The road to the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1) kicks off Saturday when a dozen juvenile fillies will contest the $300,000 Pocahontas S. (G3) at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/16-mile event will award Oaks qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers.
The two prior stakes winners in the field are Naughty Gal and Justa Warrior. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who is tied for most Pocahontas wins among trainers with three, Naughty Gal captured the Adirondack (G3) at Saratoga last month before retreating badly to ninth in the Spinaway (G1) two weeks ago.
In contrast, Justa Warrior brings a 2-for-2 record into the Pocahontas. That includes a one-length score in the Ellis Park Debutante. From the first crop of Triple Crown hero Justify, Justa Warrior drew post 11 for Saturday’s race.
Among the fillies stepping up in class off maiden wins are Saratoga graduate Grand Love, a daughter of Gun Runner trained by Steve Asmussen, and debut winner Jet Setting, from the barn of Brad Cox.
Besides Jet Setting, other Ellis Park graduates contesting the Pocahontas include Southlawn, Need Some Money, and Boss Lady Bailey. Fun and Feisty broke her maiden by three lengths at Churchill last month in her third start, while Friendlypersuasion, a daughter of the late Arrogate, blew away rivals in a two-turn maiden at Horseshoe Indianapolis most recently.
Locust Grove S.
Trainer Kenny McPeek has the two most accomplished contenders in the $400,000 Locust Grove S. (G3) in Envoutante and Crazy Beautiful, both multiple graded stakes winners.
A two-time winner of the Falls City (G2), Envoutante has raced sparingly this year, most recently finishing third in the restricted Summer Colony S. at Saratoga. However, four of her six lifetime wins have come at Churchill.
Crazy Beautiful, on the other hand, will appreciate the class relief Saturday after futilely chasing division heavyweights in the Shuvee (G2) and Personal Ensign (G1) this summer.
Also popping up in the 1 1/16-mile event is recent Groupie Doll S. winner Li’l Tootsie and the Grade 3-placed Played Hard.
Grade 1 veteran Bell’s the One and arch rival Sconsin head a field of five fillies and mares in the $300,000 Open Mind S. over six furlongs.
When the pair last met, on Churchill’s special Aug. 13 card in the Lady Tak S., Bell’s the One rallied to win by 1 1/2 lengths, while Sconsin was a flat fourth as the odds-on favorite. Sconsin defeated Bell’s the One by a half-length in last year’s Open Mind.
Joyful Cadence, the pace-setting runner-up in the Lady Tak, Cheetara, and Club Car complete the field.