11/29/2008 12:00AM

Beethoven prevails in stretch duel


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One was very easy, the other very tough. In sweeping the twin Grade 2 stakes Saturday at Churchill Downs, jockey Calvin Borel urged Beethoven to win a three-horse photo in the Kentucky Jockey Club an hour after riding Rachel Alexandra to a romp in the Golden Rod.

By winning both closing-day features, Borel took three of the four Grade 2 stakes that ended the 26-day meet. He also won the Falls City Handicap on Thursday aboard Miss Isella.

Beethoven, by Sky Mesa, emerged victorious in the $168,000 KJC after a ferocious three-way stretch duel. Slipping through along the rail at the quarter pole, he outfought the early leader and pacesetter, Capt. Candyman Can, while holding off a sustained outside run from Giant Oak. The win margin was a neck, with Giant Oak another neck ahead of Capt. Candyman Can in a field of nine.

Beethoven is owned by John Oxley and trained by John T. Ward Jr., the same team that won the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos.

"He hung in there and run a big race," Borel said.

Beethoven, now a winner in 3 of 5 starts, returned $14 after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.14 over a fast track.

The KJC and Golden Rod highlighted a Stars of Tomorrow program, a full day of racing restricted to 2-year-olds.

In the $162,900 Golden Rod, Rachel Alexandra ran virtually the whole way with her ears pricked and easily turned back a mild bid from Sara Louise in posting a 4 3/4-length victory. War Echo, closest to the winner for much of the way, faded to third, another 7 1/4 lengths behind Sara Louise, while Dream Empress, the 7-5 favorite off big back-to-back efforts in synthetic races, failed to fire when fourth.

Trained by Hal Wiggins, Rachel Alexandra finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.08 and returned $8.20 as third choice in a field of six fillies. She had been second to Sara Louise in her last race, the Nov. 1 Pocahontas Stakes.

"Calvin rode a great race," Wiggins said.

Dolph Morrison is the owner and breeder of Rachel Alexandra, a filly by Medaglia d'Oro out of a mare that Morrison raced, Lotta Kim, who was second in the 2003 Golden Rod.

Mena guides Proceed Bee to upset

Miguel Mena bounced back from a Friday spill to win three races on the card, most notably an upset aboard Proceed Bee ($44) in the $57,200 Grand Canyon, a 1 1/16-mile overnight handicap.

Proceed Bee, owned by Bill Stiritz and based at Fairmount Park with trainer Terry Gestes, laid just off the pace before using a sustained run to finish three-quarters of a length before Maryland invader Smart Shot in a field of 12. Proceed Bee finished in 1:46.61 over firm turf.

Mena, 22, was shaken but not seriously injured when thrown from his mount, Dominic's Desire, in the last race Friday, a turf sprint.

Mena also won allowance races Saturday aboard Silver City ($17) and She's Extreme ($23.80).

War Tigress takes advantage of trip

War Tigress ($25.20) capped off a big meet for 48-year-old jockey Julio Garcia by capturing the filly counterpart to the Grand Canyon, the $57,200 Caressing, after having clearer sailing than the runner-up, Striking Dancer.

War Tigress, owned by Ann Lorenson Lynch and trained by Jeff Thornbury, was always close to the pace. While a gang of chasers crowded together turning for home, War Tigress was already clear and she got to the wire three-quarters of a length ahead of Striking Dancer, the 13-10 favorite who edged out Abbott Hall in a field of 11.

War Tigress, by War Chant, finished a mile in 1:38.83 with her third win from four starts.

* Curlin was bid a fond farewell by the Churchill crowd when the all-time North American earnings leader was briefly paraded in the paddock and on the racetrack following the fifth race.

Barbara Banke, the wife of majority owner Jess Jackson, and trainer Steve Asmussen and his family were among those participating in a brief tribute in the winner's circle. Fans applauded politely and took photographs of the 4-year-old colt.

* Records for most wins were set in each of the three human categories at the meet. Ken and Sarah Ramsey led the owners with 24 wins, Mike Maker led the trainers with 31, and Julien Leparoux led the jockeys with 63. All were publicly honored for their achievements during the Saturday card.

Leparoux won four races Sunday, including the meet finale on Au Moon ($10.80).

* Jockey E.T. Baird, who was involved in the same spill as Mena on Friday, took off all his Saturday mounts because of soreness in several areas. Baird's next main venue is Gulfstream Park.