Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables' KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) was sent off the 6-5 favorite in Saturday's $163,800 Golden Rod S. (G2) at Churchill Downs and fulfilled all expectations with a dominating 8 1/2-length victory under jockey Julien Leparoux. The Kenny McPeek charge took command of the race entering the stretch and merely strutted her stuff from that point forward, drawing off to stop the clock in 1:44 2/5 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.
The bay filly recalled to mind the 4 3/4-length jaunt of Rachel Alexandra in this same race two years ago. That filly would, of course, go on to an eight-for-eight sophomore season that saw her crowned Horse of the Year following wins in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Preakness S. (G1), Haskell Invitational (G1) and Woodward S. (G1).
While Kathmanblu's connections may not dreaming that big, they must have been beaming later in the day when Santiva (Giant's Causeway) ran nearly a full second slower to take the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) on Churchill's Stars of Tomorrow II card.
"She is now a big time (Kentucky) Oaks prospect," McPeek said. "She's not a big filly; she is a little compact filly, and as the months go on she has gotten better and better. I'll think she will keep going as a three-year-old."
Gran Lioness (Lion Heart) set the early pace in the Golden Rod, posting splits of :24 1/5 and :48 4/5 while Kathmanblu tracked just in behind while outside of Missyoulikecrazy (Lion Heart). Missed the Point (Distorted Humor) scooted through on the rail to briefly make it three across the track, but couldn't keep pace with Missyoulikecrazy and Kathmanblu as those two ran up to the outside of Gran Lioness. Missyoulikecrazy grabbed a momentary head advantage through six furlongs in 1:13 2/5, but by that point Kathmanblu was ready to unleash her run.
The juvenile miss catapulted to the front through a mile in 1:38 and turned the race into a paid workout as she pulled away, improving her record to 6-3-1-1, $320,731.
"She obviously won easily," Leparoux said. "I don't know how good she can be. That's not my job; that's the trainers' job. I think she is really good on both turf and dirt. I think she is a very good filly on the turf. And she proved today she can run on the dirt, too. We've got options."
Kathmanblu paid $4.60, $3 and $2.80 while keying the $22.20 exacta and $273 trifecta. Missyoulikecrazy easily held second by 1 1/4 lengths over Suave Voir Faire (Suave), who rallied from the rear to take third. The place spot was worth $4 and $3.40 at 4-1 while show returned $6.40 as the 35-1 second-longest shot on the board. Aide (Arch) followed in fourth another three lengths back and rounded out the 4-2-5-1 superfecta that totaled $690.60. Gran Lioness, Sweet Deal to Win (Impeachment) and Missed the Point completed the order under the wire.
Kathmanblu was making her second start over the Churchill main surface following an unplaced effort in her career debut on June 12. McPeek switched her to the turf for her next start and the filly scored by a half-length at Ellis Park in her second try. Given two months off, she returned to be second in her stakes bow, the P.G. Johnson S., on Saratoga's grass before breaking through with a first black-type win when scoring by four lengths in the October 14 Jessamine S. on Keeneland's turf. That was enough to earn the miss a shot at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2), where she posted a game third following a troubled trip.
"In the Breeders' Cup she had a troubled trip; it seemed like not a whole lot went right that day," McPeek said. "Obviously she is a good, talented filly. This time of year we got enough time to come back in three weeks here and (if) you're going to find out if they like this surface then you got to do it now. She was doing well so there was no hesitation at all.
"We will probably put her on the shelf for a while. At this point, we will take her to Gulfstream for the winter and take it one day at a time. She probably won't run until late February or early March. I like to have two races in them before the Oaks."
Bred in Kentucky by Five D Thoroughbreds, Kathmanblu is the first stakes winner out of multiple stakes-placed Abba Gold (Devil's Bag), who has since produced an unnamed yearling Pulpit colt. Abba Gold is herself a daughter of dual stakes heroine Valiant Jewel (Buckley Boy), making her a half-sister to Friendly Michelle (Artax), who captured the 2004 Prioress S. (G1) and La Troienne S. (G3) as well as placing in the Acorn S. (G1) and Las Virgenes S. (G1).
Kathmanblu, who RNA'd for $57,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, comes from the same family as this season's Comely S. (G3) runner-up, Speightful Affair (Speightstown).