Last year’s “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series had identical starting and ending points in victories at Churchill Downs by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable. The first came in the Grade II Pocahontas, which launched the series on the opening Saturday of the 2013 September Meet, and the road concluded in a triumph by the homebred daughter of Tapit in the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) at the Louisville track on the first Friday in May.
On Saturday, a field of 10 2-year-old fillies headed by Willis D. Horton’s Take Charge Brandi will start their bids to emulate Untapable’s path to victory in America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies when they compete in the 46th running of the $200,000-added Pocahontas, a 1 1/16-mile race over the main track at Churchill Downs that kicks-off the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks,” the 31-race points series that will determine the maximum field of 14 fillies that will compete in the 2015 running of the Kentucky Oaks. The Pocahontas also is the first stop on the Breeders’ Cup’s “Win and You’re In” Juvenile Fillies Division, and the winner will earn both a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita and a $10,000 travel stipend for the journey to Southern California.
The Pocahontas is the last of four stakes races scheduled on the first Saturday of Churchill Downs’ 12-date September Meet. First post for the 11-race program is 12:45 p.m. (all times ET) with the Pocahontas scheduled as Race 10 with a post time of approximately 5:27 p.m.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Take Charge Brandi, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of the mare Charming (a half-sister to Lukas’ reigning Eclipse Award 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge), scored an impressive win at 4 ½ furlongs in her career debut at Churchill Downs on June 22. She followed that effort with a runner-up finish to Fashion Alert in Saratoga’s $250,000 Schuylerville (GIII) at six furlongs on July 18, but struggled in her most recent outing when she ran fifth of seven behind the victorious Cavorting in the 6 ½-furlong $200,000 Adirondack (GII) at the New York track.
Regular jockey Corey Lanerie, an easy winner of the 2014 Spring Meet riding title at Churchill Downs, has been aboard Take Charge Brandi in all three career starts and will be back in the saddle on Saturday. She will break from post eight for the 79-year-old Lukas, who will bid for a fourth Pocahontas win. Lukas shares the record of three Pocahontas victories with the retired Pete Vestal.
Lukas’ filly is one of only four Pocahontas entrants with experience in a stakes race. The others are Ninety North Racing Stable’s Phoenix Park, a daughter of Lookin At Lucky who finished sixth – on nearly even terms with Take Charge Brandi – in the Adirondack for trainer Jimmy Toner; Carl F. Pollard’s Rachel’s Ready, who won at first asking at Churchill Downs before she ran fifth behind Promise Me Silver in the Debutante and finished a distant third to A.P.’s Glory in the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies at Mountaineer Park; and Milehigh Butterfly, a winner in her Churchill Downs debut for trainer Billy Connelly prior to a fifth-place run in the Prairie Gold Lassie at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows in July.
Promising unbeaten youngsters in the Pocahontas field include GSN Racing LLC’s Cristina’s Journey, winner of her six-furlong debut at Ellis Park on July 27; Shortleaf Racing’s Pangburn, a daughter of Congrats who won her lone start for trainer Kenny McPeek over the Ellis Park grass on July 12; and Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc.’s True to You, a Scat Daddy filly coming off a victorious racing debut for trainer Tom Amoss over the turf at Indiana Grand on Aug. 20.
The Pocahontas also will be the stakes debut for Steven Friedfertig’s Frolic to the Wire, a Milton Wolfson-trained daughter of Roman Ruler who is coming off a maiden win at Gulfstream Park. Frolic to the Wire was made a supplemental nominee to the Pocahontas through a payment of $6,000 at Wednesday’s time of entry.
The field for the Pocahontas, from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Loom (Joe Rocco Jr., Philip Oliver), Queen’s Ready (Didiel Osorio, Gennadi Dorochenko), Phoenix Park (Chris Landeros, Toner), Cristina’s Journey (Miguel Mena, Dale Romans), Pangburn (Joel Rosario, McPeek), Frolic to the Wire (Jesus Castanon, Wolfson), Rachel’s Ready (Shaun Bridgmohan, Dave Vance), Take Charge Brandi (Lanerie, Lukas), Milehigh Butterfly (Brian Hernandez Jr., Connelly) and True to You (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Amoss).
The Pocahontas is one of eight stakes races scheduled during the September Meet at Churchill Downs. Other fixtures carded on Saturday are the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII), which kicks off the 35-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series; the $100,000-added Ack Ack (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up and the $100,000-added Locust Grove for fillies and mares ages three and up.