?WINSTAR’S UNBEATEN GEMOLOGIST HOPES TO FOLLOW SUPER SAVER’S FOOTSTEPS IN JOCKEY CLUB – WinStar Farm LLC and trainer Todd Pletcher teamed up to win the 2009 running of the Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) with Super Saver, and returned to Churchill Downs with the colt the following spring to capture the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
Those connections hope for similar good fortune with Gemologist, their latest juvenile star who puts an unbeaten record on the line in Saturday’s 85th running of the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the main track beneath the Twin Spires.
“Certainly we’ve had luck in this race before and have had horses run well and then go on to bigger and better things as 3-year-olds,” assistant trainer Michael McCarthy said. “I’m sure we’ll start thinking about it (the Kentucky Derby) after the race Saturday. But you’re always thinking about it – especially in this operation.”
A big, handsome son of Tiznow, Gemologist still has plenty of upside and McCarthy believes he could be able to follow in Super Saver’s footsteps and develop into a 3-year-old of Derby and Triple Crown quality.
“He’s a lot of horse and a fantastic looking animal,” McCarthy said. “I think he’ll get better with racing and I see no reason why he won’t develop into a nice 3-year-old. He’s still got a lot of maturing to do; not so much physically, but mentally.”
Gemologist, purchased as a weanling for $310,000 at the 2009 Keeneland November Sale, cruised to a five-length victory in his career debut over Turfway Park’s Polytrack surface. He followed that with a two-length allowance victory at the Kentucky Jockey Club distance on Churchill Downs’ Stars of Tomorrow I card.
"He’s two-for-two and has a little bit of a buzz around him,” McCarthy said. “Anytime a horse has won going a distance of ground at this stage of their career it’s good, and to have a win over the racetrack is a feather in your cap.”
Gemologist will break from post nine under Javier Castellano when he faces 10 rivals in the Kentucky Jockey Club. His main competition could come from Augustin Stable’s Ever So Lucky, a flashy 3 ¼-length maiden winner for steeplechase training legend Jonathan Sheppard at Churchill Downs on Nov. 11. Ever So Lucky, a bay son of Indian Charlie, was supplemented to the Kentucky Jockey Club for a fee of $7,500.
"There are a lot of horses in the race that look like they have a lot of upside,” McCarthy said. “Certainly Jonathan Sheppard’s horse is one of them. He did nothing wrong in his debut and anytime you see Sheppard do something like bring a horse back on short rest, then you definitely need to pay attention.”
Ever So Lucky will break from the rail and is expected to challenge for the early lead, a development McCarthy would welcome.
“I think Gemologist will be fairly forwardly placed,” McCarthy said. “It’d be nice if someone would go to the lead and we could sit off him and have Gemologist learn a little something.”
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 is the co-featured event with the $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) for 2-year-old fillies on the Stars of Tomorrow II program,. It will be run as race 11 with a scheduled post time 5:42 p.m. (all times EST). Post time for the day’s first race is 12:40 p.m.
FLASHY DEBUT WINNER EVER SO LUCKY RETURNS IN KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB – Those who watched the impressive 3 ¼-length debut victory by Augustin Stable’s Ever So Lucky at Churchill Downs on Nov. 11 might have been surprised to learn the Indian Charlie colt is trained by Jonathan Sheppard.
Sheppard, who last year became the first trainer to saddle 1,000 steeplechase winners in the United States, is not known for having precocious juveniles in his barn, but finds himself with one of the Fall Meet’s most-discussed horses the colt owned by George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable. The $600,000 sales topper at Fasig-Tipton’s Mid-Atlantic Selected 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale at Maryland’s Timonium, Ever So Lucky was installed by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Jockey Club.
“I was absolutely delighted with his first race,” Sheppard said. “He broke a step slowly and (jockey Julien) Leparoux asked him to move up and it seemed like he took the lead in just a few jumps. He was under pressure on the lead and when Julien asked him to run, he responded and won with a lot left. He ran like an old pro.”
Ever So Lucky’s flashy debut so impressed his connections that they paid $7,500 to make him a supplemental nominee to the Kentucky Jockey Club.
“It was a mutual decision between myself and Mr. Strawbridge,” Sheppard said. “We were trying to decide what to do with him and we decided to give him a second race at the track he was at and seems to like. This also gives him a race going two turns and sets him up nicely to get a breather and then get him ready for the big 3-year-old races next spring.”
One of those “big 3-year-old races” Sheppard was referring to is the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). Sheppard, who will turn 71 on Dec. 2, has never saddled a starter in the Run for the Roses.
“I’m not going to push them and make them do something they’re not ready for,” Sheppard said. “We usually stick to the theory that you can have a good young horse or a good older horse, but you can’t have both. However, I think he (Ever So Lucky) has the disposition to be a good horse next year. He has a very good mind and is a really nice horse. I don’t want to jinx myself though because you really never know.”
Ever So Lucky will break from the rail post in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Some would be nervous about a 2-year-old breaking the inside gate, but Sheppard does not see the post as an issue for Ever So Lucky.
“The rail is not a bad spot if you have a horse with some speed,” Sheppard said. “I think Leparoux will be able to get him out of there fine.”
KENTUCKY OAKS TRAIL FOR CUSTOMER BASE BEGINS WITH THE GOLDEN ROD – Glen Hill Farm’s Customer Base is unbeaten on synthetic surfaces in her young career, but she moves to traditional dirt for Saturday’s 68th running of the $150,000-added Golden Rod (Grade II) at Churchill Downs in hope that the race will be a first step on a trail to next spring’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
“If she can get lucky and win Saturday then she’ll be nominated to the Kentucky Oaks, which is what I want because if she runs well then we’ll definitely point that way with her,” trainer Tom Proctor said.
Customer Base was a winner on debut over synthetic Polytrack footing at Del Mar and improved her record to a perfect two-for-two with a 1 ½-length victory over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface. The only poor effort in her career came Customer Base drew post 13 in a bid for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GII) on Nov. 4. She finished 11th of 14 fillies that day behind the victorious Stephanie’s Kitten.
“She ran so well over the Polytrack that I decided to put her in the Juvenile Fillies Turf,” Proctor said. “I wasn’t sure if she’d like the turf or not, but honestly I still don’t know because she lost all chance with a bad trip. Her pedigree says she can run on the turf or the dirt.”
A 2-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, Customer Base was installed as the 7-2 second choice for the Golden Rod by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
“If she likes the dirt then she’ll be tough in there,” Proctor said. “I don’t know why she wouldn’t. She’s trained well over it and is doing really good.”
While the Kentucky Oaks is the primary long-term goal for Customer Base, Proctor has a backup plan for his filly if things don’t go as planned Saturday.
“If she doesn’t run well then I’ll take her to Tampa Bay and get her ready for the Florida Oaks (at 1 1/16 miles on turf on Feb.4),” Proctor said.
Customer Base will break from post eight in the field of 11 under leading-rider Julien Leparoux. Post time for the Golden Rod, the co-featured event on the Stars of Tomorrow II program, is 4:42 p.m.
WHO’S HOT – The hottest jockeys over the last five racing days (Nov. 17-23) are Corey Lanerie (8-for-44) and Julien Leparoux (7-for-29). Nick Zito (3-for-4), Eddie Kenneally (3-for-6), Ken McPeek (3-for-9) and Mike Maker (3-for-13) are the hottest trainers over the same period. Carolyn Wilson (2-for-2) and Ken and Sarah Ramsey (2-for-8) are the hottest owners.
BARN TALK – Arena Elvira, winner of Thursday’s Falls City Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs, exited the race in good order, according to assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy. The 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper will be given some time off before she begins a 5-year-old campaign. …
The second and third-place finishers in the Falls City, Afleeting Lady and It’s Tea Time, also came out of the race well. No firm plans are in place for either filly, but both are expected to run next year. …
A reminder that a memorial service for the late trainer Robert Holthus will be held Saturday, Nov. 26 at 10:30 a.m. (EST) at Christ Chapel on the Churchill Downs backside.
Churchill Downs will host a “Stache Bash” on Saturday during the races to honor and celebrate all of the Mo Bros and Mo Sistas who participated in Movember. Churchill Downs will donate $1 per attendee who is sporting a mustache to the Movember Foundation with a minimum guaranteed pledge of $5,000 given through the Churchill Downs Foundation. The day’s festivities will include between-race live music by popular Cincinnati-based My Sister Sarah in the paddock area and Happy Hour drink specials from 3-5 p.m. …
Churchill Downs will offer free admission to all fans on Sunday, Nov. 27, the closing-day of the 2011 Fall Meet. Also, be sure to bring the kids out to see Santa Claus, who will be in the Paddock Pavilion on Sunday.
WORKTAB – Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Tapizar, winner of the Sham (GIII) in January and fifth to Caleb’s Posse in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) in his most recent start, breezed five furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Friday morning in 1:03.20 for trainer Steve Asmussen. The work was the 11th fastest of 17 at the distance. …
Also working for Asmussen on Friday morning was Thiskyhasnolimit, winner of the Texas Mile (GIII) in April. Owned by Mark Wagner and Bob and Cathy Zollars, the 4-year-old son of Sky Mesa breezed five furlongs in 1:05.40.