Iroquois Stakes and Pocahontas Stakes: By the Numbers

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September 16th, 2021

Churchill Downs’ September fall meet begins with two important juvenile races, the Iroquois S. and the Pocahontas S. Both are Grade 3 races over 1 1/16 miles. Here is a look at the races by the numbers.


The number of Iroquois winners to go on and win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). To be fair, the Iroquois-BC Juvenile double was not possible until 2013, when the Iroquois was moved from late October to mid-September; six of the eight winners since then have gone to the Juvenile, with Not This Time getting closest with a second-place finish to Classic Empire in 2016. The Iroquois winner is guaranteed a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile start via the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series.


The one represents Epitome, the only winner of the Pocahontas to take out the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). She did so only because the Breeders’ Cup was held on Nov. 21 at Hollywood Park – more than two weeks later than normal. This meant Epitome, who won the Pocahontas Nov. 8, was able to back up 13 days later and catch Jeanne Jones right on the line. As with the Iroquois, the Pocahontas was moved to September in 2013, and seven of the eight winners have made it to the Juvenile Fillies, with Dothraki Queen (2015) and Girl Daddy (2020) getting closest with third-place finishes. The Pocahontas is now a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.


The number of Pocahontas winners to go on and win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) the following season. The first was 1976 Pocahontas winner Sweet Alliance, who not only won the Kentucky Oaks in 1977 but also the La Troienne S. (six days before the Oaks) and later the Delaware Oaks (G1). The 2013 winner Untapable was the second, her 2014 victories including not only the Kentucky Oaks but three other Grade 1s, including the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The most recent was 2018 Pocahontas winner Serengeti Empress, who followed her 2019 Oaks victory with a Ballerina S. (G1) victory in 2020.


The number of points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby earned by Lookin At Lee when he finished second in the 2016 Iroquois S. Those four points were invaluable as he wouldn’t have secured a start in the 2017 Kentucky Derby without them. He would go on to finish second in the Run for the Roses behind Always Dreaming, earning his owners a very nice $400,000. Lookin At Lee never won a graded stakes race but placed in several of them and earned a total of $1,343,188.


The number of times the Pocahontas was run in two divisions. It seems unusual these days for a major race to have two renewals in the same year, but it was much more common in earlier years, and the Pocahontas was up for grabs twice in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. Possibly the most notable of these winners was Weekend Surprise (1982). She became the dam of classic winners and successful sires Summer Squall and A.P. Indy – the latter becoming one of the key breed-shaping American sires of the 21st century.


The number of victories that jockey Pat Day has ridden in the two races combined. The Hall of Famer has the most victories in both the Iroquois and the Pocahontas. Day’s seven Pocahontas winners include two in the same year, as he rode both Geevilla and Flippers to win the two divisions of the race in 1983; his other Pocahontas winners were Gallant Libby (1984), Epitome (1987), Minister Wife (1994), Birr (1995), and Punch Appeal (2004). His four Iroquois winners were Tile (1985), Richman (1990), Keene Dancer (1997), and Champali (2002).


The number of points available in the Iroquois in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. It’s the first race of 37 in the series in which runners seek points to earn a start in the Run for the Roses. As typical in the "Prep Season" races, there are 10 points for the winner, four points for second, two points for third, and one point for fourth. The same points allocation applies to the Pocahontas, which is the first of 31 qualifying races in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series.


The year the Iroquois was first staged at Churchill Downs. Held over one mile for most of its history, it was moved up to 1 1/16 miles in 2013 when it moved to September and became a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile prep; it’s been that distance every year since except the Covid-influenced 2020 running which was dropped to one mile. The race is named after Iroquois, the first U.S.-bred winner of the Derby at Epsom in 1881. He also won the St Leger and was second in the 2,000 Guineas, narrowly missing the English Triple Crown.


The value in dollars for the Pocahontas and the Iroquois. Both have had a significant percent increase in prizemoney from last year, when they were each worth $200,000. The increase means the races are now worth the same as the four Grade 1 juvenile events held over Labor  Day weekend: the Hopeful, Spinaway, Del Mar Debutante, and Del Mar Futurity.