After her impressive gate-to-wire, 2 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Pocahontas at Churchill Downs, GSN Racing LLC's Cristina's Journey was reported by trainer Dale Romans to have exited the race in good form.
"She came out fine," Romans said. "We're going to decide in the next week whether we want to run her again at Keeneland or if we're just going to train right up to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies."
Romans spoke of how the horse was named for his friend and employee Cristina Bahena, who has worked for Romans for more than 25 years but only recently was awarded U.S. citizenship after an elongated process.
"A guy named Mondo Morales was the first Hispanic guy we had working for us when I was working for my Dad," Romans explained. "Mondo came over and we were shipping to Turfway Park that November when I was 20-years-old. He told me that his friend and his girlfriend want to come with us and that they needed a job. I said 'bring them on.' We needed help so he went and got them. This was back when there were hardly any Hispanic people working on the track."
The couple turned out to be Cristina and future husband Baldemar Bahena, who has been Romans' main assistant at Churchill Downs for several years.
"When I met Cristina I think we were both 20," Romans said. "All she wanted to do was get her kids here from Mexico. Then one day she found out she was getting deported, so she and I had to go to the immigration office in Chicago. We walked around downtown Chicago all day looking for one number. It was back when President Reagan had that amnesty program. So we found it and they let her get legal and stay in the country. It literally was five minutes before they closed this one department, we found one lady that would help us out in the right way.
"We didn't know anything; we were just kids. She didn't speak a lick of English and I didn't speak any Spanish. We stayed in a hotel together; we walked around downtown Chicago together. It was an adventure to say the least."
The trip to Chicago was not without horse racing as Romans noted he ran a horse at Arlington that day, but he couldn't recall how they fared.
"We had been at Ellis Park and then we drove to Arlington to run a horse," Romans remarked. "Then we caught a train downtown and spent the entire day there. Then fast forward; she finally gets her kids here. Last year she finally became a U.S. citizen. Senator Mitch McConnell sent the flag and they flew it over the Capitol building in Frankfort in her honor."
Romans told the story to one of his owners, Tim Newcomer of GSN Racing, and Newcomer was the one to name the filly after Cristina.
"I told Tim the story one day and he decided to name the horse after her and her journey," Romans noted. "It was a long journey to citizenship. It's a great story. You've never seen anybody more proud of anything than when she got that flag and became an American citizen.
"She had to pass a written test and it was really neat because she had her 12-year-old daughter study with her to help her to pass it. The whole story, for her to start out like that, that's the American dream. And she's kept the same job; she's been here with us working since she was 20-years-old. There's not a better person walking the face of this Earth than Cristina."
In addition to Cristina's Journey receiving an all-expenses paid trip to the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita Park as part of the Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" Challenge Series, the two-year-old daughter of Any Given Saturday also is the early points leader in the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" series, having earned 10 points in Saturday's effort.