11/22/2012 3:35PM

Churchill Downs: Large, deep field squares off in Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Uncaptured, coming off a win in the Iroquois Stakes, is the likely favorite in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As the hair-splitting critiques of horses on the Kentucky Derby trail start coming to light next spring, surely one of the days being subjected to stringent evaluation will be Nov. 24.

That’s this Saturday, when the second of two Stars of Tomorrow programs at the 2012 Churchill Downs fall meet will be run. The Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes might well be the best of the 12 races on the card, with perhaps its deepest field in years, but other possible gold mines include its filly twin, the Grade 2 Golden Rod, as well as five allowances and five maiden special weight events.

Ken McPeek, who leads all trainers with 14 scheduled starters dispersed throughout the Saturday card, will saddle Frac Daddy as one of the likely choices in the 86th running of the $150,000 KJC Stakes, which drew 13 colts and geldings and goes as the 11th of 12 races on the 2-year-old-only program.

“It’s probably been years and years and years since I’ve been this excited about a young horse,” McPeek said. “He’s got the tools to be any kind. Obviously, this race will be a good litmus test to see where we stand with him, but I’d have to say if he can beat a horse like Uncaptured and knock one down like this, the sky’s the limit.”

Frac Daddy, with David Cohen to ride, will start from post 6 in the 1 1/16-mile KJC. A gray colt by the hot young sire Scat Daddy, he will be making his stakes debut after winning a two-turn maiden race by nearly 10 lengths here three weeks ago.

Uncaptured (post 4, Miguel Mena) is the deserving KJC favorite, having romped to a 5 1/2-length score in the one-mile Iroquois Stakes on the first Stars of Tomorrow card on opening day, Oct. 28. That marked the fourth stakes triumph already for Uncaptured, for whom the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was under serious consideration before he was dealt his only defeat in six career starts when fifth as the 2-5 favorite in the Grey Stakes at Woodbine in early October.

“The way he ran in the Iroquois, maybe we should’ve run in the Breeders’ Cup,” said Mark Casse, who trains the Ontario-bred Uncaptured for John Oxley. “But you can’t really second-guess something like that. We’re just looking for a nice race to end the year and go on down to Florida with him for the winter and hopefully have him back here for the [Kentucky] Derby.”

One of the handful of dangerous-looking challengers in the KJC lineup is Dewey Square (post 9, Corey Lanerie), who has not really been tested in going 2 for 2 so far. Dewey Square, by Bernardini, earned Beyer Speed Figures (67, 77) that thus far are inferior to some of the other top contenders in here.

“This is a serious, serious racehorse,” said trainer Dale Romans, who has 11 other scheduled starters on the card. “I don’t understand why his numbers are that low, except he has pretty much goofed off in his wins, pricking his ears and switching leads back and forth. We are really, really looking forward to how he matches up with these nice ones.”

Other notables in the field include the lone Grade 1 winner, Joha (post 10, Joe Rocco Jr.), who led gate to wire in taking the Breeders’ Futurity over the Keeneland Polytrack before finishing eighth in the BC Juvenile Turf; Tesseron (post 8, Joe Bravo), runner-up in the Grey in just his second start; and Positively (post 12, Calvin Borel), the Iroquois runner-up.

Under the new guidelines set up by Churchill governing Derby eligibility, the top four KJC finishers will earn points on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

First post Saturday is 12:40 p.m. Eastern, with the KJC being run under the lights at 5:35. The Golden Rod (race 9), which drew nine fillies, goes about an hour earlier. The 21-day fall meet ends Sunday with the Grade 3 River City Handicap for older turf runners.