11/23/2006 1:00AM

Change Up tops Golden Rod cast


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It would have been extremely difficult for the Klein family and Steve Flint to have enjoyed a better Churchill Downs fall meet than they already have, but the owner-trainer team will try to put an exclamation point on an extraordinary month when they send out Change Up as a solid favorite Saturday in the $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes, the co-feature of the closing-day program.

Richard Klein and his parents, Bert and Elaine, appear certain to win their first-ever owner's title at Churchill, having won with 8 of 17 starters through Thursday. Flint had an identical 8-for-17 record and a leg up on several others in the race to finish second in the trainer standings behind Scott Blasi.

Far more importantly, both to the Kleins and Flint, is how Change Up does in the Grade 2 Golden Rod. The homebred filly jump-started the meet with a rousing victory as the favorite in the Pocahontas Stakes on the Oct. 29 opening-day program, so not only would a repeat triumph in the Golden Rod yield a perfect symmetry, but also it would automatically make Change Up a top-shelf candidate for the 133rd Kentucky Oaks next May.

John Velazquez will ride Change Up in the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod, which drew a field of 10 2-year-old fillies as the ninth of 12 Saturday races. Prior to the Pocahontas, Change Up hinted she might become one of the best in her class by winning 2 of 4 starts, the most notable triumph coming in the Aug. 6 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies.

Change Up will break from post 5 against an interesting assortment of rivals. Among her more capable foes are Cohiba Miss (post 9), winner of the Sept. 30 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies in her most recent start; Lady Joanne (post 3), a Carl Nafzger-trained filly who finished a creditable third in her stakes debut, in just her third career start, in the Pocahontas; and High Heels (post 1), who looked particularly sharp in a Nov. 8 maiden romp at Churchill for veteran trainer Gary "Red Dog" Hartlage.

The rest of the Golden Rod cast is Stellas New Groove (post 2), Wellofaprize (4), Pro Pink (6), Time's Mistress (7), Littlebitabling (8), and Lady Corredor (10).

The Golden Rod, named for the official flower of Kentucky, dates to 1910. The 2005 winner was French Park, ridden by Mark Guidry and trained by Helen Pitts.