KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB S. | PURSE: $150,000 | GRADE 2 | 2-YEAR-OLDS | 1 1/16 MILES
WinStar Farm and Todd Pletcher, who won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in 2009 with Super Saver before sending him off to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, completed the first part of the double again with Gemologist Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs.
The juvenile son of Tiznow remained undefeated in three starts with a hard-fought 1 3/4-length win in the $178,200 Kentucky Jockey Club. He was ridden to victory by Javier Castellano, covering 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt in a sharp 1:44.46.
Unlike the homebred Super Saver, Gemologist was bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust. WinStar, buying under the name of Maverick Racing, paid $310,000 for him at the Keeneland November 2008 breeding stock sale. Lane's End, agent, consigned the bay colt, who out of the Mr. Prospector mare Crystal Shard.
Gemologist entered the race off a maiden victory at Turfway Park in September and an optional claiming triumph at Churchill Oct. 30. He has now earned $145,855.
Castellano guided Gemologist on a perfect trip, as they closely followed favored Ever So Lucky and Seve through splits of :23.98 and :47.49. Gemologist passed longshot Seve on the turn and ranged up alongside Ever So Lucky and Julien Leparoux with three furlongs remaining. Those two dueled until mid-stretch when Gemologist began to inch away.
Ever So Lucky was a neck in front of a fast-closing Timely Tally for second. Optimizer was fourth in the field of 11 2-year-olds.
"He ran well," Pletcher said. "He overcame an outside post, got a good trip and dug in when it counted. I think it certainly helped to have a race over the track and to have that two-turn experience around there. It always helps when you have some confidence that they've handled the surface already.
"We'll give him a little bit of a break off that and I'll get with Elliott (Walden) and we'll come up with a game plan. I'd say we'd try to follow a similar path (to Super Saver), hopefully two starts before the big race if things go well."
Gemologist paid $8.60, $4, and $3.60 as the second choice. The $2 exacta (9-1) returned $28 and a $2 trifecta (9-1-3) was worth $156.80.
Earlier in the day in the $169,350 Golden Rod Stakes for juvenile fillies, favored On Fire Baby put on a dazzling performance when pulling away to a 6 1/4-victory under Joe Johnson.
It was the second consecutive graded stakes win for the daughter of Smoke Glacken , as she also won the Pocahontas Oct. 30 at Churchill. Unlike the Pocahontas when she came from off the pace, On Fire Baby took the Golden Rod field wire-to-wire. It was never in doubt, especially when she spurted off leaving the far turn and coasted home to the easiest of wins.
On Fire Baby covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.98 on the fast dirt track. The gray/roan filly is a homebred for Anita Cauley and is trained by Gary Hartlage. She is out of the Gilded Time mare Ornate.
Without much early speed in the race, On Fire Baby was allowed to get away with easy fractions of :24.70, :50.01, and 1:14.86. Jamraa and Customer Base weren't far back through six furlongs, but once Johnson asked the 5-2 favorite coming off the turn, she drew off with ease.
"You saw today how good she is and I think she's got plenty left in her," Hartlage said. "When she got away with that kind of a half, I didn't think she would get beat if she was the horse I thought she was, and she did her thing. They let us walk like a dog and she's just that good.
"I've trained a couple of grade II winners, but she's the best one I've ever had. In my opinion, she's one of the top three 2-year-old fillies in the country. We're nominated to the Kentucky Oaks now and we'll also nominate her to the Kentucky Derby. I'm telling you, she is that good."
The winner improved to 3-0-0 from four starts and earnings of $227,329. Her only loss was a fifth-place finish in the Oct. 7 Darley Alcibiades on the Keeneland Polytrack.
On Fire Baby paid $7.40, $4.40, and $3.40. The exacta (6-4) was worth $132.80 with 29-1 Goldrush Girl. The trifecta (6-4-1) with 25-1 Back Spin was worth $1,578.80.