Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's homebred Sign made a couple of rookie
mistakes in her stakes debut in Sunday's Grade 2, $168,150
Churchill Downs, but the 4-5 favorite easily overcame them to win as much the
An 11 3/4-length winner first time out at Saratoga, Sign got off to a slow start in the Pocahontas. The Al Stall Jr. pupil lagged in the rear early, then became rank and fought jockey Rosie Napravnik while advancing to midpack on the outside.
Up front, the 4-1 second choice Gal About Town led through an opening quarter in :23 1/5 on the fast track. When La Song moved up along the inside, Gal About Town was content to concede the lead and stalked La Song through a half in :47 1/5. Then Gal About Town regained the advantage through six furlongs in 1:13 2/5 and tried to pull away into the stretch.
Meanwhile, Sign had appeared to flatten out at one point on the far turn. But the daughter of Pulpit suddenly surged between horses down the stretch. Picking up strongly, Sign rolled past Gal About Town to score by four lengths, advancing her record to two-for-two.
After finishing the one-turn mile in 1:38 3/5, Sign earned 10 points on the new "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" scoring system.
"We wanted her to be back (early)," Stall said. "You never know when they're last, but we wanted her back and to get a good finish. I could see her fighting the dirt a bit on backstretch. She overcame a few things and ran a great race."
"She's really impressive," Napravnik said. "She's handled everything really well. She was much the best today and I had a good trip.
"We didn't want to be too involved in the pace because of the way the track is playing. She did break a little bit slow, but that was fine. I let her settle and she came with a big run."
Gal About Town received four points for finishing second, 1 3/4 lengths clear of Cloudy Vow. Third-placer Cloudy Vow got two points, and the fourth Cloudy in Sandiego opened her account with one point. Seasoned Warrior, Danalake, Brotherhood Singer and La Song rounded out the order under the wire.
Sign, who paid $3.80, $2.80 and $2.40, boosted her bankroll to $149,125. The bay filly was overlooked at 10-1 in her premiere at the Spa on August 26, but outperformed those odds to dominate.
The Pocahontas marked the 30th Churchill Downs stakes win for the historic Claiborne Farm of Paris, Kentucky. Their most famous Grade 1 victories beneath the Twin Spires include Swale in the 1984 Kentucky Derby, Lure in the 1993 Early Times Turf Classic and Blame in the 2009 Clark Handicap, 2010 Stephen Foster and 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic, denying Zenyatta. This was Claiborne's second Pocahontas victory; they won the 1983 renewal with Flippers.
The Kentucky-bred Sign is out of the stakes-winning Mighty mare Cross, who is in turn a half-sister to Grade 2 victor Lattice. Sign's fourth dam is the noted matron Alluvial, the dam of two-time champion Slew O' Gold as well as Coastal, who upset Spectacular Bid in the 1979 Belmont Stakes. Alluvial is also the ancestress of multiple Grade 1 winner Aptitude and Grade 1 queen Sleep Easy.
Sign's fifth dam is Bayou, the champion three-year-old filly of 1957, whose notable descendants include champion War Pass. Bayou is herself a full sister to Broodmare of the Year Levee, the dam of Hall of Famer Shuvee.
Stall said that Sign would make her next start in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill on November 24, another race on the Kentucky Oaks scoring system.