09/06/2014 5:17PM

Cristina’s Journey impresses in Pocahontas Stakes

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Cristina's Journey, with Miguel Mena aboard, wins the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Cristina’s Journey sped her way into the Breeders’ Cup when leading every step of the Grade 2, $231,000 Pocahontas Stakes, the fourth and final stakes on a busy Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.

Rating kindly out front for jockey Miguel Mena, Cristina’s Journey turned back several challenges to remain unbeaten in two starts and earn an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.

“She’s a good filly, a classy filly,” said Dale Romans, who trains Cristina’s Journey for the GSN Racing of Tim Newcomer and watched the race via simulcast from Kentucky Downs. “She did what she had to do. She drew off and looked good doing it to me.”

Pangburn rallied from well back to finish second in a field of 10 2-year-old fillies, 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner and another 2 1/2 lengths before 29-1 shot Milehigh Butterfly. Loom was fourth, while the 3-2 favorite, Take Charge Brandi, faded to fifth.

Cristina’s Journey, a Kentucky-bred by Any Given Saturday, returned $9 as the second choice after finishing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:46.37 over a fast track. She won an Ellis Park maiden race in her only prior start.

“When the rest of the field started to catch up at the quarter pole, I let her pick it up a little bit,” said Mena. “When I hit her at the eighth pole, she picked it up and won pretty easy. She’s pretty awesome.”

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Besides its Breeders’ Cup implications, the Pocahontas also kicked off the points race to the Kentucky Oaks next May, with Cristina’s Journey earning 10 points.

The $2 exacta (4-5) paid $49.60, the $1 trifecta (4-5-9) returned $484.10, and the 10-cent superfecta (4-5-9-1) was worth $256.94.