Favored Punch Appeal didn't have the easiest of trips for jockey Pat Day, but she was not to be denied in winning the $109,500 Pocahontas for 2-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs by a nose.
After battling on the front end while wide throughout, the daughter of Successful Appeal
reached the front at the head of the stretch over Aspen Tree and pacesetting Quiet Optimism, then won an all-out duel over Aspen Tree for the victory.
"She got back in front of that filly (Aspen Tree) a good neck or a short half-a-length," said Day. "Then, in the last 40 yards, she just was absolutely leg-weary and collapsed. But she fought hard right to the wire."
Kota, 3 3/4 lengths behind the first two, nosed Quiet Optimism for third. The final time for the one-turn mile on a fast track was 1:37 3/5.
Trained by Steve Asmussen for Heiligbrodt Stable and Burning Day Farm, the Florida-bred Punch Appeal won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies at Turfway Park in September but ran seventh in the Alcibiades (gr. II) at Keeneland in her last start Oct. 8.
Punch Appeal is scheduled to be auctioned on Tuesday at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in Lexington.
"She is not a big filly but she does what she can," said Asmussen, who leads the nation's trainers in victories in 2004. "She is going into the sale this week. That will be interesting to see what happens. I'll lead her in the (ring), lead her out, hold her and see who comes and gets her."
Saturday, she had little opportunity to get a breather. She broke well for Day and led through the first quarter mile (:23) before giving way to quiet Optimism, who took the seven-horse field through a half in :46 and six furlongs in 1:11 1/5. Punch Appeal rallied four wide on the turn and got the lead in the stretch but the race was far from over. Aspen Tree and rider Brian Peck refused to fold after drawing even with Punch Appeal but they were not able to beat the game winner.
Punch Appeal won for the fifth time in eight lifetime efforts, earning $67,890 for the victory. Her career bankroll now stands at $239,840.
Rosebrook Farm bred the winner, who paid $6.20, $3.40 and $2.60. Aspen Tree returned $3.80 and $3. Kota's show was $3.20.
Burnish, Ragtime Hope and Im a Dixie Girl completed the order. Hot Storm scratched.