McPeek filly to follow winning formula in Pocahontas Stakes

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

September 12th, 2019

There are plenty of eye-catching maiden winners entered in Saturday’s $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) that also serves as the first stop on the 2019-2020 Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

You can take your pick of fillies who recorded maiden victories on dirt at Saratoga, Del Mar, Gulfstream Park, Colonial Downs, Ellis Park or Indiana Grand, but I’m going to play outside the box and favor #6 Morning Gold, whose maiden victory came on grass at Saratoga.

Trainer Kenny McPeek knows how to prepare a filly for the Pocahontas. He won the race in 2015 with Dothraki Queen and in 2016 with Daddys Lil Darling, two fillies who exhibited very similar profiles. Both broke their maidens running a mile at Ellis ParkDothraki Queen scoring on grass, while Daddys Lil Darling won an off-the-turf event. These victories were achieved without the aid of Lasix, which they both used for the first time in the Pocahontas.

McPeek will follow this award-winning script with Morning Gold. The speedy filly finished second in her debut at 1 1/16 miles on turf at Saratoga, where she easily pulled clear of third-place finisher and next-out winner Lucky Jingle. Morning Gold then contested a similar maiden event at Saratoga and romped home in gate-to-wire fashion by 5 1/2 lengths. The third-place finisher in that race, Micheline, came right back to win the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Morning Gold’s proven ability to handle two turns is a big asset—she’s one of just two fillies in the Pocahontas field with this valuable experience under her belt.  The transition to dirt shouldn’t be an issue, considering her sire (Morning Line) and damsire (Indian Charlie) were both grade 1 winners on the main track. Even better? Morning Gold will race with Lasix for the first time Saturday.

With Eclipse Award-winning jockey Jose Ortiz in the saddle, I’m optimistic Morning Gold will follow in the hoofprints of her stablemates and spring a mid-range upset in the Pocahontas. Her lack of form on dirt should ensure she starts at a fair price, so I’ll bet her to win and key her in the exacta with #3 Portrait, #7 British Idiom and #8 Lotta Ott.

For several reasons I’ll emphasize the combinations with British Idiom. Aside from being conditioned by Brad Cox, one of the leading trainers at Churchill in recent years, I’m encouraged by the way British Idiom defeated next-out winner Miss Marissa by 3 1/2 lengths on debut. Like Morning Gold, British Idiom will be racing on Lasix for the first time in the Pocahontas.

$12 to win on #6 Morning Gold $4 exacta: 6,7 with 6,7 ($8) $3 exacta: 3,8 with 6 ($6) $2 exacta: 6 with 3,8 ($4)

Good luck!