11/24/2007 1:00AM

Anak Nakal stars on getaway day

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Nick Zito showed off his bench strength Saturday when Anak Nakal, getting a perfect stalking trip under Julien Leparoux, rallied to win the $276,750 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, the highlight of a Stars of Tomorrow program that closed the 21-day Churchill Downs fall meet.

Zito already has the early favorite for the 2008 Kentucky Derby in War Pass, and although most fans preferred his other starter in the KJC, Cool Coal Man, it was Anak Nakal who was best on this day. After tracking a three-horse pace battle that included Halo Najib, the 7-5 favorite, and Cool Coal Man, the 5-2 second choice, Anak Nakal surged past that tired trio from the outside, then finished a half-length clear of Blackberry Road, who made a torrid rail run under jockey Calvin Borel.

Anak Nakal, a Victory Gallop colt owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds, returned $18.40 as fourth choice in a field of seven after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.16 over a fast track.

Racecar Rhapsody finished a head behind Blackberry Road in third, with Halo Najib fading to fifth and Cool Coal Man winding up sixth and last.

The KJC victory capped a remarkable bookend for Leparoux. The 24-year-old Frenchman swept all four major 2-year-old stakes at the meet, taking the Pocahontas and Iroquois on opening day, and the KJC and its sister race, the Golden Rod Stakes, aboard Pure Clan, on closing day.

For Zito, the KJC victory was his second, following The Cliff's Edge in 2003. Anak Nakal, he said, "is a nice horse. He reminds me a lot of The Cliff's Edge. When you win a race like this, you just want to have your eyes on the [Kentucky] Derby."

Closing day marked the second Stars of Tomorrow program of the meet, with all 12 races restricted to 2-year-olds. The first "Stars" card was run opening day, Oct. 28.

Golden Rod: Pure Clan kicks in late

Pure Clan stayed unbeaten in four starts when she pulled clear to a two-length triumph in the Grade 2 Golden Rod. She returned $7.80 as second choice after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.59.

Even after staying closer to the early pace than in her previous race, the Pocahontas Stakes on opening day, Pure Clan still had a powerful late kick. Leparoux kept her a few lengths off a pace set by C J's Leelee, and after swinging out to get clear for the drive, she took off.

"At the quarter pole, she really kicked in," said Leparoux. "She is getting better every race."

C J's Leelee held second, another three-quarters of a length before Turn Away, the even-money favorite, who had traffic trouble under Rafael Bejarano. A Juddmonte Farms homebred, Turn Away was bottled up on both turns, then had to swerve through traffic down the stretch while not seriously threatening the winner.

Pure Clan, bred and owned by Lewis Lakin, is a Kentucky-bred by Pure Prize. She will head soon to Oaklawn Park, where her 73-year-old trainer, Bob Holthus, will point her to a campaign designed for the Fantasy Stakes in April and Kentucky Oaks in May.

Grand Canyon: Old Man Buck rallies

Old Man Buck ($6.80) took the overland route under Kent Desormeaux when looping the field and proving easily best in a field of eight in the $66,000 Grand Canyon.

Owned by Lawrence Carroll and trained by Ken McPeek, Old Man Buck was coming off a distant sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He won by 2 1/4 lengths as the slight favorite, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.84 over a yielding course. Why Tonto was second and Seaspeak was third.

Tight finish for rider and trainer titles

The battle for leading jockey could not have been any closer or more dramatic. Leparoux and Borel entered the last race of the meet, a 1o1/8-mile maiden race, tied with 26 winners, and in the final yards, it appeared that Borel, riding Revenge Is Sweet, would win. But a late rush by Aquarian and Leparoux produced a nose victory, giving Leparoux his first Churchill fall title, and third overall.

Steve Asmussen held on to win the training title by a 14-13 count over Dale Romans.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey won the owner's title with seven wins, giving them a record 12 titles at Churchill.

* Absolutely Cindy ($29) rallied to win the $64,900 Caressing Stakes for Keith Kinmon, who bred, owns, and trains the Arch filly. Larry Melancon was aboard Absolutely Cindy, who finished strongly on the outside of the turf course to hit the wire a length ahead of Steady Patter in a field of 11 fillies. The winner ran the mile in 1:39.96.