11/24/2011 3:52PM

Churchill: Casse duo could surprise in Golden Rod


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Racing in the opening-day Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs, On Fire Baby lived up to the high expectations her connections always had for her, scoring by three-quarters of a length over And Why Not.

With And Why Not not returning in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Churchill, On Fire Baby’s chances of notching back-to-back victories would seem good − at least until the 10 other fillies in the Golden Rod are evaluated.

On Fire Baby faces a deep, talented group, including the uncoupled duo of Golden History and Spirited Miss from the Mark Casse stable. The two fillies, both owned by John Oxley, have the credentials to give On Fire Baby a battle.

Although Golden History fell three lengths short of On Fire Baby when fifth in the Pocahontas, she is a candidate to move up in the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod, having gained experience against winners and having training swiftly leading up to the race.

“All the signs say she should run a much improved race,” Casse said.

Purchased for $450,000 at auction earlier this year, Golden History has always been expected to produce on the racetrack. Casse thinks the time might be now, saying offspring of her sire, Medaglia d’Oro, begin to peak once they have started a few times.

Shaun Bridgmohan, Casse’s usual go-to rider in Kentucky, has the mount.

Javier Castellano, in from New York to ride Saturday, picks up the mount on Spirited Miss, who was a fast-closing second in the Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine on Oct. 8 going 1 1/16 miles.

Spirited Miss is tested against elite company; she finished fourth in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes on turf, in which eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Stephanie’s Kitten was third.

What is unknown is her dirt ability. She has raced exclusively on turf and Polytrack in her three-race career. Her works at Churchill this month have been moderate, though Casse said a Nov. 12 breeze in 1:02.40 was better than it seems; her final three furlongs went in “35 and change,” he said.

Other leading contenders include Customer Base, who shifts to dirt after running 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Nov. 4, and Glinda the Good, who was third in the Pocahontas.