V V’s Dream stole the show yesterday at Churchill Downs with a dominating win in the Pocahontas Stakes (G3) for 2-year-old fillies. Not only did the talented daughter of Mitole finish well ahead of the other five runners, but she also ran significantly faster than West Saratoga did in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) two races later on the card.
From a pace standpoint, the two races played out differently. But the Pocahontas stood out better in the stretch because V V’s Dream asserted herself, while the Iroquois colts remained stuck in the crowd.
In the Pocahontas, Hot Beach took control of the lead while receiving pressure from the public second choice Youalmosthadme. Hot Beach led the field through fractions of 22.83, 45.55 and 1:10.24. Those times seem on the faster side for one mile, but not in a scorching way.
V V’s Dream sat in a beautiful spot in third at the half-mile point. On the turn, she began to tip outside and reel in the leaders under minimal urging.
When V V’s Dream came on even terms with Hot Beach and Youalmosthadme at the top of the stretch, she went past them with no resistance and soon widened the advantage with each stride. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. only made use of the whip by waving it without hitting her.
By the end, the field was spread thin with V V’s Dream winning by 8 ¾ lengths over Youalmosthadme in second. Hot Beach in third lost second by less than a length, but she had 5 ½ lengths on Courbe back in fourth. Overall, 21 ½ lengths came between the winner V V’s Dream and the trailer Regal Rumor in sixth.
V V’s Dream completed the one mile in 1:36.45 while earning 87 Beyer Speed Figure in the process, according to Daily Racing Form. She handled business in both a dominating and professional manner, which bodes well for the filly as she continues along on the Kentucky Oaks trail.
Two races later, the Iroquois pace scenario went wild in the opening half when Patriot Spirit led the field through an opening quarter in 22.37 and a blazing half-mile in 44.63. At the half, he was already four lengths ahead.
Market Street and Risk It were chasing the pacesetter in second and third. West Saratoga sat in fourth, and Seize the Grey settled somewhere in midpack in fifth.
On the turn, Patriot Spirit still held the lead, although Risk It and West Saratoga on the outside began to get closer in a striking position. Both of them were noticeably under a ride to close the gap on the run-off pacesetter.
Seize the Grey also made up ground in the stretch, but he could not keep a straight line and began to drift out under the left-handed whip. He momentarily took the path of Liberal Arts, who was closing from behind.
West Saratoga and Risk It finally went by Patriot Spirit, who quit in midstretch. Both runners were looking tired in the stretch, although West Saratoga did respond well enough to the urging and eventually hit the wire 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Risk It for the win.
Risk It barely held off Liberal Arts for third, while Seize the Grey ended up a neck behind Liberal Arts in fourth as he tried to straighten out late.
Overall, the Iroquois runners completed the race in an unsatisfying fashion. When races feature a run-off pacesetter, sometimes it results in a quality closer shining as the pacesetter and the speed horses all fold.
Patriot Spirit lasted longer than expected though after the blazing half-mile, and none of the closing horses broke free of the crowd late. West Saratoga won by a little less than two lengths, but that is not a huge margin in dirt racing.
West Saratoga completed the one mile in 1:37.28, which was slower than V V's Dream’s time in the Pocahontas by almost a second. To confirm the mediocrity of the field, he also received a 78 Beyer Speed Figure.
Besides the slower time and speed figure, the Iroquois finish just gave a bad impression with all the runners close to each other at the end. Only seven lengths came between the winner West Saratoga and the dead tired sixth-place finisher Patriot Spirit.
In contrast, V V's Dream came off as looking like a possible top-tier filly for the Oaks trail if she can keep the momentum up. She gave a sparkling finish and might eventually develop into an Oaks contender.
Wherever V V’s Dream starts next, she deserves attention from bettors after the impressive performance in the Pocahontas. As for West Saratoga and the rest of the Iroquois group, they probably need to develop more before they become attractive bets at the higher levels.