G2 Pocahontas Stakes Preview: Portrait Tops Field of 9 2YO Fillies

(Portrait wins at Ellis Park and headlines the G2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs this Saturday / Photo Courtesy of Ellis Park & Churchill Downs)

From the Churchill Downs Media Team:

LNJ Foxwoods’ 12 ½-length Ellis Park maiden winner Portrait tops a field of nine 2-year-old fillies entered in Saturday’s 51st running of the $200,000 Pocahontas (Grade II) at Churchill Downs, one of four stakes races scheduled at the Louisville track on the first Saturday of its 11-day September Meet and an event with implications for both next spring’s 146th running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and the upcoming $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).

The Pocahontas will be Race 9 on Saturday’s racing program and has a scheduled post time of 4:53 p.m. (all times Eastern).

The 1 1/16-mile race opens the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points system that will determine the field of 14 for America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies next spring. The Pocahontas offers Kentucky Oaks points on a scale of 10-4-2-1 to its top four finishers.

The Pocahontas also is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, which will be run Friday, Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. The Pocahontas winner will earn an automatic berth in the starting gate for the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-old fillies, along with $60,000 in starting fees and a travel stipend.

Trained by Brad Cox, Portrait (2-1-0-1—$35,000) debuted on the turf at Ellis Park where she finished third as the 8-5 post-time favorite. In her second-career start, Portrait dominated a field of seven 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on dirt to win convincingly under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.

A daughter of Tapizar, Portrait is slated to face her stablemate and current workmate British Idiom in the Pocahontas. Owned by Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, MadaketStables and Bethlehem Stables, British Idiom (1-1-0-0—$41,250) won her debut in mid-August at Saratoga by 3 ½ lengths. The chestnut daughter of Flashback will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. from post No. 7 while Bridgmohan will have the call on Portrait from post 3.

Among the challengers in the Pocahontas is C & H Diamond Racing’s 5 ¼-length maiden victor Morning Gold, who will attempt to give trainer Kenny McPeek a record-tying third victory in the Pocahontas. Morning Gold (2-1-1-0—$67,500) made her only two starts on turf at Saratoga. The daughter of Morning Line drew post 6 with Jose Ortiz in the saddle.

McPeek previously won the Pocahontas in 2015-16 with Dothraki Queen and Daddys Lil Darling and is one win from tying D. Wayne Lukas, Dale Romans and Pete Vestal for the most victories in the race by a trainer.

The field for the Pocahontas, in order of post position (with jockey and trainer): Shadilee(Julien Leparoux, Mike Maker); His Glory (James Graham, Tom Amoss); Portrait (Bridgmohan, Cox); Lazy Daisy (Abel Cedillo, Doug O’Neill); Blood Curdling (Corey Lanerie, Dane Kobiskie); Morning Gold (Jose Ortiz, McPeek); British Idiom (Irad Ortiz Jr., Cox); Lotta Ott (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen); and Addilyn (Miguel Mena, Antonio Sano).

Recently, the Pocahontas has been a key race for the Kentucky Oaks. In last year’s edition, Serengeti Empress cruised to a 19 ½-length score prior to her eventual victory as a 3-year-old in the Kentucky Oaks.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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