11/23/2011 3:17PM

Churchill Downs: Kentucky Jockey Club, Golden Rod draw 11-horse fields

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Barbara D. Livingston
Pocahontas winner On Fire Baby is the filly to beat in Saturday's Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Jockey Club and Golden Rod, the twin 2-year-old stakes that help wind down the Churchill Downs fall meet, long have mirrored each other in grade, purse, and distance. For the Saturday renewals, they also match in field size and competitiveness.

Eleven well-matched 2-year-olds – colts and geldings in the KJC, and fillies in the Golden Rod – will go postward when the Grade 2, $150,000 races are run at 1 1/16 miles as the anchors on the second Stars of Tomorrow card of the 21-day fall meet. All 12 Saturday races are for 2-year-olds.

The 68th Golden Rod (race 9) features the return of On Fire Baby, the Gary Hartlage-trained filly who upset the Pocahontas Stakes at 9-1. Hartlage trained Ornate, the dam of On Fire Baby, as well as several siblings, all for owner-breeder Anita Cauley.

“It’s a great family,” said Hartlage. “The good thing is they want more distance, and I think that’s the case with this filly – very much so.”

On Fire Baby, with Joe Johnson back to ride, will break in the middle of the field from post 6. Her competition includes a number of promising fillies with no more than a maiden victory, including Back Spin, Spirited Miss, Glinda the Good, and Karlovy Vary.

The 85th KJC Stakes (race 11) could have Gemologist (post 9), with Javier Castellano riding again for Todd Pletcher, as a slight favorite. The Tiznow colt is unbeaten in two starts and is making his stakes debut.

Other contenders include Ever So Lucky, a Jonathan Sheppard trainee who was a very impressive winner of a Nov. 11 maiden sprint at Churchill in his only career start; Optimizer, a late-running colt exiting the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for D. Wayne Lukas; Cyber Secret, a Belmont shipper trained by Chad Brown; and Atigun, a sharp last-out maiden winner going a mile for Ken McPeek.

The first Stars of Tomorrow card was run on opening day of the 21-day fall meet, Oct. 30, and about an hour after On Fire Baby prevailed, Motor City won the Iroquois. Trainer Ian Wilkes said he is bypassing the KJC to focus on a 3-year-old campaign for Motor City. Wilkes still has Timely Tally for the KJC.

Besides the two stakes, three allowances and seven maiden races also are on the Saturday card, when first post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern. The Golden Rod is set for 4:42, the KJC for 5:42, and the 12th race for 6:10.

Closing day is Sunday.

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