10/31/2011 1:46PM

Churchill Downs: Motor City, On Fire Baby step up

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Barbara D. Livingston
Motor City, with Calvin Borel riding, wins the Iroquois.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Motor City and On Fire Baby both earned Beyer Speed Figures of 81 in their respective stakes victories Sunday on the Stars of Tomorrow opener at Churchill Downs, and both are prime candidates to return for the features on the second Stars program here Nov. 26.

Motor City, the only gelding in a field of seven, got a patented rail trip from jockey Calvin Borel in capturing the Grade 3, one-mile Iroquois and most likely will return for the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, said trainer Ian Wilkes.

“He came out of it in great shape this morning,” Wilkes said Monday.

Motor City is by Street Sense, who got similar rail runs under Borel in winning both the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the 2007 Kentucky Derby at Churchill. Wilkes had very close ties with Street Sense as the longtime business associate to trainer Carl Nafzger, and, as with Street Sense, Wilkes believes Motor City “has the ability to go long” – unlike his 2008 Iroquois winner, Capt. Candyman Can, the hard-knocking 5-year-old gelding who has earned more than $760,000, most of it in shorter races.

“Obviously we’d like to see him take after his daddy,” said Wilkes. “But if he turned out to be like the ‘Candyman,’ that wouldn’t be all bad, either.”

Wilkes is stabled in close proximity on the Churchill backside to Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage, the popular 64-year-old trainer who sent out On Fire Baby to an emotional victory in the Grade 2, one-mile Pocahontas. Wilkes said with a laugh that the question of who had the more raucous postrace celebration was “no contest,” since Hartlage and his many friends and family members are well-known locally for savoring the fruits of victory.

“I had to go off by myself for a minute to compose myself,” said Hartlage, who last won a Churchill stakes when Judge T C took the 1995 Clark Handicap. “I’d been telling everybody for a long time how good this filly is, and I’ve been trying to make sure I didn’t mess anything up. She really made us all proud.”

On Fire Baby prevailed despite not switching off her left lead down the stretch. “Maybe I’m old-school,” said her jockey, Joe Johnson, “but when they’re running the way she was, you’re probably better off leaving them alone. I thought about reaching down and trying to make her switch, but she was going too well for me to do that.”

Regarding running back in the Grade 2 Golden Rod on the next Stars card, Hartlage said, “We don’t know that for sure,” but whatever transpires, the filly will have an Oaklawn Park campaign in trying to make it back next spring for the Kentucky Oaks.

Solid figures posted

As usual, the Stars card showcased a number of promising juveniles, including Gemologist, a front-running winner at 1 1/16 miles in one of three allowances on the day. Gemologist, by Tiznow, is now 2 for 2 for WinStar Farm and trainer Todd Pletcher.

“Absolutely we’ll point to the Jockey Club,” said Pletcher assistant Michael McCarthy.

Gemologist earned a 74 Beyer Figure with his two-length triumph. Other Beyers of note from Sunday: Good Deed got an 81 with a 2 1/2-length score in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance for Steve Margolis; Unbridled’s Note got a 77 in winning a maiden sprint in his career debut for Steve Asmussen; and Wharton, another Asmussen maiden, got a 76 in a sprint win.

Besides Asmussen, the only other trainer to notch two wins on the opener was Margolis, who also sent out Miz Ida to a maiden score.

Bridgmohan wins first day back

Shaun Bridgmohan made a triumphant return to action when he guided Delightful Magic to a 7 1/2-length score in the Sunday finale. Bridgmohan had not ridden a race since Sept. 10, when he suffered a fractured collarbone in a spill at Kentucky Downs.

Bridgmohan had two earlier mounts on the day, netting a fifth and a second.

Bridgmohan, 32, has won 2,261 races since he began riding in the United States in 1997.

◗ While Delightful Magic won as an even-money favorite, a slew of longshots behind her (50-1, 9-1, 83-1, 27-1) led to a carryover of $6,144 in the $1 super high five for the 10th race Wednesday.

The 50-cent pick five on Sunday returned $12,908.40 for each perfect ticket from a pool of $95,640. Churchill still offers a $2 pick six, with a carryover of $6,069 in place for Wednesday.