The names of 60 promising 2-year-old stars are included on the rosters of horses nominated to compete in the $200,000-added Pocahontas (Grade II) for 2-year-old fillies and the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds, races that will kick-off their respective “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” and “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series that will determine the participants for the 2015 renewals of the spring classics at Churchill Downs Racetrack. The Pocahontas and Iroquois also begin the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile Divisions, respectively, of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series, and their winners will earn automatic starting spots in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) and Juvenile (GI), along with a $10,000 travel stipend for the races to be run at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 1.
The Pocahontas and Iroquois are part of a special Churchill Downs racing program that will feature four stakes events on Saturday, Sept. 6, the second day of the track’s 12-day September Meet. Nomination rosters also have been issued for the day’s other stakes races: the 22nd running of the $100,000-added Ack Ack (GIII), a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up on the main track, and the 31st running of the $100,000-added Locust Grove for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
The four events are among eight stakes races with total purses of $925,000 scheduled during upcoming September Meet, which opens on Friday, Sept. 5 and concludes on Sunday. Sept. 28. Only the second racing meet scheduled exclusively during that month in Churchill Downs’ 140-year history, September Meet racing will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule during its four-week run, and “Downs After Dark” night racing celebrations are set for Friday, Sept. 5 (Opening Night) and Friday, Sept. 19.
The 2013 Pocahontas was won by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable, who finished eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies for trainer Steve Asmussen but rebounded with a brilliant 2014 topped by her emphatic victory as the favorite in the 140th running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). Donegal Racing’s Cleburne won the Iroquois for trainer Dale Romans and traveled to Santa Anita for the Juvenile, but suffered an injury there that prevented him from participating in the event.
The Pocahontas attracted nominations of 25 juvenile fillies, a list headed by Siena Farm’s Angela Renee, the Todd Pletcher-trained runner-up in Saratoga’s Adirondack (GII); Willis Horton’s Take Charge Brandi, a winner at first asking at Churchill Downs and runner-up in Saratoga’s Schuylerville (GIII) for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas; John C. Oxley’s Unbridled Reward, a daughter of hot first-year sire Warrior’s Reward who was runner-up in Churchill Downs’ Debutante Stakes for trainer Mark Casse; Curtis C. Green’s A.P.’s Glory, winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies for Arlington Park-based trainer James Divito; and Carl Pollard’s Rachel’s Ready, who finished third for trainer David Vance in her most recent outing in the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies.
Thirty-five colts and geldings were nominated to the Iroquois. That roster is headed by Bourbon Lane Stable’s Hashtag Bourbon, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver who was a runaway winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile for trainer Kellyn Gorder; Zayat Stable’s Mr. Z, a Lukas-trained son of Malibu Moon who won at first asking at Churchill Downs and followed with runner-up finishes in the Saratoga Special (GII) and Sanford (GIII) at Saratoga; R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s W V Jetsetter, third in the Saratoga Special and winner of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park; Michael Lund Petersen’s Holiday Camp, who ran last of six as the favorite in the Santa Anita Juvenile following an impressive debut victory over the Southern California track for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert; Mellon Patch Inc.’s Private Prospect, a son of Discreet Cat with wins in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile and the Prairie Gold Juvenile, both run at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows; and McLoughlin Stables LLC’s Gotta Get Paid, runner-up in the Mountaineer Juvenile for trainer Tom Amoss.
George and Lori Hall’s defending winner Pants On Fire and Grade I winners Golden Ticket and Lea head 23 experienced and accomplished stakes veterans nominated to compete in the Ack Ack Handicap.
Pants On Fire, who finished ninth to Animal Kingdom in the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands for trainer Kelly Breen, returned to Churchill Downs in its first September Meet to score a 2 ¼-length victory over multiple stakes winner Taptowne in the Ack Ack. He traveled to Santa Anita to finish seventh to Goldencents in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) before he traveled to Japan to complete his season with a last-place finish in the Japan Cup Dirt. The son of Jump Start was runner-up to Balance of Power in Monmouth Park’s Philip Iselin (GIII) in his most recent outing to improve his career record to 8-4-5 in 26 races and boost his career earnings to $1,247,635.
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket finished in a dead-heat with Alpha to win the 2012 Travers (GI) at Saratoga, but is still looking for his first victory in 2014 starts. His highlight of the year was a runner-up finish in Churchill Downs’ Alysheba (GII) to Moonshine Mullin, who would return to win the Stephen Foster Handicap (GII) in his next outing. The Kenny McPeek trainee finished second in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI).
Lea, winner of the 2014 Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park, is one of a pair of accomplished stars nominated to the Ack Ack by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, which also made multiple-stakes winner and Stephen Foster Handicap third-place finisher Departing eligible for the race.
Lea is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the all-time leader in victories and stakes wins at Churchill Downs, and also won the Hal’s Hope (GIII) on the Gulfstream Park dirt earlier this year. He is a stakes winner on turf at Churchill Downs with a win in the 2012 Commonwealth Turf (GIII) to his credit along with a runner-up finish to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the 2013 Firecracker (GII). The 5-year-old son of First Samurai has a career record of 6-2-2 in 12 races and earnings of $709,618.
The 4-year-old Departing followed his good run in the Stephen Foster with a disappointing eighth-place finish behind Moreno in Saratoga’s Whitney (GI). The Al Stall Jr.-trained son of War Front scored 2013 stakes wins in the Illinois Derby (GIII), West Virginia Derby (GII) and Super Derby (GII). Departing has a 7-0-2 record in 12 races and a career bankroll of $1,521,340.
Other Ack Ack nominees include Prairie Meadows Cornhusker (GIII) winner Carve; Sir Barton winner Class Leader; Falling Sky, third in the recent A.G. Vanderbilt (GI) at Saratoga and 19th to Orb in the 2013 Kentucky Derby; Flashback, runner-up in the 2013 Santa Anita Derby and winner of the Robert B. Lewis (GII); Kelly’s Landing winner Good Lord; Mylute, fifth in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness (GI); and Regally Ready, winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) and Opening Verse, both on the Churchill Downs grass, and a career earner of $1,486,666.
Nominations to the Locust Grove, won last year Flashy American, include Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan, who finished sixth in last year’s running but has had a breakout year in 2014 highlighted by a runner-up finish to multiple Grade I winner On Fire Baby in Churchill Downs’ La Troienne (GI) followed by a win over that rival in the Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII). The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Ghostzapper also won the recent Gardenia (GIII) at Ellis Park, a sixth career victory that lifted her earnings to $450,739.
The Locust Grove could serve as round three in the growing rivalry between Molly Morgan and On Fire Baby as Anita Cauley’s multiple Grade I winner also is nominated to the race. The 5-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken has not run since her fifth-place finish in the Fleur De Lis for trainer Gary Hartlage. On Fire Baby also won the 2012 Apple Blossom (GI) at Oaklawn Park and has three stakes victories at Churchill Downs in a career record of 6-2-1 in 16 races with earnings of $1,089,108.
Also nominated is Mathis Stable LLC’s My Miss Sophia, the Pletcher-trained runner-up to Untapable in the Longines Kentucky Oaks. The Gazelle (GII) winner has not competed since a seventh-place run in the Acorn (GI) at Belmont Park on June 7.
Other nominated fillies and mares include the 3-year-old Ria Antonia, winner via disqualification of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and sixth in this spring’s Kentucky Oaks; Don’t Tell Sophia, winner of Churchill Downs’ 2013 Chilukki (GII) and runner-up in the Falls City (GII); Honey Hues, winner of Churchill Downs’ Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) on turf; Chicago Handicap (GIII) winner My Option; and the McPeek-trained Gardenia runner-up Tapit’s World.