The last time Stoneway Farm’s Stonetastic visited Churchill Downs, she returned to her home base in New Jersey with a near-miss loss that was also the first setback in her promising young career.
But trainer Kelly Breen’s imposing gray daughter of Mizzen Mast will attempt to make amends for that disappointment in a return date beneath the Twin Spires on Saturday’s and she Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed her as a narrow 7-2 morning line favorite in a field of 10 2-year-old fillies entered to contest the 70th running of the $150,000-added Golden Rod Stakes (Grade II).
The Golden Rod is the co-headliner on the final day of the 25-date Fall Meet. The day is billed as “Stars of Tomorrow II,” and each of its 12 races is exclusively for 2-year-olds that may have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next spring’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).
The 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod is a stop on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points series that will determine the eligibility of 3-year-old fillies to run in next spring’s Kentucky Oaks. It is a “Prep Season” race in which the Top 4 finishers will receive 10-4-2-1 points, respectively.
The Golden Rod is scheduled as Race 9 on the 12-race closing day care with a post time of 4:35 p.m. (all times Eastern). First post for the “Stars of Tomorrow II’ program is 12:40 p.m.
Although Stonetastic is the morning line choice, she is barely so. Behind her in Battaglia’s early odds are John C. Oxley’s Madly Truly and James H. Tolliver, Carlos Reys Vasquez and Mary Grum’s Daddy’s Memory, both listed at 4-1 in the pre-Golden Rod line; Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Vexed, who is rated at 9-2; and Marylou Whitney Stable’s homebred Bird Maker, who is next in line at 6-1.
As first impressions go, the one left by Stonetastic in her racing debut at Monmouth Park in early August could not have been much stronger. She rolled to a 12 ½-length victory under jockey Joe Bravo and the authority of that triumph prompted Breen to ship his filly to Churchill Downs for the $150,000-added Pocahontas (GII) at the Golden Rod distance on Sept. 7. She left the starting gate as the favorite in a field of eight, but was beaten by a half-length by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable, who earned both the winner’s purse and the race’s “Win and You’re In” spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).
Untapable would eventually finish eighth to Ria Antonia in the Breeder’s Cup, while Stonetastic traveled to Aqueduct on Nov. 3 to compete in the $250,000 Tempted (GIII), where she finished fourth to Repole Stable’s Stopchargingmaria.
Stonetastic drew the outside gate in the 10-filly Golden Rod and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie, the leading jockey in the Churchill Downs Fall Meet. She will run without trainer Breen and regular rider Joe Bravo, who are in Japan for a run by stablemate Pants On Fire, winner of Churchill Downs’ Ack Ack (GIII), in the $3 million Japan Cup Dirt at Hanshin Racecourse.
The Mark Casse-trained co-second choice Madly Truly rallied from off-the-pace last time out to win the $150,000-added Mazarine (GIII) over synthetic Polytrack at Toronto’s Woodbine, her second victory in five career outings. The victory made the daughter of Malibu Moon the only stakes winner in the Golden Rod. She has only one dirt start on her five-race résumés: a fourth-place finish behind Untapable in her June 20 debut at Churchill Downs. Joe Rocco Jr. will ride Madly Truly from post eight.
Daddy’s Memory rolled to a 10 ¾-length Halloween romp over sloppy going in a one-mile Churchill Downs maiden race to secure her first win in three outings. The daughter of Scat Daddy joined trainer Cecil Borel’s barn after that race and she will make her debut for her new stable in the Golden Rod and will break from the rail post under jockey Miguel Mena.
Vexed enters the Golden Rod with an opportunity to score a milestone victory for co-owner Claiborne Farm. A victory in the race by the daughter of Claiborne stallion Arch would pull the iconic Paris, Ky. breeding and racing farm into a tie with Calumet Farm, another Bluegrass legend, for the most stakes victories in the history of Churchill Downs. Claiborne currently has 31 stakes wins beneath the Twin Spires, one fewer than Calumet, which scored its last local stakes win in 1984.
After a third-place finish in her racing debut over Polytrack at Arlington Park, Vexed scored an easy victory for trainer Al Stall Jr. in a Churchill Downs maiden race in September. She then stepped up to stakes competition and was runner-up to Clever Beauty in the $62,700 Rags to Riches overnight stakes on Churchill Downs’ “Stars of Tomorrow I” program on Oct. 27. Vexed will break from post seven, and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount for the third consecutive race.
Bird Maker is one of three Golden Rod fillies trained by Ian Wilkes and enters Saturday’s race off a 2 ¾-length victory in a seven-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3. Julien Leparoux will ride Bird Maker, who breaks from gate five. Narola Racing’s Playful Love, who notched her first career triumph in the opening race of the Fall Meet on “Stars of Tomorrow I,” is a 12-1 risk in the Golden Rod morning line. The daughter of Tapit will break from post nine with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. in the saddle. Wilkes also trains Runaway Giant.
The Golden Rod field from the rail out (with jockey, weight and morning line odds) includes: Daddy’s Memory, 119, Mena, 4-1), Naïve Enough (Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 8-1), Streethomealabama (Robby Albarado, 119, 20-1), Runway Giant (Jon Court, 119, 15-1), Bird Maker (Leparoux, 119, 6-1), Canaryinacoalmine (Jesus Castanon, 119, 20-1), Vexed (Bridgmohan, 119, 9-2), Madly Truly (Rocco Jr., 119, 4-1), Playful Love (Hernandez Jr., 119, 12-1) and Stonetastic (Lanerie, 119, 7-2).
In just eight years, Stars of Tomorrow has been the launching pad for numerous graded stakes winners. Thirty-three participants became Grade I winners, including 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver, who holds the KJC stakes record of 1:42.83; 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile and Clark Handicap winner Shackleford; 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Fort Larned; 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can; and 2013 Travers winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Will Take Charge.
Eighteen participants became millionaires: Fort Larned ($4,471,322), Court Vision ($3,746,658), Rachel Alexandra ($3,506,730), Shackleford ($3,090,101), Lawyer Ron ($2,790,008), Will Take Charge ($2,727,371), Pure Clan ($1,987,498), Super Saver ($1,889,766), Macho Again ($1,825,767), Giant Oak ($1,484,829), First Dude ($1,442,140), Swift Temper ($1,296,688), Believe You Can ($1,280,324), General Quarters ($1,226,655), Fly Down ($1,256,115), Any Given Saturday ($1,083,533), Overanalyze ($1,046,381) and Uncaptured ($1,020,147).