10/28/2011 2:59PM

Churchill Downs: Aubby K faces tougher test in opening-day Pocahontas

Barbara D. Livingston
Aubby K , a 15-length maiden winner at Belmont, trains Friday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Strutting your stuff in a five-horse field of maiden sprinters is one thing. Doing it in a full lineup of stakes horses going a one-turn mile is something entirely different.

Ralph Nicks is well aware. Nicks, the former longtime assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, will be asking a filly named Aubby K to parlay her highly impressive career debut into something similar when part of a rugged cast of 12 2-year-old fillies in the Grade 2, $150,000 Pocahontas Stakes, the highlight of the 11-race opening-day Stars of Tomorrow program at Churchill Downs. The one-mile Pocahontas is carded as the 10th race, with post time set for 5:02 p.m. Eastern.

“We are taking a huge step, going against horses that have already run long and have more experience,” said Nicks. “But at the end of the day, I really think this filly could become a very good horse.”

Aubby K, with Robby Albarado to ride from post 10, comes off an eye-catching, front-running, 15-length victory in a Sept. 10 maiden race at Belmont Park. A daughter of the graded winner Lilly Capote, she is a sister to a number of talented runners bred and raced by Jim Spence, including Mythical Pegasus and Flying Pegasus, both graded placed.

“I think this filly is the best one I’ve had out of that mare,” said Nicks, who went solo in 2004. “The mile should be well within her grasp. Win, lose, or draw, I think we’ll come out of this race with a real nice horse.”

To balance the flash that Aubby K brings to the Pocahontas, there is a veritable host of solid fillies to oppose her – not to mention a lot of speed to keep her honest. Others with credentials in shorter races include My Due Process, Flashy Lassie, Georgie’s Angel, Believe You Can, and Bet to Win.

Of those, Believe You Can is likely to take the most play, having captured the Grade 3 Tempted at Belmont earlier this month for trainer Larry Jones. Gabriel Saez has the mount from post 8.

Meanwhile, if that apparent abundance of speed takes its toll, things could set up for one of the fillies who already have shown a willingness to close. That subset is led by Heart of Destiny, who charged to the front in the stretch of the recent Alcibiades Stakes, a Grade 1 fixture at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland, before finishing second.

“My filly is wanting to come running,” said Jimmy Baker, trainer of Heart of Destiny. “I figured there’d be quite a few fillies in here stretching out for the first time, and there is. That should help us – on paper, anyway. The mile may not be our best distance, but she ran awfully well at Keeneland, and hopefully we’ll be in the thick of things after they turn for home.”

Heart of Destiny will have Edgar Prado back aboard when leaving from post 11.

Among the other fillies with late-running tendencies are And Why Not, with Garrett Gomez riding for Michael Matz, and Golden History, a going-away maiden winner in her lone start at Woodbine for Mark Casse.

This is the 43rd running of the Pocahontas, which invariably leads to one of the end-of-meet features, the Grade 2 Golden Rod, for many of the top finishers. The 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod is set for Nov. 26.

The winner of the 2010 Pocahontas was Dancinginherdreams, trained by John T. Ward Jr.