11/23/2006 12:00AM

Dreams of springtime begin


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There seems no better way to stage a sneak preview of the 2007 spring meet at Churchill Downs than by having high-class 2-year-olds close out the 2006 fall meet.

To that end, the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes will anchor the closing-day "Stars of Tomorrow" card Saturday, when all 12 races are restricted to 2-year-olds. While it has been more than three decades since a KJC winner wheeled back the following year to win the Kentucky Derby (Cannonade, 1973-74), 10 of the last 15 winners of the KJC have wound up running in the Derby after developing into major factors in the division.

Indeed, Derby dreams are what the connections of the nine KJC starters are hoping will begin to materialize Saturday at Churchill. Tiz Wonderful, a Tiznow colt who clearly has lived up to his name thus far, looks like a solid favorite to emerge from the 1 1/16-mile race as the top Derby hopeful, even though he has yet to start around two turns, having won a maiden sprint at Saratoga and the one-turn-mile Iroquois Stakes here four weeks ago.

"We're really excited about leading him over there," said Scott Blasi, who trains Tiz Wonderful for the Stonestreet Stables of Jess Jackson. "I know he hasn't gone the two turns yet, but every indication he's given us is that he'll be able to handle it."

Last year, Blasi had a hand in winning the KJC with Private Vow, who was trained by Steve Asmussen. Blasi, the longtime assistant, has been in charge of the stable since Asmussen began serving a six-month suspension in July.

John Velazquez has the mount on Tiz Wonderful, who will break from post 3.

For less chalky alternatives, the Grade 2 KJC also drew U D Ghetto, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and the seventh-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile three weeks ago, and What a Tale, the Iroquois runner-up. The others in the field are Going Ballistic, Starbase, Mr Blackstone, Dominican, Any Given Saturday, and Joe Got Even.

Borel hurt in spill

Calvin Borel, who was scheduled to ride Starbase for trainer D. Wayne Lukas in the KJC, suffered an arm injury of unknown severity Thursday in a nasty turf-course spill when his mount in the fifth race, Pew, broke down on the far turn. Borel was immediately transported to nearby Norton Audubon Hospital for further examination and treatment. He took off all remaining Thursday mounts, including Ermine in the featured Falls City Handicap.

Borel, 40, has been the fall meet's leading rider since opening day of the 21-day stand. He clung to a slim lead over Shaun Bridgmohan as the Thursday card unfolded, but if he were to miss the last two 12-race cards of the meet, it seems Bridgmohan would have the upper hand for the meet title.

Pew, a 3-year-old Pulpit gelding trained by Ian Wilkes, was euthanized.

* Besides the KJC and its sister race, the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes (race 9), the closing-day card is full of intriguing races under the "Stars of Tomorrow" banner. The program also offers a pair of overnight turf stakes, the Grand Canyon (race 2) for colts and geldings and the Caressing (race 10) for fillies; four entry-level allowances (races 4, 5, 7, and 8); and four maiden special weight races, including the 12th and final race, which will be run at 1 1/8 miles, making it the longest race for 2-year-olds in Kentucky so far this year.

* Morris Krebs and Tim Gardner, both of Louisville, earned berths in the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas in January by finishing first and second in the finals of the Churchill fall meet handicapping contest Wednesday.