11/28/2002 12:00AM

Champali gets toughest test of career

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - True, the cream of the 2-year-old crop was in Chicago five weeks ago for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. But, that doesn't mean a few colts and geldings in catch-up mode can't make strides by Kentucky Derby time next year - a fact that gives a race such as the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes its greatest meaning.

The Kentucky Jockey Club, a Churchill Downs fixture that will be run for the 76th time Saturday, has attracted exactly the kind of horses who seem primed to begin making an impact in the 2-year-old division. Three unbeaten horses - Champali, Cat Genius, and Soto - are among 12 colts and geldings entered in the Grade 2 race.

Champali, who posted an 8-1 upset in the Iroquois Stakes nearly four weeks ago with Pat Day aboard, will be trying to outrun his pedigree again. A Glitterman colt owned by a Wisconsin-based syndicate, Champali will start from post 1 in the 1 1/16-mile race. With Day scheduled to ride in California on Saturday, trainer Greg Foley has turned to John McKee, a 21-year-old apprentice seeking his first graded stakes win.

"I've worked [Champali] a few times before," McKee said. "He's always shown a lot of heart. I guess he showed that the first three times."

Cat Genius has been spectacular in winning his three races by a combined 27 lengths, although all three were in sprints. Trained by Tom Amoss, Cat Genius will start from the far outside post in his two-turn debut.

Soto, a colt by Dehere based at trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm training center in northeast Maryland, has shown tremendous potential in two East Coast wins.

Trainer Ken McPeek also has an unbeaten colt in the KJC, albeit one who made his career debut less than three weeks ago. Ten Cents a Shine, a colt by Devil His Due that McPeek calls the "most physically impressive" of the three horses he will run in the race.

"Obviously experience may come into play, but we think a lot of Ten Cents a Shine," McPeek said.

McPeek also will start Collateral Damage and White Cat. All three will run as separate betting interests.

Another interesting starter in the KJC is Domestic Dispute, who will make his two-turn debut for trainer Bob Baffert.

The KJC is the highlight of the 30th and final program of the Churchill fall meet. The 12-race card also includes the KJC's filly counterpart, the $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes. First post is 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

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