Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image weaved her way between horses in the stretch and then drew away to win the 41st running of the $115,900 Pocahontas (GIII) for 2-year-old fillies by two lengths over Decelerator on the opening day of Churchill Downs’ 21-day Fall Meet.
Sassy Image was ridden by Robby Albarado, who posted his fourth victory of the afternoon on the “Stars of Tomorrow I” card that featured racing exclusively for 2-year-olds. Dale Romans, who won the Pocahontas last year with Sara Louise, trains Sassy Image.
Albarado gave Sassy Image a ground-saving trip down the backstretch as Tiz Miz Sue and Vivid Colors dueled through fractions of :22.46 and :45.66. The field began to bunch up as the leaders hit the quarter pole in 1:11.62 and Albarado began to look for an opening with Sassy Image.
He found it at the eighth pole as he moved between Vivid Colors and All Due Respect and spurted clear with plenty left to hold a late challenge by Decelerator, who had won the Debutante (GIII) here in June.
Sassy Image, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Broken Vow, covered the mile on a “fast” main track in 1:38.63. The victory was worth $66,828 for Sassy Image to boost her career earnings to $147,512 with a record of 6-2-1-1.
Sassy Image returned mutuels of $6.20, $3.40 and $2.80. Decelerator, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, returned $7.20 and $6 in finishing a head in front of All Due Respect who paid $8.80 to show under Brian Hernandez Jr.
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE POCAHONTAS
DALE ROMANS, trainer of SASSY IMAGE, winner: “It’s great to be back on the real stuff and it’s great to be back at Churchill Downs. I think she’ll run all day. She outlasted ‘em and had the most stamina today and I just think she’ll run even further.
“You just don’t know [what will happen] when you turn for home and you’re down on the inside all boxed up like that. Are they going to get through? I just thought if [jockey Robby Albarado] found a seam that she would kick through and she did.”
Q: How nice is it to see her overcome adversity at such a young age? “It shows a lot. She’s got a bright future and she’s got a lot of room to improve.
Q: What’s next? “We’ll be here [for the Grade II, $150,000-added Golden Rod for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles] on closing day [Saturday, Nov. 28].”
JERRY ROMANS, owner of SASSY IMAGE, winner: “When she got through on the rail, that was the only anxious moment. Turning for home it didn’t look like it was going to open up. Robby [Albarado] said she felt like a different horse back here on her home track. Once she got head and head, I felt pretty good.
Q: How many horses do you have with your brother Dale? “I’ve got five horses with Dale and she’s by far the best. She’s the best one I’ve ever had. These are once-in-a-lifetime types of horses, for me anyway and not necessarily for Dale training-wise but for us to own.”
Q: The age difference between you and Dale? “I’m 17 months older than Dale.”
ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey of SASSY IMAGE, winner: “The filly (Sassy Image) ran great. [Trainer] Dale [Romans] gave me some instruction to keep her a little bit closer today, so I jumped her out a little earlier and got some forward position going down the backside. I was always very comfortable during the race and just had to find a place to get through. She found the spot up the rail and just went on without me really asking anything of her."
Q: On four wins through the first eight races: “This is just the way that I wanted to start my meet. I wanted to get off to a hot start and try and keep it going.”
RAJIV MARAGH, rider of DECELERATOR, second: “She ran pretty well. She was game. She fought hard to finish second. ‘As seen on TV’ – it was the same way it felt out there. Maybe if I’d had an inside post it would have made a difference between winning and losing, because she did have a wider trip than the eventual winner. The winner was able to stay down along the rail while I was four wide. But she ran good.”
D. WAYNE LUKAS, trainer of DECELERATOR, second: “I thought she ran well. She got a little wide on the turn, but that other filly is nice filly, so I was pleased with the effort.”
Q: Was there any specific problem in her three off-the-board finishes coming into this race? “I don’t know. We had an active spring and she probably needed a little less action. Then I gave her a little break and came back with her, and now she’s good again. She appears to really like this track.”