11/27/2009 1:00AM

Golden Rod distance ideal for Sassy Image


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Dale Romans said last fall that Sara Louise was the best filly he had ever trained in more than 20 years on the racetrack - even after she was soundly beaten on closing day by Rachel Alexandra in the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Romans is still sticking to his guns: After all, not only did Sara Louise have a productive campaign at 3 for her new Godolphin Racing connections, but she remains the last horse to have beaten Rachel Alexandra, having done so in the 2008 Pocahontas Stakes.

Romans isn't about to declare Sassy Image, the 2009 Pocahontas winner, in the same league as Sara Louise, but he sure is enjoying having her around the barn. His older brother Jerry Romans Jr. is the owner of Sassy Image, a late-running filly who figures as a solid favorite in a field of seven entered in the 66th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 Golden Rod on Saturday.

"She's a big, strong filly, getting better all the time," said Dale Romans. "The two turns should be right up her alley."

With Robby Albarado to ride, Sassy Image will break from the favorable rail post in the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod, the co-feature of the closing-day card at Churchill. After racing toward the back of the pack in the one-turn-mile Pocahontas on Nov. 1, Sassy Image just kept coming, finally drawing clear in the late stages to prevail by two lengths over Decelerator as the 2-1 favorite.

Decelerator, as the winner of the Debutante here in June, is the only other stakes winner in the lineup. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Golden Rod a record four times (1990, 1994, 1997, 2003), Decelerator had gone off form before rebounding with her belated run to be second in the Pocahontas at 7-1. Terry Thompson has the call on Decelerator, who will break from post 5.

The third and fourth finishers in the Pocahontas are back, too. All Due Respect, a 23-1 pace presence throughout the Pocahontas when wearing blinkers for the first time, held well to be third, just a head behind Decelerator, while Vivid Colors also was an early factor before settling for fourth as the 7-2 second choice.

All Due Respect is one of two maidens in the race, along with the Romans-trained Quiet Temper, who races uncoupled for wagering purposes from her stablemate.

The other new shooters in the Golden Rod are Upperline, a last-out winner over Vivid Colors and six colts in a Polytrack allowance at Keeneland, and Canadian Storm, a one-time winner from two starts.

Besides Rachel Alexandra, the Golden Rod can claim Barely Even (1971), Chris Evert (1973), and Silverbulletday (1998) among its most famous winners.