Favored Sassy Image emerged with the lead past mid-stretch and pulled clear late to post her first stakes win by two lengths in the $115,900 Pocahontas (gr. III) (VIDEO) for 2-year-old fillies on opening day of the Churchill Downs 21-day fall meet Nov. 1.
The Pocahontas was one of two grade III stakes on the "Stars of Tomorrow" program for 2-year-olds, joining the Iroquois Stakes.
Under patient handling by Robby Albarado, Sassy Image saved ground before splitting rivals in the stretch and collaring the leading All Due Respect inside the eighth pole. Trained by Dale Romans for his brother, owner Jerry Romans, the daughter of Broken Vow --Ideal Image (by Hennessy) proved best in the one-turn mile test in a time of 1:38.63 over a fast track. Dale Romans won last year's Pocahontas with Sara Louise.
Decelerator, closing five wide into the stretch under Rajiv Maragh, could not challenge the winner but got up for second by a head over the maiden All Due Respect and Brian Hernandez Jr.
Vivid Colors, who finished fourth, led the opening quarter-mile in a quick :22.46, then vied with Tiz Miz Sue through a half-mile in :45.66 and six furlongs in 1:11.62. The field took close order as the leaders reached the quarter-pole and Sassy Image, behind horses, found room for her winning move between Vivid Colors and All Due Respect.
“The filly ran great," said Albarado after winning his fourth race on the card. "Dale gave me some instruction to keep her a little bit closer today, so I jumped her out a little earlier and got some forward position going down the backside. I was always very comfortable during the race and just had to find a place to get through. She found the spot up the rail and just went on without me really asking anything of her.”
Sassy Image broke her maiden at Churchill Downs in her second start June 21 before heading to Saratoga for the summer. She ran second in the Adirondack (gr. II) and fourth in the Spinaway (gr. I) at the Spa. In her first route and Polytrack try in the 1 1/16-mile Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 9, she finished eighth, dropping out of it after a wide trip. Overall, she has won two of six starts with earnings of $147,512. The Pocahontas victory was worth $66,828.
“It’s great to be back on the real stuff and it’s great to be back at Churchill Downs," Romans said. "I think she’ll run all day. She outlasted ‘em and had the most stamina today and I just think she’ll run even further.
“You just don’t know (what will happen) when you turn for home and you’re down on the inside all boxed up like that. Are they going to get through? I just thought if (Albarado) found a seam that she would kick through and she did. She’s got a bright future and she’s got a lot of room to improve."
Romans said Sassy Image would be pointed to the $150,000 Golden Rod (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles on closing day of the Churchill meet Nov. 28.
J C Davis Farm bred Sassy Image in Kentucky. The chestnut filly sold for $42,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2008.
Sassy Image carried 117 pounds to victory and paid $6.20, $3.20, and $2.80. Decelerator, who won Churchill's Debutante (gr. III) June 27, returned $7.20 and $6 as the the 122-pound high weight in the field of 12. The exacta was worth $39.60. All Due Respect, a maiden, was $8.80 to show.
Vivid Colors was followed by Tidal Pool, Vertical Vision, Biorra, Tiz Miz Sue, All About Anna, Jody Slew, Running Bride and Happy Week. Snap Happy scratched.