. El Kabeir will race with blinkers off.
The Kentucky Jockey Club is named in honor of the holding company that operated Churchill Downs at the time of the race’s inaugural running in 1920.
Inaugurated in 2005, Churchill Downs’ Stars of Tomorrow programs have helped launched the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including 34 Grade I winners and 20 millionaires led by 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver; 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile and Clark Handicap winner Shackleford; 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Fort Larned; 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can; and 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge.