Serengeti Empress Looks for Two in a Row in Pocahontas Stakes
Courtesy of Aaron Halterman of the Racing Dudes
The Grade 2, $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes is set for this Saturday at Churchill Downs and has drawn a full field of 12 fillies. The race serves as both a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies Stakes, as well as the first points race on the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Oaks. The field is headlined by the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante winner Serengeti Empress, ridden by Corey Lanerie, who has been the top jockey at this track several times. The undefeated Taylor’s Spirit will also garner attention after three straight victories to begin her career. Recently she was a winner at Louisiana Downs in the $60,000 Happy Ticket Stakes going one mile on the turf.
The winner of the Pocahontas will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies Stakes this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based internationally.
Let’s dive into the field:
#1 Serengeti Empress – Last time out, she posted an eye-catching 13 1/2-length victory in the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante. The win came as no surprise after she showed major talent on debut, winning an Indiana Grand maiden special weight by over 5 lengths. Her one race that was surprising came at Saratoga when she ran a very flat fourth in the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes. Hopefully, whatever happened in that start two back is behind her so that she can build on what she showed us last time out.
#2 Love My Honey – Anytime a 2-year-old breaks its maiden at Saratoga, take it seriously. Love My Honey did just that, and even though she has only one race under her belt, that win was more than enough to put her in this contest. She broke sharply, stalked the pace, and finished off her rivals down the lane to win by over a length. The move to two turns here seems to be her only question mark.
#3 My Wynter Rose – She has an experience edge over this group, having already started seven times. In her third career start, she broke her maiden at Belterra Park, but she was then a well-beaten fifth in the $100,000 Churchill Downs Debutante soon after that. Recently, she was an allowance winner at Presque Isle Downs before finishing fifth last time out in the tough $400,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Kentucky Downs.
#4 Profound Legacy – After two straight victories, this filly tried stakes company in her last start, but it did not go well. She was a winner on debut at Emerald Downs and was quickly brought to Ellis Park soon after. There, she won an allowance by open lengths and entered the Ellis Park Debutante as a 3-1 shot. However, things went wrong in a hurry, and she finished sixth while beaten by over 20 lengths. That was not her normal effort, though, which could mean that something went wrong in that spot.
#5 Splashy Kisses – The west coast has produced several top 2-year-olds over the last few years, and the racing at Del Mar this year seemed to be strong once again for young horses. That means that Splashy Kisses could be dangerous in this spot after breaking her maiden at Del Mar last time out by nearly 6 lengths. She simply dominated her rivals right out of the gate before taking the field wire to wire. Her pedigree suggests that a stretch out in distance will be to her liking, too, which makes her an intriguing filly going forward.
#6 Lightscameraaction – Most of her best races so far have been on the turf, which makes this an interesting entry. She has never finished worse than second on grass, but on the dirt, she has never hit the board. However, all of her turf races were at a mile, which might indicate that she just needs longer distances to excel. That makes her a bit dangerous here, and here pedigree suggests that longer distances will suit her perfectly. If she can handle the surface, then she’ll have a shot.
#7 Include Edition – After breaking her maiden at Ellis Park by 1 1/2 lengths, this filly tried the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante next, but she was simply no match for Serengeti Empress. However, she still finished second, even though she was last up the backside. She closed with a nice move down the stretch, but obviously, she was too far behind to catch a solid horse like Serengeti Empress. With her running style, she needs a pace meltdown.
#8 Two Dozen Roses – Trainer Todd Pletcher had a down year with 2-year-olds at Saratoga, but he will look to rebound from that performance if Two Dozen Roses can win this race after breaking her maiden via DQ last time out. She gets added distance here, which is what she needs, and that gives her a big shot to show improvement. Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. will have the mount.
#9 It Justhitthe Wire – Technically, this horse is still a maiden despite crossing the wire first in her only start when she defeated Two Dozen Roses, but she was then disqualified and placed second after bumping late. The DQ was debatable, but it was clear that this horse has some talent. She was a $410,000 yearling purchase and she should get better as the distances get longer. That makes her dangerous here.
#10 Taylor’s Spirit – It’s hard to knock this filly as she is a perfect 3-for-3. She debuted at Prairie Meadows in a maiden special weight, where she won by a crazy 13 3/4 lengths, then followed that with another runaway score in the $65,000 Prairie Gold Lassie Stakes. After those two wins, she tried the turf in her next start and won yet again in the $60,000 Happy Ticket Stakes at Louisiana Downs. That race was at a mile, which bodes well for her chances at this distance.
#11 Saved At Dawn – This filly has been getting better with each start, which led to a maiden breaking score last time out at Indiana Grand going a mile. It seems like longer distances will be best for her, which makes this race interesting. She will need to improve her speed figures in order to have a shot, but that hasn’t been a problem for her so far.
#12 Tapping Pearl – This daughter of Tapit started off her career the right way, debuting at Churchill Downs with a maiden special weight win by 2 lengths. After that, she tried the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes, but she was a complete non-factor and finished ninth. With this spotty early form, it is tough to know what to expect from her here, but there is no doubt that she is bred to be a nice horse. The added distance should be to her benefit, and she seems to be training very well leading up to this start.
The Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes will share the card on Saturday at Churchill Downs with the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes, which is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Sentient Jet Juvenile. The North American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on Saturday, September 29, and Sunday, September 30, with a monster weekend of racing at both Santa Anita and Belmont Park. In total, there will be eight challenge races contested over the weekend:
September 29 at Belmont Park
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic – Longines Turf
The Vosburgh – TwinSpires Sprint
Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes – Classic
September 29 at Santa Anita Park
American Pharoah Stakes – Sentient Jet Juvenile
Chandelier Stakes – Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies
Rodeo Drive Stakes – Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf
Awesome Again Stakes – Classic
September 30 at Santa Anita Park
Zenyatta Stakes – Longines Distaff
For more coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, head over to racingdudes.com
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