The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) runner-up and third-place finishers Knicks Go and Signalman are among a promising and ultra-competitive cast of 14 2-year-olds that were entered for Saturday’s 92nd running of the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/16-mile race is the co-headliner on the penultimate day of the 21-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 Woodford Reserve (GI) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).
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 5:56 p.m. (all times Eastern). First post is 1 p.m. The co-featured $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) for fillies is Race 9 at 4:57 p.m.
Knicks Go, a speedy son of Paynter, led wire-to-wire in the Oct. 6 Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland at odds of 70-1. The Maryland-bred, owned by KRA Stud Farm and trained by Ben Colebrook, finished 2 ¼ lengths behind the Bob Baffert-trained Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at odds of 40-1.
“He definitely outran his odds both of those days,” Colebrook said. “He’s not the biggest horse in the world but he really steps up when it matters. He gave us a thrill in the Juvenile and ran great that day.”
One of Colebrook’s targets for Knicks Go was the Dec. 4 Marylander at Laurel Park but the 40-year-old conditioner opted to enter the colt in Saturday’s race. Jockey Albin Jimenez has the return call and will break from post position No. 13.
Chief among Knicks Go’s competitors in the Jockey Club is Breeders’ Cup Juvenile third-place finisher Signalman for owners Tommie Lewis, David Bernsen and Magdalena Racing and trainer Kenny McPeek. Signalman finished one length behind Knicks Go in the Juvenile after breaking from post 14 and rallying from 10 lengths off the early pace.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was not the first time Signalman trailed Knicks Go; the son of General Quarters was the runner-up in the Breeders’ Futurity.
“That turned out to be a really good race,” McPeek said. “Distance should definitely not be a problem for him. We were really proud of his effort in the Breeders’ Cup. I told Brian (Hernandez Jr.) to take back and make one run after drawing post 14. He ran really well from being that far out there at the start.”
Hernandez has the call in the Jockey Club and will break from the rail.
Also among the main challengers in the Jockey Club is Joseph Besecker and Three Diamonds Farm’s undefeated Dunph. The gelding by Temple City stormed to a 7 ¾-length win in the $300,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes on Oct. 28 at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Mike Maker, Dunph was privately purchased by Kirk Wycoff’s Three Diamonds Farm following his 8 ½-length maiden-breaking score in September at Penn National.
Dunph will break from post 4 with Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle.
Also entered in the Jockey Club is impressive maiden winner King for a Day and Bourbon (GIII) stakes winner Current for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the race in 2009 with eventual Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.
King for a Day, who drew post 12 with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez up, defeated seven rivals on Oct. 4 at Belmont Park by 2 ¼ lengths. The bay colt by Uncle Mo is owned by Stephen Brunetti’s Red Oak Stable.
Current, a chestnut-son by Curlin, is attempting dirt for the first time following a most-recent seventh-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI). Current, owned by Robert LaPenta, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Dixiana Farms, will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post 9.
The complete field for the Kentucky Jockey Club from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Signalman (Hernandez, McPeek); Tracksmith (Adam Beschizza, Joe Sharp); Manny Wah (Channing Hill, Wayne Catalano); Dunph (Gaffalione, Maker); Plus Que Parfait (Julien Leparoux, Brendan Walsh); Blue Steel (Robby Albarado, Dale Romans); Limonite (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen); Royal Urn (Leonel Reyes, Michelle Nihei); Current (Castellano, Pletcher); Roiland (Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss); Mick’s Star (Corey Lanerie, Amoss); King for a Day (Velazquez, Pletcher); Knicks Go (Jiminez, Colebrook); Topper T (Florent Geroux, Bill Mott). Also Eligible should any early scratches occur: Everfast (Albarado, Romans); and Kentucky Allstar (Santana, Maker).
All riders are assigned 122 pounds.
Saturday’s National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for a high temperature near 58 with rain showers ending before 8 a.m.
Inaugurated in 2005, Churchill Downs’ “Stars of Tomorrow” programs have helped launched the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including more than 50 future Grade I winners led by Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Gun Runner; 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; 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge; and 2016 Belmont Stakes winner Creator.