Anita Cauley’s homebred On Fire Baby held off a late charge from And Why Not to win the 43rd running of the Grade II, $173,400 Pocahontas for 2-year-old fillies by three-quarters of a length to highlight the opening day of the 21-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Joe Johnson for trainer Gary Hartlage, On Fire Baby got a ground-saving trip behind a contested scramble for the lead among five horses through a first quarter-mile in :22.54. Aubby K emerged with the lead after a half-mile in :45.50 and took the field through six furlongs in 1:10.58 while under pressure from Bet to Win, Georgie’s Angel and Believe You Can.
At the three-sixteenths pole, Johnson moved On Fire Baby off the rail and to the outside of Aubby K who she passed at the sixteenth pole with enough left to hold off And Why Not, who had closed from the back of the 12-horse field. On Fire Baby ran the mile on a fast main track in 1:37.17.
The victory was worth $99,982 and increased On Fire Baby’s earnings to $127,582 with a record of 2-0-0 in three starts. On Fire Baby is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Smoke Glacken out of the Gilded Time mare Ornate and a half-sister to Grade II stakes winner High Heels.
On Fire Baby returned $20.20, $9.40 and $5.80. And Why Not, ridden by Garrett Gomez, returned $6.60 and $4.40 in finishing 1 ¾ lengths in front of Glinda the Good, who rallied for third under Julien Leparoux and returned $6.60 to show.
It was a neck back to Aubby K in fourth, who was followed in order by Golden History, Believe You Can, Taxi Dancer, Flashy Lassie, Heart of Destiny, Georgie’s Angel, My Due Process and Bet to Win.