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Justa Warrior Steps Up For 1st 2023 Kentucky Oaks Prep | 2022 Pocahontas Stakes Preview & FREE Picks
Justa Warrior (Coady Photography)

Justa Warrior Steps Up For 1st 2023 Kentucky Oaks Prep | 2022 Pocahontas Stakes Preview & FREE Picks

Mike previews the 2022 Pocahontas Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, then gives his top picks and longshots in the first prep race for the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1). The undefeated Ellis Park Debutante Stakes winner Justa Warrior holds an experience edge over several of her rivals, but is a new shooter waiting to pull an upset? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Holy Cow Stable’s $200,000 Adirondack (Grade III) winner Naughty Gal was entered to face a full field of 11 rivals including Stone Bridge Farm’s undefeated $125,000 Ellis Park Debutante winner Justa Warrior in Saturday’s $300,000 Pocahontas (GIII) at Churchill Downs.

          The 1 1/16 mile Pocahontas kicks off the 2022-23 Road to the Kentucky Oaks. The Pocahontas was carded as the 11th race finale with a post time of 5:58 p.m. Saturday’s program also will feature the $300,000 Iroquois (GIII), the Pocahontas’ male counterpart which kicks off the Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve. Along with the duo of 2-year-old stakes events, the program includes the $400,000 Locust Grove (GIII), $300,000 Open Mind (Listed) and $275,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society.

          Trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Naughty Gal broke her maiden at second asking on July 4 at Churchill Downs by 9 ¼ lengths. One month later the daughter of leading stallion Into Mischief became a graded stakes winner when she led every step of the way in the 6 ½-furlong Adirondack. Just two weeks ago, Naughty Gal tested Grade I competition in the $300,000 Spinaway (GI) but faded to ninth. She’ll be ridden in the Pocahontas by Mitchell Murrill from post No. 3.

          Justa Warrior, the daughter of Triple Crown winner Justify, is undefeated from two starts for Ellis Park leading trainer John Ortiz. In her debut, Justa Warrior drew away from a field of nine by five lengths under jockey Rey Gutierrez. Four weeks later, Justa Warrior was victorious by one-length in the Ellis Park Debutant as the 5-2 post time favorite. Gutierrez will be back aboard Justa Warrior in the Pocahontas and break from post 11.

          The Pocahontas also includes impressive maiden winner Fun and Feisty for trainer Kenny McPeek.

          Here is the complete field for the Pocahontas from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Boss Lady Bailey (Brian Hernandez Jr., Ortiz); Kiss Me On Oconee (Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss); Naughty Gal (Murrill, Lukas); Shoplifter (Rafael Bejarano, Eddie Kenneally); Grand Love (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen); Outofnothingatall (David Cohen, Ricky Courville); Southlawn (Tyler Gaffalione, Norm Casse); Need Some Money (Francisco Arrieta, Sarah Hamilton); Jet Setting (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox);Fun and Feisty (Julien Leparoux, Kenny McPeek); Justa Warrior (Gutierrez, Ortiz); and Friendlypersuasion (James Graham, Michael McCarthy).