Reylu Gutiérrez picked a pretty good spot to break his Churchill Downs maiden. And his ride, Hidden Connection, left no doubt that she was much the best of this group of 2-year-old fillies Saturday night in the Grade 3, $300,000 Pocahontas Stakes.
“I had a lot of horse left,” Gutiérrez said. “A ton.”
Never more than 1 1/2 lengths off the early pace, Gutiérrez rode Hidden Connection (9-5) into the lead on the far turn and pulled away to a 9 1/4-length victory in the first race on the road to the 2022 Kentucky Oaks.
Owned by Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds and trained by Bret Calhoun, Hidden Connection earned an automatic berth in the Nov. 5 running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar.
“She didn’t have as much experience as some of the horses in this race,” Calhoun said. “But she backed up that win very well. If she comes out of things OK, you’d have to think she’s on to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Gutiérrez, 22, who does most of his riding in his native New York, actually hoped to get an early jump on Lemieux (9-1), who faded to finish last in the field of 10 but had established early fractions of 24.26 and 48.62 seconds.
“I thought I was going to break ahead of (Lemieux), but he outbroke me,” Gutiérrez said. “When you’re following Tyler Gaffalione, I mean who’s got a better clock at this moment than him? I knew I was going to get good early fractions just sitting right off of him.”
Hidden Connection could not wait forever, though, so Gutiérrez pushed the button with a shake of the reins about three furlongs from the end of the 1 1/16-mile race.
“I didn’t want to give (Lemieux) too much room, because Tyler is that good of a rider. If I gave him too much room, he’d get away from me,” Gutierrez said.
After being clocked at 1:13.27 for three-quarters of a mile, Hidden Connection turned the race into a laugher. When she hit the top of the stretch, she was 5 1/2 lengths in front. She was clocked for a mile at 1:37.56 on the way to a final time of 1:43.78 on the fast main track.
“Hidden Connection did all the work,” Gutiérrez said of the filly who ran her record to 2-for-2. She made her debut with a 7 1/2-length score going 5 1/2 furlongs Aug. 17 at Colonial Downs.
“She was working at Keeneland this spring before we went to Colonial,” Calhoun said. “When she was working there I thought she could be special. Then we went to Colonial and she won so impressively on debut.”
-edited from www.horseracingnation.com