Churchill Downs' 21-day meet begins Sunday with the first of two "Stars of Tomorrow" programs devoted exclusively to races for two-year-olds, including the Grade 2 $150,000 Pocahontas Stakes for fillies and the Grade 3, $100,000 Iroquois Stakes. Both stakes will be held at a one-turn mile.
The Pocahontas drew a field of eight, including the unbeaten Gal About Town. An impressive winner in her first two starts at Monmouth Park and Keeneland, the chestnut daughter of City Zip will make her stakes debut for new trainer William Severs and Jesus Castanon rides. Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Danalake, who registered a 3 3/4-length victory in the Our Mims Stakes at Delaware Park prior to her runner-up in the September 29 Blue Hen Stakes at the same venue, and trainer Bill Mott is responsible for Seasoned Warrior, who recorded a fourth in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga and a third in the Grade 2 Matron Stakes at Belmont Park in her last two starts.
Overanalyze, a sharp 3 1/4-length scorer in the Grade 2 Futurity Stakes at Belmont September 30, is the one to beat in the 10-horse Iroquois. Owned by Repole Stable and conditioned by Pletcher, the bay colt sandwiched a fourth in the Grade 2 Hopeful between a debut maiden win and the Futurity. Julien Leparoux takes over the mount on the well-regarded son of Dixie Union. His top challengers include Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity winner Pataky Kid, who exits a fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity; Grade 3 runner-up Positively, seventh in the Breeders' Futurity most recently; and multiple Woodbine stakes winner Uncaptured, who will be looking to rebound from his first career setback, a fifth as the odds-on choice in the Grade 3 Grey Stakes.
The 138th running of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on November 23, a race as old as the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, heads a schedule of 12 stakes races with total purses of $1.825 million set for the fall meet, which runs through November 25.
Other highlights include a "Downs After Dark" night program on November 17, featuring both of the track's late-season turf races for three-year-olds, the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes and Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf Stakes; and the "Stars of Tomorrow II" on November 24, with the 86th running of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and its counterpart for fillies, the 69th running of the Grade 2 Golden Rod. Along with earning the first-place purse, the winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club will automatically be nominated to the 2013 Kentucky Derby and the Grade 3 Derby Trial. The winner of the 68th Golden Rod will earn automatic nominations to the 2013 renewals of the Kentucky Oaks and the Grade 3 Eight, a seven-furlong race for three-year-old fillies that will be run on Kentucky Oaks Day.
Each of the dozen stakes races set for Churchill Downs' 2012 Fall Meet stakes schedule is a graded event. A stakes race will be offered on each of the Churchill Downs' live racing programs conducted prior to the simulcasts of the Breeders' Cup World Championships races from Santa Anita on Friday, November 2, and Saturday, November 3. The Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap is set for the Friday program and Saturday's local is the Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes.
The Grade 3 River City Handicap will be the featured event on the meet's closing day, November 25. With that scheduling move, each of the four Thanksgiving/Closing Weekend racing programs will, for the first time, feature a stakes event. The Sunday "Closing Day" program was added to the Fall Meet schedule in 2010.
For a look at the complete list of stakes events scheduled during the 2012 Churchill Downs Fall Meet, click here.