11/27/2008 1:00AM

Dream Empress, Sara Louise square off


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Dale Romans and Ken McPeek were kidding around last week at Churchill Downs as the second Stars of Tomorrow program approached. Both trainers knew they had a bunch of horses to enter, and McPeek was trying to goad Romans into a side wager about who would outdo whom on the day.

"We ended up not betting," Romans said.

There's plenty enough on the line, anyway, in many of the Saturday races, most notably the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. McPeek is running Dream Empress off a runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, while Romans is countering with Sara Louise, a highly impressive winner of the Pocahontas Stakes here four weeks ago.

Five other fillies will oppose them in what shapes up as a terrific 66th running of the $150,000 Golden Rod.

"Dream Empress is an awful nice filly, and it should be a great race," Romans said.

Romans has had a number of top horses go through his shed row in more than 20 years of training, including Roses in May and Kitten's Joy. And although Sara Louise has raced just three times, Romans is ready to include her in his all-time elite.

"She's coming into this one the right way, I know that," he said.

Sara Louise, with Robby Albarado to ride, will start from the rail, while Dream Empress, with Kent Desormeaux named to ride, will be just two doors down in post 3. Both figure to do their best from off the early pace, which could be contested by Rachel Alexandra and War Echo, given the lack of much early speed in the race.

In their respective last starts, Sara Louise rated kindly before surging to a 3 1/4-length triumph in the Nov. 1 Pocahontas, while Dream Empress was outkicked only by the likely divisional champion, Stardom Bound, in the

Oct. 24 Breeders' Cup.

If an upset is to occur, Rachel Alexandra is the most likely perpetrator. Second with a touch of trouble in the Pocahontas, the Medaglia d'Oro filly has been quite consistent in her five starts.

Super Poni, Dance With Daddy, and Pearl of Valor round out the field.

The Golden Rod, won in recent years by such standouts as Silverbulletday (1998), My Boston Gal (2002), and Lady Joanne (2006), goes as the ninth of

12 Saturday races.