11/24/2010 2:37PM

Astrology can use Kentucky Jockey Club as a springboard

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Barbara D. Livingston
Astrology, with Garrett Gomez up, wins the Iroquois.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Until Super Saver crossed under the line first in the 136th Kentucky Derby nearly seven months ago, it had been 36 years since the winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes had returned to Churchill Downs to capture the Derby.

With that victory there seems a little added significance to the KJC this year. And with Astrology, the solid favorite in the 84th running of the $150,000 KJC here Saturday, owning an unmistakable Derby pedigree, no one could blame his camp for thinking they might be back here with the colt for the 137th Derby next May.

Astrology, by A.P. Indy out of Quiet Eclipse, by Quiet American, clearly has the birthright to thrive at the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Derby. Astrology has emerged as a legitimate 2011 Derby hope for trainer Steve Asmussen and co-owner Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables following an injury to, and the retirement of, the brilliant Kantharos earlier this year.

Astrology, with Garrett Gomez to ride, was assigned post 5 in a field of seven 2-year-olds entered in the 1 1/16-mile KJC, one of two Grade 2, $150,000 stakes that anchor a “Stars of Tomorrow” card here Saturday. The filly counterpart, the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod Stakes, also drew a field of seven, headed by Aide and Kathmanblu.

The Golden Rod goes as the ninth and the KJC is the 11th on a 12-race card exclusively for 2-year-olds.

Cannonade, in 1973-74, had been the latest of four dual winners of the KJC and Derby before Super Saver became the fifth.

 

Duke of Mischief a serious threat

The last time Eibar Coa and David Fawkes were in town, they returned home to Florida as big winners after Big Drama captured the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The jockey-trainer tandem returns Friday with perhaps the most dangerous sleeper in the Clark Handicap field in Duke of Mischief, who was assigned the far outside post in the 1 1/8-mile race.

“We’re going to try to keep that Kentucky momentum going,” said Fawkes. “I actually like the outside post. The run to the first turn is long enough, and the colt has the speed to get a good position.”

Duke of Mischief, an earner of $955,642, is wheeling back on 12 days’ rest after finishing second as an odds-on favorite to Birdrun on the Nov. 13 Florida Million card at Calder.

“That’s the only thing I have to worry about, him coming back in less than two weeks,” said Fawkes. “But he’s sharp and happy and eating good, and Eibar didn’t beat him up too much in that last race after that other horse just scooted away from us. I like how we’re coming into this.”

 

Expect crowds on and off the track

Friday's 12-race card features a total of 141 horses, including also-eligibles, a big number befitting the big ontrack crowd sure to turn out. Three allowance races serve as secondary features, with a $68,540 turf route (race 3) being the richest. Boots Ahead, Gran Estreno, and Yate’s Black Cat look like the main contenders in that one.

The other allowances are a $61,280 main-track route (race 9) that is so well matched that the favorite, Party Hard, has been pegged at 4-1, and a similarly contentious turf route (race 10), worth $63,620, with Sweetest Song a 3-1 choice.

Mine That Bird to be celebrated

There is no stakes here Sunday, but there are at least a couple of reasons fans might want to turn out for the last of 21 fall programs: Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, will be saluted in a retirement farewell, and Churchill is giving away some nice-looking 2011 calendars to the first 5,000 fans.

For many years, the Churchill fall meet had ended the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with Turfway Park starting on Sunday, but the Florence, Ky., track gave up that date this year. Turfway begins four months of winter racing Thursday, Dec. 2.

◗ Jockey Garrett Gomez made a triumphant return to action by winning the third race here Wednesday aboard favored Happy Week ($3.80). Gomez had been out with a shoulder injury since winning the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Blame.