LOUISVILLE, KY – Craig D. Upham’s homebred Patrona Margarita took the lead in the stretch and the 23-1 longshot filly kicked away to a 3 3/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Pocahontas at Churchill Downs.
The Pocahontas is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with the winner set to receive an automatic berth in the $2 million 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar on Friday, November 3. However, Patrona Margarita is not currently eligible for those benefits, which would cost Upham $200,000 just to qualify, so making the journey seems doubtful.
Racing midpack under Brian Hernandez, Jr., Patrona Margarita watched patiently in seventh as Primo Extremo set early fractions of :23.68, :48.83, and 1:14.45. The Bret Calhoun-trained daughter of Special Rate took command in the stretch and drew away in the final stages, completing the 1 1/16-mile main track race in a final time of 1:46.35.
“Her works have been really impressive over this racetrack,” said Hernandez, Jr., who also won the Grade 3 Locust Grove earlier on the card. “She really stepped up today and showed us what she’s made of. We tracked the speed just behind horses. With 2-year-olds, you never know how they will respond passing horses, and you have to feel good the way she was able to win this race today.”
After racing near the rear in ninth for much of the race, Kelly’s Humor rallied strong late to take second by a neck over Sunny Skies. Primo Extremo faded in the stretch but still crossed in fourth ahead of Upset Brewing, with Sultry, Harbor Lights, Firstmate, Snowfire, Take Charge Paula, Vision of Justice, and Lady Freedom completing the order of finish.
“I’m so happy for her effort this afternoon,” Upham said. “I bred her, which makes things even more special. Bret and his entire team do such a phenomenal job. With her breeding, we always thought she’d do well going around two turns.”
The Pocahontas kicked off the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Oaks prep race season. Patrona Margarita earned 10 points for the win, with Kelly’s Humor receiving 4 for second, Sunny Skies 2 for third, and Primo Extremo 1 for fourth.
“It’s special to be on the ‘Road to the Kentucky Oaks’ trail,” Upham said. “Our horse will tell us where to send her next. I just hope she comes out of the race happy and healthy.”
Patrona Margarita returned $49.60 to win, $22 to place, and $9.40 to show. Kelly’s Humor brought back $6.80 to place and $4.80 to show, while Sunny Skies paid $4 to show.