9-22-21 – In addition to being the first Kentucky Oaks and Derby prep races of the season, the $300,000 Grade 3 Pocahontas and $300,000 Grade 3 Iroquois are “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup contests. That means you will likely see winners Hidden Connection in the Juvenile fillies and Major General in the Juvenile colts races at Del Mar in California on November 5th.
The prep races were literally back-to-back events at Churchill Downs on Saturday night, with the ladies competing first. In the Pocahontas, trainer Bret Calhoun sent out his filly, Hidden Connection, against a field of nine competitors. The very lightly raced daughter of new sire Connect had only one start prior to jumping into the deeper waters of graded stakes racing. However, on debut, Hidden Connection scored an impressive 7 1/2 length victory at Colonial Downs going 5 1/2 furlongs and received an 84 Beyer for her effort. The two-year-old filly was an $85,000 purchase by Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds in 2021. She’s “in the black” now after only two starts as she handily took the $300,000 Pochahantas by 9 1/4 lengths, covering the mile and a sixteenth in 1:43.78. Very impressive. But what was even more impressive to me was Hidden Connection’s gallop out after the wire. She absolutely loved the stretch out in distance and looked like she could go around the track again. Wow! I like her. I like her alot.
The $300,000 Grade 3 Iroquois, also contested at a mile and a sixteenth, was won by Hall Of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher’s two-year-old colt, Major General. A $420,000 purchase at the Keeneland September 2020 yearling sale, the son of Constitution out of an Uncle Mo mare also had only one start prior to this race. Major General, owned by Winstar Farm and Siena Farm, won his debut going 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga by a neck over Bourbon Heist, who finished fourth in the Iroquois. Major General took the Iroquois by that same margin in 1:44.88. That’s a full second slower than Hidden Connection’s win time just twenty minutes earlier. And his 2-2 record left him just short of his purchase price in earnings. However, I feel sure both sets of connections are thrilled with their respective prospects for May right now.
Often these very early prep races mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of Kentucky Oaks and Derby contenders. But, if Hidden Connection goes out to Del Mar and puts in a decent effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, I would advise you to put her on your watch list for the Kentucky Oaks. I would suggest you also pay attention to her 24-year-old rising star jockey, Reylu Gutierrez. He is bright, humble but confident, and has a million-dollar smile. It would be a lot of fun to see this combo in the winner’s circle the first Friday in May next year. Let’s go!!!