Head to Head: Handicapping the 2022 Pocahontas Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2022 Pocahontas Stakes
Photo: Adam Coglianese / NYRA

The Grade 3, $300,000 Pocahontas Stakes drew a large field of 12 fillies. Like its counterpart for the Kentucky Derby, the Iroquois (G3), the Pocahontas kicks off the road to the Kentucky Oaks. The first five finishers will be awarded Oaks points on a 10-4-3-2-1 basis.

(G3) winner Naughty Gal looks to rebound after finishing a disappointing ninth in the Spinaway (G1) earlier this month. She faces an entirely new cast of challengers here as many of these fillies are exiting either a maiden win or the Debutante at Ellis Park.

Like the Iroquois, the Pocahontas does not always churn out Oaks victories. However, both Serengeti Empress and Untapable have completed the Pocahontas/Oaks double in recent years.

The Pocahontas will be contested at 1 1/16-mile and is Saturday’s finale. Post time is scheduled for 5:58 EST.

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and I put our heads together to determine who will shine and who will come up short. 



1.   Boss Lady Bailey 12-1

Boss Lady Bailey was challenged down the stretch by Fun and Feisty at Ellis Park but refused to let her pass. So far, only Fun and Feisty returned to win, and four others from that race were out of the money in their next start. Over the last three years, John Ortiz has an impressive one winner and two third-place finishers from four juveniles who stepped into stakes in their second start. Worth a long-shot exotics look.


Boss Lady Bailey showed the field who was boss when she won her debut at Ellis Park. Fellow Pocahontas entrant Fun and Feisty was the runner-up that day. She only received a 70-speed figure for that race, so thanks, but no thanks. Pass.


2.   Kiss Me On Oconee 20-1

Kiss Me On Oconee had no excuses in the Ellis Park Debutante and finished a distant eighth. She didn’t beat much in her debut, as only one runner returned to hit the board in their next start. Additionally, she had poor speed ratings in both starts. Toss.


Kiss Me On Oconee is out of grade two placed Midnight On Oconee, a mare I adore because the Oconee flows through my home state of Georgia. Kiss Me On Oconee debuted a winner at Churchill Downs while up on the pace but was never involved in her second start, an eighth place finish in the Debutante, won by Justa Warrior, at Ellis Park. Her speed figures are low, and as much as I want to like her, I just can’t. Pass.


3.   Naughty Gal 5-1

The veteran of the field with four starts, Naughty Gal was exposed in the seven-furlong Spinaway Stakes. She faded like a bad spray tan after setting the pace for the first half mile, finishing ninth of ten, and 20-lengths behind the winner for no apparent reason. By Into Mischief, out of a precocious Spanish Steps mare, Naughty Gal has a sprinter’s pedigree. The Lukas trainee turns around in just 13 days. Although I’ve often said that Lukas is sneaky, I’m going to toss Naughty Gal this time around.   


Adirondack (G3) winner Naughty Gal faded badly in the Spinaway (G1) after setting the early pace. She came home ninth, 20 lengths behind the winner. I honestly have no idea what to do with that race. She had no excuses like she did when she blew the turn in the Adirondack and had to re-rally for the win. I’m willing to give her another shot, especially at a price. Contender.


4.   Shoplifter 15-1

Shoplifter does her best work with her tail to the field. Unfortunately, she didn’t get that set up in the Ellis Park Debutante. Instead, she sat behind the pace and ate dirt for the first time. Once in the clear, Shoplifter finished with interest to grab fifth. Super Saver’s daughter has a unique pedigree. Her sire and dam trace to the same superior mare (Get Lucky). That one is the second dam of Super Saver and Shoplifter’s dam New Shaker. Additionally, Get Lucky’s daughters Supercharger and New Dice are by sons of Seattle Slew. Besides Super Saver, this female family produced Grade 1 winners Imagining, Girolamo, Got Lucky, and Bluegrass Cat. Eddie Kenneally’s juveniles have a 22% win and 43% in the money rate in stakes over the last five years. So I’m willing to give Shoplifter a chance since the Debutante was a good learning experience. Worth a long-shot exotics look.



Shoplifter debuted against Adirondack third place finisher Sabra Tuff, losing the decision by just a neck. She rebounded nicely to win by open lengths at second asking but could only manage fifth in the Ellis Park Debutante while racing in midfield rather than on the lead. She does seem to really like the Churchill Downs oval, though, so she could be worth a look when returning to run under the Twin Spires. Live longshot.


5.   Grand Love 9-2

This half-sister to Grade 1 heroine Malibu Prayer and multiple graded winner Valid lived up to expectations while winning her Saratoga debut by 4 ¾ lengths. The Asmussen trainee ran them off their feet through a first quarter in 21.96 and the half in 44.97. Although she tired in the stretch, Grand Love was never threatened as she finished 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17.93 and got her final half furlong in 7.17. Grand Love likely won’t get away with those tactics in the Pocahontas but certainly deserves consideration. Contender.


Grand Love debuted for Steve Asmussen at Saratoga. She led every step of the way and drew off to an easy 4 ¾-length victory. She earned a solid 88-speed figure for her effort. Ricardo Santana, Jr. was aboard that day but has opted to ride Naughty Gal instead, so Joel Rosario picks up the mount. Contender.


6.   Outofnothingatall 30-1

Outofnothingatall moves up in class after finishing third behind the spectacular six-length Sorority Stakes winner Vedareo. I’ll take a pass on this one. Toss.

By Super Saver, Outofnothingatall won at first asking by five lengths at Evangeline. She shipped to Monmouth for her next start, the Sorority, where she nabbed the show honors at long odds. Despite this being a Grade 3 event, this is still a steep class hike for the filly. Pass.


7.   Southlawn 5-1

Southlawn beat four rivals by five widening lengths in an off-the-turf race at Ellis in July. She traveled her final furlong in a good 12.32 under a hand ride. Only one rival has hit the board in subsequent starts, so while she didn’t beat much, Southlawn did it impressively. Previously, the Norm Casse trainee was fifth behind Debutante heroine Wonder Wheel in their debuts. Contender.


This daughter of the late Pioneerof the Nile debuted against Spinaway (G1) runner-up Wonder Wheel back in June. She was a distant fifth after getting off to a slow start. She improved in her second start to win by five lengths with a 15-point jump in her speed figure. That race was originally carded for the turf, but sometimes things just work out. And with that race having been contested at a mile, it's safe to say that the extra sixteenth won’t be an issue. Contender.


8.   Need Some Money 20-1

Need Some Money didn’t care for the mud in her debut but got the money in her second start. She made a sustained drive from the rail to win, going away by 3 1/2 lengths, getting her final furlong in 12.78 in the one-mile event. The young trainer Sarah Hamilton opened her stable last year and already has a stakes-placed runner. Worth a long-shot exotics look.


Like Laurie pointed out, Need Some Money clearly did not like the muddy conditions she faced in her debut. A fast track in her second start moved her up in the world as she drove up the rail to win drawing away. Her speed figure jumped by almost 20 points, and another step forward could see her as a legitimate contender here. Long-shot exotics.


9.   Jet Setting 8-1

Jet Setting lived up to her favorite status, winning her debut by 2 3/4 lengths at Ellis Park. It was a workman-like performance, as the Brad Cox trainee completed her final furlong of the one-mile event in a slow 14.74. One of three returning rivals hit the board next out. Union Rags’ daughter is out of Adirondack (G2) winner Worstcasescenario, and she has a multiple-stakes placed half-sister. Jet Setting’s speed rating was average, and while she has a chance, there are others I like better. Pass.

You don’t always see juveniles debuting at a mile, but that’s exactly what Jet Setting did. She won by 2 ¾-lengths, but her final time of just over 1:38 left a lot to be desired. Trainer Brad Cox is doing exceptionally well with 2-year-olds and graded stakes, though, so you have to give this filly some serious consideration. Contender.

10.               Fun and Feisty 6-1

Fun and Feisty found the winner’s circle in her third start. She chased swift quarters of 21.51 seconds and 45.10 seconds before taking over in the stretch to win by three lengths. Previously, the McPeek trainee missed the photo by a head to Boss Lady Bailey. However, Midshipman’s daughter improved her speed rating to 87 and has a legitimate shot. Contender.


Fun and Feisty learned a thing or two upon debut, improving from sixth upon debut to missing the win by just a neck in her second start. She finally found the winner’s circle after her third attempt, earning a career high 87-speed figure. Because she likes to sit just behind the pace, she should get a good trip. Contender.


11.               Justa Warrior 4-1

Undefeated in two starts, Justa Warrior captured the Ellis Park Debutante Stakes by a length after traveling three wide the entire way. Justify’s daughter is out of Frizette heroine A Z Warrior, and she has a pair of black type earning half-siblings overseas. Although this John Ortiz trainee is undefeated, she got her final furlong in the Debutante in a slow 14:00, and she was all out to do it. Exotics


Justa Warrior may be undefeated, but both of her starts came at Ellis Park, begging the question of who exactly she has beaten. She did beat a few of the fillies in this field in the Debutante, but like Laurie pointed out, they finished up slowly after clicking off solid early fractions. Exotics.


12.               Friendlypersuasion 8-1

Friendlypersuasion rounds out the field. After finishing a nondescript fifth in a field of 12 at Churchill, the Michael McCarthy trainee found the competition much easier in Indiana, galloping off by 7 ¼ lengths. Now the pretty gray daughter of Arrogate is back with another chance to see if she has what it takes. I need more persuasion to see her in a top spot here. Toss.


Race 2 on Churchill’s July 4th card was magical…if your name had “magic” in it. Unfortunately for Friendlypersuasion, there was no magic to be found that day. She finished 5th, 1 1/4-lengths ahead of Fun and Feisty. A trip to Indiana found this daughter of Arrogate in the winner’s circle as the odds-on favorite. Originally carded for the turf, that second start was contested at a mile. Though she won by open lengths, the final time was a pokey 1:39.74. Pass.



Final Thoughts

Laurie: Race keys: Pocahontas favorites have hit the board 50% of the time in the last decade, but only two have won. No particular running style is favored; however, pacesetters and pressers have won the last four editions. Eight of the last 10 won their previous start, most of which were maiden races.

Most of the Pocahontas field won as pacesetters or pressers, so who can rate behind the speed? Fun and Feisty showed the ability to rate behind swift fractions and her last win came with a good time. A similar setup could send her to the winner’s circle. Ken McPeek won back-to-back editions of the Pocahontas in 2015-2016. 

Ashley: Like Laurie said, there’s quite a few fillies in this large field that do their best running on the front-end. I think Naughty Gal is most likely to come away with the lead, as she has in her past three starts.

The key for her will be to nurse that speed so that she doesn’t put in a similar performance to what we saw in the Spinaway. This is an interesting field in that there is not one filly who stands above the rest, and it’s easy to make a case for the majority of the fillies. Unlike their male counterparts in the Iroquois, many of these fillies have already successfully tried a mile, giving them a step up on those that haven’t.




#10 Fun and Feisty (6-1)

#3 Naughty Gal (5-1)

#5 Grand Love (9-2)

#10 Fun and Feisty (6-1)

#7 Southlawn (5-1)

#5 Grand Love (9-2)

#8 Need Some Money (20-1)

#9 Jet Setting (8-1)


Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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