05/01/2009 11:00PM

Kodiak Kowboy consistently speedy

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Barbara D. Livingston
Kodiak Kowboy, exercising this week with jockey Gabriel Saez, will be favored in the Churchill Downs Stakes after recording triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in six of his last eight races.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Until this year, the Churchill Downs Stakes was run under handicap conditions. But the new allowance conditions of the Grade 2 race look fair enough, as Kodiak Kowboy, winner of the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in his last start, will spot his eight opponents from four to six pounds while carrying 124.

Kodiak Kowboy, trained by Larry Jones, looks like a deserving favorite in the $250,000 CD Stakes, especially considering his Beyer Speed Figures. The consistent 4-year-old has earned triple-digit Beyers in six of his last eight races, including a 104 when he won the April 4 Carter at Aqueduct.

Besides Kodiak Kowboy, the seven-furlong race also drew such talents as My Pal Charlie, winner of the Super Derby last fall, and Sok Sok, a winner of five races, including four stakes, from nine career starts. They will start from opposite ends of the starting gate Saturday, with Garrett Gomez breaking My Pal Charlie from the rail and Shaun Bridgmohan loading-and-going with Sok Sok from post 9.

My Pal Charlie comes off a decent third place-finish in the April 11 Commonwealth Stakes over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland.

"I'd had it in the back of my mind to shorten him up, and we finally did it at Keeneland," said trainer Al Stall Jr. "He ran pretty good, although I thought he had a bit of an awkward trip down on the rail. Saturday we'll get the final answer about whether he can be as good going short when he moves over to the dirt."

Sok Sok has run particularly well at Fair Grounds, but trainer Steve Asmussen would like to see him be as effective at Churchill, where he won at first asking nearly two years ago.

"I'm just hoping he can run to his Fair Grounds performances," said Asmussen. "If he does, we could be all right."

The CD Stakes leads off the Saturday pick six as the first of six straight stakes, ending with the Derby. Post time for the CD Stakes, the sixth race, is 1:21 p.m. Eastern.

Distaff Turf: Visit looks to rebound

Visit should be ready to pay her first visit to the winner's circle since shipping to the U.S. for the 2008 Breeders' Cup when she tops a field of 11 filly and mare grass specialists in the $200,000 Distaff Turf Mile.

Visit began her American racing career with a big performance, finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf after taking the lead briefly in early stretch. She followed with another strong effort, a third in the Grade 1 Matriarch, but was the beaten favorite in her two starts this season, the Grade 1 Santa Maria and Grade 2 Santa Ana handicaps.

"Her last race wasn't bad," said trainer Bobby Frankel referring to the Santa Ana when Visit was beaten a neck by Belmont Cat. "She was rank in the race."

Her other loss this year came over the synthetic Pro-Ride at Santa Anita.

"A mile is a real good distance for her and I think she's ready to run a good race on Saturday," Frankel said. "The only thing that concerns me is the rain. I don't know how she handles soft ground."

Visit will face a field that includes Ballymore Lady and Elusive Lady, who split a pair of decisions earlier this year at Tampa Bay Downs. Ballymore Lady outfinished Elusive Lady by a neck to win the Grade 3 Endeavour. Elusive Lady turned the tables when beaten a nose by Backseat Rhythm in the Grade 3 Hillsborough with Ballymore Lady finishing another three-quarters of a length farther back in third.

California invaders Dawn After Dawn and Sugar Mint could prove key contenders. Dawn After Dawn won a pair of overnight stakes this past winter at Santa Anita before finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap. Sugar Mint has won two of her three starts at Santa Anita after beginning her career in England.- Mike Welsch

Eight Belles: A win would be special for Jones

Churchill Downs honored the memory of last year's Derby runner-up by renaming the La Troienne Stakes the Eight Belles. Larry Jones, who trained Eight Belles, hopes to honor his fill by winning the race.

Jones will send out both Just Jenda and Warrior Made in the Grade 3, $100,000 Eight Belles at 7 1/2 furlongs over the dirt track. Eight Belles had to be euthanized after breaking down while galloping out after last year's Derby.

"It would be very special to get to win it,'' Jones said.

Just Jenda, owned by Larry's wife, Cindy, is the stronger half of the entry. She has won 4 of 7 starts, including the Grade 3 Honeybee two starts back before finishing third to Rachel Alexandra in the Fantasy. Just Jenda is cutting back to a one-turn race for the first time since last fall, when she won two six-furlong races at Philadelphia Park.

"We kept her works short trying to get her a little more pumped up,'' Jones said. "It worked with Hard Spun, it ought to work with her. She's a very talented filly.''

In 2007, Jones campaigned Hard Spun through all three Triple Crown races and the Haskell, all two-turn races. He then won the Grade 1 King's Bishop, a seven-furlong race at Saratoga.

Jones's other entrant, Warrior Maid, is 3 for 4 around one turn, albeit mostly against Louisiana-bred company.

Steve Asmussen has two shots to ruin Jones's day in this spot. Four Gifts, who finished ahead of Just Jenda in the Silverbulletday, won a first-level allowance sprint here last fall. Auspicious was visually impressive in her first two starts before finishing third in the Prima Donna Stakes at Oaklawn last out.

The Grade 1 winner Laragh is entered in here, but was expected to run in Friday's Edgewood Stakes on the turf.

- David Grening