Saturday’s $200,000 Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs serves as the first qualifying race for the 2018 Kentucky Oaks, offering points on a 10-4-2-1 scale, and a contentious group of 12 juvenile fillies is set for the 1 1/16-mile event.
The Pocahontas also serves as a “Win & You’re In” race, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies field.
The top three finishers from the August 20 Ellis Park Juvenile will all return. Kelly’s Humor improved to 2-for-2 for Brad Cox with a one-length decision, rallying from off the pace to score at 11-1 odds, and runner-up Upset Brewing will try to make amends after coming up a little short as the 6-5 favorite. Shaun Bridgmohan sticks with Kelly’s Humor and Corey Lanerie rides the Buff Bradley-trained Upset Brewing.
Sunny Skies left herself too much to do from off the pace last time, rallying belatedly for third, but is eligible to show more returning to Churchill Downs for Kenny McPeek. From the first crop of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Sunny Skies won her first outing by a nine-length margin at Keeneland and recorded a 1 ¾-length decision in the June 30 Debutante at Churchill Downs. Look for her to show more speed Saturday with regular pilot Robby Albarado.
Take Charge Paula will look to make a mark in her first graded attempt. Conditioned by Kelly Breen, the dark bay filly has easily captured both outings on the front end, breaking her maiden by a 4 ¼-length margin at Monmouth and drawing off to a three-length tally over listed foes at Delaware Park. James Graham picks up the assignment.
Snowfire, who rolled to a four-length victory when unveiled at Churchill Downs on June 29, looms as a rebound candidate for Mark Casse after finishing fourth as the favorite in the Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga. Julien Leparoux has the call. Firstmate, a Minnesota-bred filly based locally with Joe Sharp, shipped to Canterbury to post a nine-length romp over state-bred stakes foes on August 20 and will add the services of Kendrick Carmouche for her second start.
Harbor Lights and Vision of Justice exit convincing debut maiden wins at Ellis Park for trainers Steve Asmussen and Greg Burchell. Primo Extremo ships in from Ohio with a 2-for-2 mark and Patrona Magarita was last seen finishing a neck third against stakes foes at Lone Star. Rounding out the field are last-out maiden scorers Lady Freedom and Sultry.