Patrona Margarita wasn’t expected to win Saturday’s $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes (G2), at least not according to her 23-1 odds. But the dark bay daughter Special Rate paid no never mind to such trivial things as being the fourth longest shot on the board in a field of 12.
Instead, Patrona Margarita circled the final turn of the 1 1/16-mile contest in the five path, took command of the race and drew off to record a 3 3/4-length victory while stopping the clock in 1:46.35.
With the Pocahontas now under her girth, Patrona Margarita is 4-2-0-1, $150,253 in her career. The race kicked off the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points contests and awarded the Texas-bred miss 10 points toward a starting berth in next year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1).
It also gave her an automatic, all-fees paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Del Mar on November 4. Unfortunately, Patrona Margarita is currently not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup.
“Right now we’ll aim to the ($400,000) Alcibiades ([G1] on October 6) at Keeneland,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “She trained phenomenal into this race and really was proven at a distance of ground.”
That statement proved that Calhoun, along with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., weren’t all that surprised by the filly’s upset score.
“She’s not a sprinter so we knew she’d improve as the distances got longer,” Calhoun stated. “She’s trained phenomenally over this racetrack recently and I’m happy to see everything come together.”
“Her works have been really impressive over this racetrack. She really stepped up today and showed us what she’s made of,” added Hernandez, who had a rollercoaster Saturday at Churchill.
The rider captured the 5TH, 6TH and 8TH races, the latter of which was the Locust Grove Stakes (G3) aboard Romantic Vision, but was sent tumbling hard to the track when Ivy Bell clipped heels with Mayla in the stretch of the 9TH race, the Open Mind Stakes, and nearly took a fall. Mayla would go on to win the race but was disqualified for interference and placed last.
Interestingly enough, Mayla is trained by Calhoun, who instead of heading to the winner’s circle immediately checked on the fallen jockey after the Open Mind.
“It just goes to show you how classy Bret and his team are,” Hernandez said. “That’s why I love riding for him.”
After being given the OK to ride, Hernandez returned one race later to pilot Big Gemmy to a fifth-place finish in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) before his upset win aboard Patrona Margarita in the Pocahontas.
“That was a memorable day at the office,” he said on the way back to the jockey’s room. “I’ll probably be sore tomorrow but right now I’m thankful everything ended as well as it did.”
“You hate to think back on what the day could have been with two stakes victories,” Calhoun said. “I’m just so thankful Brian was OK. We ended things on a high note.”