Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider’s homebred Sign overcame a sluggish start and powered home in deep stretch to win Sunday’s 44th running of the Grade II, $168,150 Pocahontas by four lengths on opening day of Churchill Downs’ 21-day Fall Meet.
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik for trainer Al Stall Jr., Sign broke a step slow and trailed the field of eight 2-year-old fillies through the first furlong of the one-turn mile. Gal About Town, breaking from the outside stall, led the field through the first quarter mile in :23.31, but La Song took over and crossed the half-mile pole in front in :47.32. All the while, Sign fought restraint from the outside and settled down the backstretch no more than 4 ½ lengths behind the leaders.
The bay daughter of Pulpit worked her way between rivals on the turn for home, angled to an inside opening with an eighth of a mile to run and made a bold move to the lead at the sixteenth pole before drawing off under Napravnik’s steady urging.
Sign, a Kentucky-bred, stopped the teletimer in 1:38.63 and returned $3.80, $2.80 and $2.40 as the 4-5 favorite. Gal About Town was second and paid $4 and $3.20. Cloudy Vow was another 1 ¾ lengths back in third and returned $6.60.
Cloudy in Sandiego, Seasoned Warrior, Danalake, Brotherhood Singer and La Song completed the order of finish.
“She’s really impressive,” Napravnik said. “She’s handled everything really well. She was much the best today and I had a good trip. She did break a little bit slow, but that was fine. I let her settle and she came with a big run.”
The victory was worth $101,125 and increased Sign’s earnings to $149,125. In her only other start, she won a maiden special weight at Saratoga by 11 ¾ lengths.
It also was worth 10 points on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” point system. The Pocahontas is one of 35 races on the new “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” and one of 20 races in which points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale in “Kentucky Oaks Prep Season” races.
With the victory, Sign is ranked sixth – earnings in non-restricted stakes races serve as a tie-breaker – behind Executiveprivilege, Spring in the Air, Dreaming of Julia, Spring Venture and Certify. The Top 14 point-earners nominated to the Kentucky Oaks at the series’ end will earn a spot in the Oaks starting gate on Friday, May 3.
Stall said Sign will resurface in the Grade II, $150,000-added Golden Rod at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Nov. 24. That, too, is a “Kentucky Oaks Prep Season” race worth 10-4-2-1 points.
For legendary Claiborne Farm of Paris, Ky., it was their 30th stakes win at Churchill Downs, which dates back to 1956. Their most famous victories beneath the Twin Spires include Swale in the 1984 Kentucky Derby, Lure in the 1993 Early Times Turf Classic and Blame in the 2009 Clark Handicap, 2010 Stephen Foster and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic. This was Claiborne’s second Pocahontas victory; they won the 1983 renewal with Flippers.
CLAIBORNE FARM STAKES WINS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS (1956-2012)
2, Dogwood: 1983 (Bon Gout), ’92 (Hitch)
2, Falls City Handicap: 1956 (Doubledogdare), ’83 (Narrate)
2, Iroquois: 1985 (Tile), ’99 (Mighty)
2, Louisville Handicap: 2000 (Buff), ’08 (Lattice)
2, Pleasant Hill: 1983 (Bon Gout), ’84 (Flippers)
2, Pocahontas: 1983 (Flippers), 2012 (Sign)
2, Stephen Foster Handicap: 1992 (Discover), 2010 (Blame)
2, Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (formerly Early Times Turf Classic): 1993 (Lure), 2004 (Stroll)
1, Kentucky Derby: 1984 (Swale)
1, Breeders’ Cup Classic: 2010 (Blame)
1, Alysheba: 2004 (Congrats)
1, Bashford Manor: 1985 (Tile)
1, Cardinal Handicap: 2001 (Watch)
1. Chilukki (formerly Churchill Downs Budweiser Breeders’ Cup): 1987 (Bound)
1, Clark Handicap: 2009 (Blame)
1, Debutante: 1984 (Knot)
1, Eight Belles (formerly La Troienne): 1956 (Doubledogdare)
1, Firecracker Handicap: 2000 (Conserve)
1, Golden Rod: 1983 (Flippers)
1, Jefferson Cup: 1998 (Buff)
1, Locust Grove: 1990 (Dibs)
1, Seneca: 1983 (Routine)
Al Stall Jr., trainer of Sign, winner: “We wanted her to be back, you never know when they’re last, but we wanted her back and to get a good finish. I could see her fighting the dirt a bit on backstretch. She overcame a few things and ran a great race.”
Q: What’s next? “The Golden Rod (at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24).”
Rosie Napravnik, jockey on Sign, winner: “She’s really impressive. She’s handled everything really well. She was much the best today and I had a good trip.”
Q: Were you nervous when she got off to a slow start? “We didn’t want to be too involved in the pace because of the way the track is playing. She did break a little bit slow, but that was fine. I let her settle and she came with a big run.”
Dennis “Peaches” Geier, assistant trainer of Gal About Town, runner-up: “She ran a great race.”
Jesus Castanon, jockey on Gal About Town, second: “I had a good trip. She gave me a good race. I figured the (No.) six (Sign) that won the race was going to be very tough to beat. But she ran well and we’ll continue to work with her. She did her job.”
Shaun Bridgmohan, jockey on Cloudy Vow, third: “I had a pretty good journey. My horse ran extremely hard and ran well – she traveled well throughout. She was just third-best today.”
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