11/26/2011 7:49PM

Churchill Downs: Gemologist edges away to win Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Gemologist, with Javier Castellano up, pulls away from Ever So Lucky to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Let the comparisons begin. Gemologist followed in the early footsteps of a WinStar Farm colt named Super Saver by posting a hard-fought victory Saturday in the 85th running of the Grade 2, $178,200 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, remaining unbeaten in the process while evoking this obvious bit of history: Super Saver, also owned by WinStar and trained by Todd Pletcher, won the KJC before returning to capture the Kentucky Derby the following spring.

“I’m sure we’ll get asked about it a lot now,” said Elliott Walden, the WinStar president who accompanied farm owner Kenny Troutt to the winner’s circle.

Gemologist, with Javier Castellano aboard, pounced from his comfortable stalking position to contest the lead in the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile KJC after Ever So Lucky, the 8-5 favorite in a field of 11, finally had put away Seve, a pesky 43-1 shot who had dogged him on the lead from the start. Gemologist and Ever So Lucky, ridden by Julien Leparoux, then engaged in their own duel to inside the eighth pole, where Gemologist began edging away to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths.

Timely Tally launched a torrid late run to be third, just a neck behind Ever So Lucky, with Optimizer another half-length back in fourth.

Gemologist, the second choice, returned $8.60 after finishing in 1:44.46 over a fast track in a race run under the lights as darkness fell on a warm Saturday evening.

Gemologist, a bay colt by Tiznow, previously won a maiden sprint at Turfway Park and a two-turn allowance at Churchill. Michael McCarthy, deputizing for Pletcher while his boss watched from New York, said Gemologist and most of their Churchill stable were scheduled to depart Monday for their winter base at the Palm Meadows training facility in south Florida.

Super Saver was the first horse to pull the KJC-Derby double since Cannonade did it in 1973-74.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard said he was thrilled with the performance of Ever So Lucky, considering it was just the second career start for the Indian Charlie colt, and his first in a stakes and around two turns.

“I thought he ran just great,” Sheppard said.

Ian Wilkes, trainer of Timely Tally, said his colt ran “unbelievable . . . he was the only one really closing.”

After the top four, the complete order was Atigun, Africanist, Cyber Secret, Saint Honore, Seve, Fine, and Mr. Prankster.

Gemologist keyed a $2 exacta (9-1) worth $28, a $1 trifecta (9-1-3) of $156.80, and a dime superfecta (9-1-3-6) worth $37.

The KJC, the anchor race on the second Stars of Tomorrow program of the 21-day fall meet, was run about an hour after its sister race, the 68th running of the Grade 2 Golden Rod, which was won in highly impressive fashion by On Fire Baby ($7.40). All 12 Saturday races were for 2-year-olds.

In a turf allowance carded between the two stakes, Daddy Nose Best ($3.60), wheeling back from a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, was a very easy winner for Leparoux and trainer Steve Asmussen.

The victory was the 14th of the meet for Asmussen and sets up an interesting final program on Sunday. Asmussen, who has been the leading trainer at the last five Churchill meets, trails Mike Maker by a 15-14 count into Sunday, when both are scheduled to have starters in three of the 11 races. Maker was the last trainer to win a Churchill training title other than Asmussen, having set a fall-meet record with 31 winners in 2008.

Post time for the Sunday finale is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.