Augustin Stable’s Ever So Lucky, a dazzling winner in his Churchill Downs debut, and WinStar Farm LLC’s Gemologist, perfect in two outings at Turfway Park and Churchill Downs, put their spotless racing records on the line Saturday as the promising colts head a field of 11 2-year-olds entered for Saturday’s 85th running of the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II), the co-featured event on the Stars of Tomorrow II program devoted to juvenile runners at Churchill Downs.
The Kentucky Jockey Club, run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, shares Saturday’s Stars of Tomorrow II marquee with the $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII), a race at the same distance for fillies. Named in honor of the holding company that operated Churchill Downs at the time of the race’s inaugural running in 1920, the Kentucky Jockey Club will be run as race 11 with a scheduled post time 5:12 p.m. (all times EST). Post time for the day’s first race is 12:40 p.m.
Trained by steeplechase legend Jonathan Sheppard, Ever So Lucky made the much-discussed date of 11.11.11 at Churchill Downs extra memorable with an impressive 3 ¼ length romp under jockey Julien Leparoux in his 6 ½-furlong racing debut. The son of Indian Charlie, the $600,000 sale topper in May at the Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic auction at Maryland’s Timonium, will break from the rail post under Leparoux in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Ever So Lucky, a supplemental entry to the race at a cost of $7,500, was installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
Gemologist, a son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow trained by Todd Pletcher, reeled off strong victories in his racing debut at Turfway Park and an allowance race at the Kentucky Jockey Club distance on the Stars of Tomorrow I program that kicked off the Churchill Downs Fall Meet. Those efforts prompted Battaglia to install Gemologist as the 3-1 second choice in the morning line and Gemologist will break from post nine under jockey Javier Castellano.
WinStar Farm and Pletcher won the 2009 Kentucky Jockey Club with Super Saver, who returned to Churchill Downs the following spring to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). The Derby victory by Super Saver was the first for both WinStar Farm and Pletcher.
Despite the star power of the favorites, the Kentucky Jockey Club is far from a two-horse race as the field includes the promising New York invader Cyber Secret and stakes veteran Optimizer.
Another unbeaten colt, Gary and Mary West Stables’ Cyber Secret make his stakes debut in the Kentucky Jockey Club on the heels of a 6 ½-furlong maiden win over a muddy surface on Oct. 20 at New York’s Belmont Park. Trained by Chad Brown, the Kentucky-bred son of Broken Vow will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan in his stakes debut. Cyber Secret drew post five and is the 6-1 third choice in Battaglia’s Kentucky Jockey Club morning line.
Bluegrass Hall LLC’s Optimizer, a 2-year-old of English Channel and the 8-1 fourth choice in the Kentucky Jockey Club, which will make his second consecutive start over the main track at Churchill Downs after competing over grass and synthetic surfaces in his first three outings. Trained by Hall of Famer and four-time Kentucky Jockey Club winner D. Wayne Lukas, Optimizer finished eighth behind unbeaten Hansen after breaking from the outside post in a field of 13 in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Prior to his Breeders’ Cup run, Optimizer won his debut on the Saratoga turf and was the runner-up to State of Play over the same surface in the With Anticipation (GII). Lukas’ colt also ran third to Dullahan in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI) over Keeneland’s Polytrack.
Optimizer will break from post six under Robby Albarado, who won the 1999 renewal of the Kentucky Jockey Club with Captain Steve.
Other stakes veterans in Saturday’s race include Thomas Conway and Mike Maker’s Mr. Prankster and Silverton Hill LLC’s Fine.
Mr. Prankster, trained by co-owner Maker, was the runner-up to longshot Big Wednesday in the $150,000 Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial over the synthetic Tapeta surface on Oct. 1 at Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle Downs. The son of It’s No Joke, a 10-1 shot in the Kentucky Jockey Club morning line, drew post four and will have Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Edgar Prado in the saddle.
The Bret Calhoun-trained Fine was a distant runner-up to Hansen in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and fourth to Motor City in Churchill Downs’ Iroquois (GIII). Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride the son of Flatter, who is a 20-1 risk in the morning line and will break from post seven.
The field for the Kentucky Jockey Club, from the rail out (with trainer, jockey and morning line odds), is as follows: Ever So Lucky (Sheppard, Leparoux, 5-2), Africanist (Eddie Kenneally, Corey Lanerie, 10-1), Timely Tally (Ian Wilkes, Calvin Borel, 10-1), Mr. Prankster (Maker, Edgar Prado, 10-1), Cyber Secret (Brown, Bridgmohan, 6-1), Optimizer (Lukas, Albarado, 8-1), Fine (Calhoun, Hernandez, 20-1), Atigun (Ken McPeek, Manny Cruz, 10-1), Gemologist (Pletcher, Castellano, 3-1), Seve (Dale Romans, Mark Guidry, 20-1) and Saint Honore (Nick Zito, Jesus Castanon, 12-1).