Anita Cauley’s homebred On Fire Baby held off a late charge from And Why Not to win the 43rd running of the Grade II, $173,400 Pocahontas for 2-year-old fillies by three-quarters of a length to highlight the opening day of the 21-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Joe Johnson for trainer Gary Hartlage, On Fire Baby got a ground-saving trip behind a contested scramble for the lead among five horses through a first quarter-mile in :22.54. Aubby K emerged with the lead after a half-mile in :45.50 and took the field through six furlongs in 1:10.58 while under pressure from Bet to Win, Georgie’s Angel and Believe You Can.
At the three-sixteenths pole, Johnson moved On Fire Baby off the rail and to the outside of Aubby K who she passed at the sixteenth pole with enough left to hold off And Why Not, who had closed from the back of the 12-horse field. On Fire Baby ran the mile on a fast main track in 1:37.17.
The victory was worth $99,982 and increased On Fire Baby’s earnings to $127,582 with a record of 2-0-0 in three starts. On Fire Baby is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Smoke Glacken out of the Gilded Time mare Ornate and a half-sister to Grade II stakes winner High Heels.
On Fire Baby returned $20.20, $9.40 and $5.80. And Why Not, ridden by Garrett Gomez, returned $6.60 and $4.40 in finishing 1 ¾ lengths in front of Glinda the Good, who rallied for third under Julien Leparoux and returned $6.60 to show.
It was a neck back to Aubby K in fourth, who was followed in order by Golden History, Believe You Can, Taxi Dancer, Flashy Lassie, Heart of Destiny, Georgie’s Angel, My Due Process and Bet to Win.
Racing resumes Wednesday with a 10-race program with first post time at 12:40 p.m. EDT.
POCAHONTAS STAKES QUOTES
Gary Hartlage, trainer of On Fire Baby (winner) – “This feels good. She’s always showed me she was a good horse from the day she stepped in the barn and that’s why I ran her in a Grade I (Darley Alcibiades) and today a Grade II. I’ve trained a lot of good horses and some graded stakes winners and she’s right up there with them. She’ll be even better next year when she really figures out what’s going on. If we run her one more time this year it would be in the Golden Rod (at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26), but we’ll see how she comes out of this race.”
Joe Johnson, jockey of On Fire Baby (winner) – “We were hoping to lay off the pace, save some ground and hope things opened up. We’ve known she’s been a good one since the day she stepped off the van. It’s nice when you work hard and things come together.”
Jimmy Baker, trainer of Heart of Destiny (ninth as 3-1 favorite) – “No more dirt. She ran OK on the dirt at Saratoga, but that was a maiden race. A maiden race and a Grade II are night and day. We might run her on the turf here later in the meet or we might freshen her up for next year. She’s a nice horse and we have a lot of options with her.”
Edgar Prado, jockey of Heart of Destiny (ninth as 3-1 favorite) – “She ran OK, but I think she’s better on the turf and synthetic.”