11/25/2010 12:33PM

Astrology figures to be out front in Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Astrology will try to build on his Iroquois Stakes win in Saturday's Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Steve Asmussen has trained the last three winners of the Horse of the Year title in North America, those being Curlin (2007-08) and Rachel Alexandra (2009), both of them owned primarily by the Stonestreet Stables of Jess Jackson. It follows, then, that Asmussen knows a good horse when he has one in the barn.

So when asked to size up the potential of a colt named Astrology, who will be a solid favorite Saturday in the 84th Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, Asmussen was understandably reserved.

“He’s a beautiful, talented horse,” he said. “Hopefully, there are big things in the future for him. But we really don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. He’s got to run well Saturday in the Kentucky Jockey Club, which we think is the right spot for him. After he runs, we can talk more about it.”

Astrology, by A.P. Indy, was a clear-cut winner of the Iroquois Stakes on Oct. 31, opening day of the Churchill fall meet and the first “Stars of Tomorrow” card this fall. The KJC, along with its filly counterpart, the Golden Rod Stakes, highlight the second “Stars” program here Saturday, a 12-race card exclusively for 2-year-olds. Both stakes are Grade 2, $150,000 events at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, and both drew fields of seven.

Astrology, with Garrett Gomez back aboard, will break from post 5 in the KJC, which is carded as the 11th race and goes at 5:42 p.m. Eastern, meaning it will be run under the Churchill lights. In all four prior outings, Astrology has been on or near the early lead, tactics he most likely will employ again Saturday in the absence of an abundance of speed in against him.

One of his main rivals could be Halo’s Thunder, a colt who came flying, albeit quite belatedly, when fourth in just his second career start in the one-mile Iroquois.

“He’s still learning,” trainer Ken McPeek said.

Other KJC possibilities include Santiva, runner-up in the Breeders’ Futurity last month at Keeneland, and Major Gain, winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity two starts back.

Five horses have won the KJC at 2 and then the Kentucky Derby the following spring at 3: Reigh Count, Clyde Van Dusen, Twenty Grand, Cannonade, and Super Saver.

In the Golden Rod (race 9), McPeek may have the filly to beat in Kathmanblu, who will have Julien Leparoux aboard when breaking from post 4. Kathmanblu has made 4 of her 5 career starts on turf, most recently finishing a creditable third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, so the transition to dirt is her main issue.

“She’s trained well enough over it, and I think she’s good enough to handle the switch,” McPeek said.

Aide, with Gomez riding for trainer Al Stall Jr., figures as her chief threat from post 1. The Adele Dilschneider homebred won by nearly 20 lengths, albeit versus considerably softer opposition, in an allowance route on the first “Stars” card.

The Golden Rod is missing the impressive winner of the Pocahontas, Dancinginherdreams, who is finished racing for the year, although the respective third and fourth finishers from that race, Missyoulikecrazy and Gran Lioness, are wheeling back Saturday.

The KJC and Golden Rod aren’t the only races that might yield the proverbial star of tomorrow. Also on tap are four allowances (races 2, 5, 7, and 10), with six maiden special-weight races filling out a terrific card.

The seventh race, a $61,280, one-turn mile, features a second career appearance by Hailey d’Oro, another Stonestreet and Asmussen runner. Hailey d’Oro was sensational in easily winning her heavily touted debut on the first “Stars” card and has the look of a star in the making.

The colt-and-gelding division of the Hailey d’Oro race goes as the 10th, and the favorite could be Brethren, who has the same owner (WinStar Farm), trainer (Todd Pletcher), and dam (Supercharger) as Super Saver. Brethren was a winner in his lone prior start, an October maiden race at Belmont Park.

The 21-day fall meet ends Sunday with a sendoff to the recently retired Mine That Bird and a 2011 calendar giveaway. First post both days is 12:40 p.m.