Saturday plays: Focus on class of competition in Pocahontas

Saturday plays: Focus on class of competition in Pocahontas
Photo: Mary M. Meek / Eclipse Sportswire

Finding a standout filly in this edition of the Grade 3, $300,000 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday might feel difficult at first. For those handicappers who use TimeformUS figures, these fillies mostly show the same numbers.  

One way to handicap without focusing on speed figures though is to concentrate on the company a horse keeps. For example, one filly in the Pocahontas almost caught a future multiple graded stakes winner in an Ellis Park stakes race.

The filly in question is the key in the exacta wheel below. Read on for a selection for the $300,000 Iroquois (G3) as well.

Churchill Downs Race 7: Pocahontas Stakes (G3)

When V V’s Dream made her second career start in the Debutante Stakes at Ellis Park back in early July, she went to battle with Brightwork in the stretch and nearly won. If not for the wire, V V’s Dream was going to pass that filly.

After holding on against V V’s Dream, Brightwork went on to capture the Adirondack Stakes (G3) and Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.

V V’s Dream did not earn a great speed figure in the Debutante. She only shows a 90 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the runner-up effort. But for a 2-year-old filly in early July, that number is decent enough for the time. As Brightwork did prove later on at Saratoga, the improvement can come fast and almost overnight for a developing 2-year-old. 

In this spot, V V’s Dream makes the third start of her career for trainer Ken McPeek and she might pop a big one as well. Given V V's Dream's stalking style, a fast or slow pace likely will not matter either. She can settle behind the leaders and strike first.

V V’s Dream is the single.

Hot Beach and Riperton, the two exacta finishers from the Ellis Park Debutante Stakes last month (not the same race as the Debutante), look useful for the second spot.

Hot Wheel brings a nice stalking style to this race. She won by two lengths over Riperton, who was closing well in the stretch and did well enough to pass the 4-5 favorite Youalmosthadme for second. Oddly, Riperton is listed at an overlaid 12-1 on the morning line off that runner-up finish to the 7/2 Hot Beach.

The third option for the exacta wheel is Courbe. This daughter of Quality Road broke her maiden at Ellis Park last month with a 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure for Todd Pletcher and might improve in her second career start in this race, especially given the trainer. Courbe is listed at 10-1, which is unusual for Pletcher 2-year-olds in stakes races.

Win: 6 (at 2-1 or higher)

Exacta wheel: 6 over 3,8,9

Churchill Downs Race 9: Iroquois Stakes (G3)

Seize the Grey ran well at a less-than-ideal distance in the off-the-turf Skidmore Stakes last month at Saratoga. After starting off in ninth and last, he came back in the stretch to finish a closing third and 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner Ship Cadet.

For a son of Arrogate out of a Smart Strike mare, a five-and-a-half furlong race is just too short. Also note the second dam Shop Again, who is a half-sister to the $1.2 million earner Miss Shop. Miss Shop competed in route races and won the 2007 Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) as her career highlight.

Out of the Skidmore, the runner-up El Grande O tried dirt again in his next start and finished a close second by a head to The Wine Steward in the Funny Cide Stakes for New York-breds at Saratoga. His returning effort is good enough to back up the quality of the Skidmore runners in the trifecta.

The one concern about Seize the Grey is that his maiden win and Skidmore closing third both came on wet dirt. When Seize the Grey ran next-to-last in his career debut at Ellis Park, he ran over fast dirt. But in fairness, most horses use their career debuts as a learning experience and he probably did need the first start to figure out how to run.

If Seize the Grey offers the right odds, he is a win and place bet.

Win/place: 6 (at 6-1 or higher)

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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