11/29/2003 12:00AM

Golden Rod: Be Gentle all the way

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In the $230,000 , Be Gentle ($6) took command soon after the start and held off two serious challenges to give trainer D. Wayne Lukas his record fifth victory in the Grade 2 race for 2-year-old fillies.

Be Gentle, owned by Tom VanMeter 2nd and ridden by John McKee, held a short lead over Lotta Kim from the start of the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod. Turning for home, both Lotta Kim and 62-1 shot Dynaville were poised to pass, but Be Gentle turned them back with relative ease, winning by a length in 1:45.91. Lotta Kim, ridden by Thompson, held second by a head over Dynaville.

Be Gentle, a Virginia-bred daughter of Tale of the Cat, was coming off an 11th-place finish in the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Before that, she led throughout to win the Grade 2 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland as the favorite. She now has won 4 of 7 starts and $523,078.

Lukas said Be Gentle was scheduled to return Monday to Santa Anita, where she would get a short rest before gearing up for the major races there this winter.

The win was the second in a graded stakes for McKee, who lost his apprenticeship in June. The first came aboard Tap the Admiral in the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill in July.

Penny's Fortune, a 17-1 shot at the time, was a late scratch, leaving a field of 11. With Sellers aboard, the filly refused to load, then incurred a minor injury when finally getting into the gate.