Normandy Farm’s homebred Daddys Lil Darling overhauled longtime leader Bling on the Music in midstretch of Saturday’s $200,000 Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs, then held the late thrust of Ever So Clever in the first scoring race on the Road to the 2017 Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Trained by Ken McPeek and piloted by Corey Lanerie, the daughter of Scat Daddy covered 1 1/16 miles on the muddy track in 1:47.19. The 7-2 chance returned $9.80 to win and banked 10 Oaks points.
“She was holding on,” Lanerie said, “but she was getting a little tired because I moved a little earlier to keep (Dream Dancing) from boxing me in and it was kind of taking its toll on me a little bit.
“But she had a lot of heart. She felt great. She’s a charm to ride and has a lot of class. I think a little kid could ride her.”
Daddys Lil Darling was coming off an eight-length maiden romp at Ellis Park, in a race originally scheduled for turf but transferred to the dirt. By winning the Pocahontas, Daddys Lil Darling was completing a big-race double for Ellis Park maiden winners. Two races earlier on the Churchill card, fellow Ellis Park graduate Not This Time ran away with the Iroquois (G3). Both benefited from their experience in going a route of ground.
Daddys Lil Darling has something else in common with Not This Time: both are half-siblings to 2015 Breeders’ Cup winners. Daddys Lil Darling’s half-brother, Mongolian Saturday, took last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), while Not This Time is a half to Dirt Mile (G1) star Liam’s Map.
With the Pocahontas being a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Daddys Lil Darling will get the chance to earn her own Breeders’ Cup laurel at Santa Anita on November 5. McPeek mentioned that she could race in the interim in the October 7 Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland, but will probably just wait for the Breeders’ Cup.
Ever So Clever is worth following too, considering that she closed from last to miss by only a half-length. She also looked a little green while wandering in upper stretch, in this first try around two turns. By Medaglia d’Oro – the same sire as Rachel Alexandra and Songbird – Ever So Clever scored 4 points toward the Oaks.
Bling on the Music, who had never raced past six furlongs, kept on to save third and took home 2 Oaks points. Dream Dancing, the 5-2 favorite, flattened out to fourth (one Oaks point) after making a bold, sweeping move out wide on the far turn.
Photo courtesy Churchill Downs/Coady Photography