Change Up Baffles Pocahontas Challengers

(from Churchill Downs report)
Favored Change Up gave jockey Garrett Gomez a sweep of Saturday's opening-day stakes for juveniles when she wore down the stubborn Mistical Plan in the stretch and scored a two-length victory in the $114,300 Pocahontas (gr. III) for fillies at Churchill Downs.

The daughter of Distorted Humor  covered a mile over a "fast" track in 1:35.97 and paid $6.60, $3.80, and $3.00 as the tepid 5-2 favorite in the field of nine. Mistical Plan, piloted by Calvin Borel, fought gamely for second after battling through a torried pace duel and paid $4.20 and $3.80. Lady Joanne, with John McKee in the irons, closed from last to finish a clear third and paid $4.40.

The winning time was the second fastest in the Pocahontas at its one-mile distance. Unbridled Elaine set the stakes record of 1:34.82 in its 2000 renewal. The time was just shy of the winning time of 1:35.92 turned in two races earlier by the 2-year-old colt Tiz Wonderful in the Iroquois Stakes (gr III).

Gomez had four winners on the afternoon.

"Every time I thought she was done, she just kept digging down and finding something more," said Gomez. "She turned in a tremendous run here and showed a lot of heart."

Owned and bred by Richard, Bertram, and Elaine Klein in Kentucky and trained by Steve Flint, Change Up recorded her third win from five career starts, and her second win from three races at Churchill Downs. She earned $68,034 for her initial graded stakes victory to run her total to $160,754.

Change Up rebounded from a seventh-place finish over a "sloppy" track as the odds-on favorite in the Arlington-Washington Breeders' Cup Lassie (gr. III). Flint had been pointing Change Up toward the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) until that disappointing effort, but she made amends in the Pocahontas.

"She's a legitimate contender," said Flint. "She's just got lots of talent. I think she'll make a great name for herself. Hopefully, we'll see you back here in May (in the Kentucky Oaks)."

Mistical Plan, one of three fillies in the Pocahontas who had pre-entered to run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies but did not make that race's initial field of 14 horses, broke sharply to grab the early lead and battled with Expertise on the run down the backstretch.

The duo led the field through early fractions of :22.58 for the first quarter and :45.26 for the half-mile, while Change Up tracked the leaders in a close-up fifth after a half-mile. Change Up moved with Taletobetold to challenge the leaders on the far turn, but Mistical Plan briefly kicked clear along the rail under Borel. Gomez took aim on the leader with Change Up and grabbed the lead mid-stretch and won driving. Mistical Plan gamely held on to edge the late running Lady Joanne by a neck for third.

"She ran a huge race," said Borel, who picked up the ride on Mistical Plan when jockey Rafael Bejarano took off his later mounts because of illness. "She went a little fast, but she kept trying."

Pro Pink finished fourth, followed by Mostbeautifulstorm, Baroness Thatcher, Taletobetold, Expertise, and Lisa M. The Pocahontas field was reduced to nine with the late scratches of Cohiba Miss and Littlebitabling.

(Chart, Equibase)