11/29/2010 2:51PM

Kathmanblu sets sights on Kentucky Oaks

Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs
Kathmanblu scores a dominant 8 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Once again the possibility clearly exists that horses from the “Stars of Tomorrow” program will be back to make an impact at Churchill Downs in the spring. Few people would be surprised to see any of the top three finishers in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club return next May for the 137th Kentucky Derby, but the brightest prospect for future stardom had to be Kathmanblu, winner of the Golden Rod, the other Grade 2 stakes run here Saturday.

Switched to the dirt after a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Kathmanblu looked sensational in capturing the Golden Rod by 8 1/2 lengths. Her time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:44.48, which was .83 of a second faster than Santiva took in winning a three-horse photo over Astrology and Major Gain at the same distance in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

“She’s good right now, there’s no question,” said Ken McPeek, who trains Kathmanblu for a group known as Five D Thoroughbreds, headed by Lexington orthopedic surgeon Bill Dobozi.

The Kentucky Oaks is the obvious target for Kathmanblu, said McPeek.

WATCH REPLAY: Kathmanblu captures the Golden Rod >>

“We’ll run her twice down in Florida and try to bring her back here at a peak,” he said.

Likewise, Santiva is headed to Florida with trainer Eddie Kenneally, who said the colt is “absolutely” a prime candidate for the Triple Crown trail.

Kathmablu earned an 86 Beyer Speed Figure, and Santiva got a 78.

Since the Stars program was inaugurated in 2005 under the tenure of then-racing secretary Doug Bredar, there already have been a slew of top horses to graduate from it, including Grade 1 winners and millionaires Rachel Alexandra, Super Saver, Court Vision, Pure Clan, Macho Again, and Any Given Saturday.

Brethren, Tapizar impress in wins

Besides the two stakes, the Stars program showcased a number of other intriguing prospects, most notably Brethren and Tapizar. Brethren, a half-brother to 2010 Derby winner Super Saver, was sharp in remaining unbeaten in two starts in capturing a one-mile allowance by 1 3/4 lengths, while Tapizar was a 10 1/2-length winner of a 1 1/16-mile maiden race in 1:44.19.

Brethren got an 84 Beyer, and Tapizar got an 89.

One of a handful of surprises on the Stars card was the allowance victory by Bellaridge, who tallied by three lengths over Hailey d’Oro, a 2-5 favorite.

“We’re going to Gulfstream again this year with 15 head, and it’s nice to have a good filly like her coming with us,” trainer Buff Bradley said.

Lopresti still happy with Successful Dan

Fans were still buzzing through the weekend about how eventful the Clark Handicap was Friday. Successful Dan finished first but was disqualified to third for stretch interference in a wildly run race that also necessitated the disqualification of Demarcation from fourth to last.

Despite being very disappointed with the ultimate placings, Charlie Lopresti, trainer of Successful Dan, said he was extremely pleased with how the 4-year-old gelding ran and that he is excited about bringing him back next year.

“He’ll stay at the farm [in Lexington] and get a little time off,” said Lopresti, who stays in Kentucky year-round. “He ran a winning race. I thought he was tons the best.”

Giant Oak, awarded victory in the Clark, was sent Sunday to Ocala, where he will get some time off before gearing up for his 5-year-old campaign.

Asmussen, Leparoux win meet titles

Asmussen was the leading trainer here for the ninth time, racking up 16 wins during the 21-day meet that ended Sunday.

No trainer was hotter at meet’s end than Dale Romans, who entered Friday with a 4-for-52 record at the stand. Romans sent out two winners on each of the last three days to finish second to Asmussen with 10 wins from 70 starts. Among the horses who came through for Romans were C.S. Silk and Guys Reward, who posted dominant victories as heavy favorites in the two turf allowances that anchored the closing-day program.

Julien Leparoux won the jockey title for the seventh time, with 28 winners, two more than Robby Albarado, while Ken and Sarah Ramsey, whose silks were carried to victory six times at the meet, won the meet title for a 17th time, extending their own record.

Churchill Downs Inc. tracks have a policy of not releasing attendance and handle figures, so that information is not readily available.

Bridgmohan, Homeister finish up strong

Several other jockeys enjoyed an outstanding last couple of weeks to the meet, most notably Shaun Bridgmohan, Rosemary Homeister Jr., and Marcelino Pedroza.

Bridgmohan won the Clark with Giant Oak and the Kentucky Jockey Club on Santiva and finished with a solid 23-for-102 mark, good for third in the standings. Homeister, the second-leading female rider of all time with more than 2,400 victories, was fourth with 19 wins in her first-ever meet in Kentucky, while Pedroza was the leading apprentice with nine wins, including back-to-back triumphs on the Friday card.

◗ Mine That Bird, the recently retired 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, was given an appropriate salute and sendoff before and after the seventh race Sunday. His owners, Leonard Blach and Mark Allen, and his former trainer, Chip Woolley, began the long van ride back to New Mexico with the gelding Monday morning.

◗ Leparoux and Kent Desormeaux were suspended three racing days apiece by the Churchill stewards for their roles in the disqualifications of their mounts in the Clark. Penalties for both jockeys run Thursday through Saturday.

◗ Mike Hargrave, who has been the stall superintendent at Churchill for 31 years, is retiring Dec. 31 at age 62. His son, Steve, 40, is replacing him.