11/27/2003 12:00AM

Lukas-McPeek showdown


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - D. Wayne Lukas and Ken McPeek will be firing both barrels Saturday. They each have two starters for the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs, and their respective camps believe they have two excellent chances.

The Lukas fillies, Be Gentle and Stellar Jayne, "are both in with a good shot," said Lukas's assistant Sebastian Nichol. "Different styles, mind you, but still very good."

"We've got two nice fillies," countered McPeek. "Galloping Gal might be a little better of the two at this stage, but Sister Star can be tough on the front end. Their styles ought to complement each other real well."

Eight other 2-year-old fillies help fill out a contentious 60th running of the Grade 2 Golden Rod, a 1 1/16-mile race that co-stars with the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on closing day of the Churchill fall meet.

Among the four that Lukas and McPeek bring forth, Stellar Jayne might have had a slight edge, considering she won the Nov. 1 Pocahontas Stakes, a one-turn mile, with a torrid late run.

"She should be even better at two turns," said Nichol.

But Stellar Jayne drew the far outside post in the two-turn race and probably will have to run an even better race Saturday.

Be Gentle (post 10) won the Grade 2 Alcibiades but then faltered to finish 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Galloping Gal (post 2) won a turf stakes at Keeneland after finishing a late-running second in the Alcibiades. Sister Star (post 6), a 10 3/4-length maiden winner, most recently finished third in the Pocahontas.

Besides the Lukas and McPeek fillies, other plausible contenders in the Golden Rod include Sheer Luck (post 8) and Lotta Kim (post 4), the one-two finishers in a Nov. 8 allowance route. Both are making their stakes debut.

"She's training good, and we were encouraged by her allowance win," said Neil Howard, trainer of Sheer Luck, an A.P. Indy filly bred and owned by Will Farish. "It's always a big step up from allowances to graded stakes company, but we're going to give it a try."

Lotta Kim, trained by Hal Wiggins, remains united with Pat Day, who has ridden her in both her previous starts.

The rest of the Golden Rod field is Birthday Song, Penny's Fortune, Lenatareese, Jinny's Gold, Twilight Gallop, and Dynaville.

Lukas already has a record four Golden Rod victories, having won with Fancy Ribbons (1990), Lilly Capote (1994), City Band (1996), and Love Lock (1997).