Hidden Connection opened the Road to the Kentucky Oaks with a stakes-record performance in Saturday night’s $299,700 Pocahontas (G3) at Churchill Downs. Bet down from a 9-2 morning line to 9-5 favoritism, the Bret Calhoun pupil drew off by 9 1/4 lengths to remain unbeaten and earn a free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
The first stakes winner for freshman sire Connect, a son of Curlin, Hidden Connection nearly equaled the 5 1/2-furlong track record in her Aug. 17 unveiling at Colonial Downs. The dark bay stalked, pounced, and extended her margin to 7 1/2 lengths while finishing in 1:02.21, an eyelash off the Colonial mark of 1:02.19.
Hidden Connection picked up a new co-owner off that debut, Black Type Thoroughbreds, who now teamed up with Hidden Brook Farm. Hidden Brook, agent, had purchased her for $85,000 at her most recent auction appearance at OBS in June.
The class hike and stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles in the Pocahontas made no difference to Hidden Connection, who again proved much the best. Well handled by the returning Reylu Gutierrez, the favorite secured ideal position attending pacesetter Lemieux through fractions of :24.26 and :48.62. Hidden Connection took command on the far turn passing six furlongs in 1:13.27 and sprinted away from the field down the lane to clock a stakes-record 1:43.78.
Topping the inaugural Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 10 points, Hidden Connection was followed home by a trio of closers. The 30.70-1 Mama Rina rallied to grab second by a neck from Goddess of Fire, and Code for Success improved from last to take fourth. Mama Rina, Goddess of Fire, and Code for Success earned four points, two points, and one point, respectively.
Majestic d’Oro, who chased the winner to midstretch, retreated to fifth. Ontheonesandtwos, Miss Chamita, Kneesnhips, Maxine Machine, and the tailed-off Lemieux concluded the order of finish. Joyrunner was a vet scratch in the paddock.
Now 2-for-2 by a combined margin of 16 3/4 lengths, Hidden Connection has $207,525 in her account.
“She was working at Keeneland this spring before we went to Colonial,” Calhoun told Churchill publicity. “When she was working there, I thought she could be special. Then we went to Colonial and she won so impressively on debut.
“She didn’t have as much experience as some of the horses in this race, but she backed up that win very well. If she comes out of things OK, you’d have to think she’s on to the Breeders’ Cup.”
The up-and-coming Gutierrez was enthused about scoring his first Churchill win:
“It is incredibly special to get my first win at Churchill Downs for these great people, in front of this amazing crowd and aboard this filly. She’s is unbelievable.
“Yesterday, Florent Geroux was talking to me in the jocks’ room about how to ride this track. He said sometimes in the turns you want to wait a little longer than usual. So, I waited as long as I could in the turn and she just drew away. That was unbelievable. She was the first horse I worked this meet at Churchill Downs. Now, I’ll be right back at that barn tomorrow morning at 5:30 for more workers.”
Bred by St. Simon Place in Kentucky, Hidden Connection is a seasoned veteran of the sales ring. An RNA for $49,000 as a Keeneland November weanling, she sold for $40,000 there as a September yearling. She was led out unsold for $55,000 at OBS Spring before appreciating to $85,000 in her above-mentioned June appearance.
Hidden Connection is out of the stakes-placed Awesome Again mare C J’s Gal. Second dam C J’s Leelee, a Mizzen Mast half-sister to Grade 1 winner Capo Bastone, placed second in a pair of Churchill graded stakes – the 2007 Golden Rod (G2) and 2008 Regret (G3) on turf, both won by Pure Clan.