Following the conclusion of the 2019 meet at Ellis Park, live racing has returned to Churchill Downs for its three-week September meet offering eight stakes worth $1.375 million in purses and a pair of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers.
On Saturday, September 14, several of the country’s best dirt juveniles will face off in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) for males and the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) for fillies. Each race will gift the winner a berth in the respective Breeders’ Cup event at Santa Anita Park in early November, but these important 1 1/16-mile fixtures could also produce starters in next spring’s biggest 3-year-old events. The Iroquois kicks off the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, while the Pocahontas commences the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks.” Each race awards points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis.
Take a look at the four stakes races at Churchill Downs for Saturday:
Race 7: $125,000 Open Mind Stakes, 3YO+ Fillies & Mares, 6 furlongs
Bernard Flint’s America’s Tale (3/1) will make her first start since finishing fourth in the Madison Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 6. The 4-year-old daughter of Gio Ponti has a 4-2-0-1 local record, including a 13 3/4-length romp to break her maiden on November 19, 2017. This one-turn specialist has only made a single start going 6 furlongs on the dirt, coming in her career unveiling two years ago at Ellis Park, but she is a three-time stakes winner, including the Inside Information Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park back in March.
TOP PICK: #6 Awestruck (9/2)
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Race 8: $200,000 Locust Grove Stakes (G3), 3YO+ Fillies & Mares, 1 1/16 miles
Brad Cox’s Mylady Curlin (5/2) will attempt to win her fourth straight stakes event – and her sixth straight overall – when she enters the gate as the morning line favorite. Perhaps the most impressive part about the streak from the 4-year-old daughter of Curlin is that each win came at a different track. Will she continue her hot stretch for her second graded stakes score, or will another horse – such as her stablemate Moonlit Garden (9/2) or the win machine Escape Clause (3/1) – play spoiler?
TOP PICK: #3 Mylady Curlin (5/2)
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Race 9: $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes (G2), 2YO Fillies, 1 1/16 miles
Fresh off of a dominating maiden-breaking effort at Ellis Park in her dirt debut, Brad Cox’s Portrait (3/1) has arrived at Churchill Downs in search of a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies berth and valuable Kentucky Oaks points. The Pocahontas will be her second time going two turns after she debuted going a mile over the Ellis Park turf.
“I’ve been really high on her this summer,” Cox said. “I think she’s one of our nicest 2-year-olds we have in the barn and she was impressive breaking her maiden last time at Ellis. I think the distance shouldn’t be a problem going two turns.”
TOP PICK: #3 Portrait (3/1)
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Race 10: $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3), 2YO, 1 1/16 miles
Saturday’s stakes action will culminate in the return of perhaps the most eye-popping winner this year, regardless of division. Dale Romans’ Dennis’ Moment (9/5) broke his maiden at Ellis Park by over 19 lengths last time out while going 7 furlongs. The son of Tiznow has fired three straight bullet workouts since, indicating that he is just as sharp now as he was in late July.
“It’s exciting to be right in this horse’s backyard for the Iroquois,” owner Dennis Albaugh said. “It’s a big deal to pick up points this early for the Kentucky Derby. That will make things next year a little easier. This horse just amazes me how easy he strides. You look at other horses on the track and then see him, and his stride is just so perfect. He seems to get better every work leading into the race.
“I remember calling Dale a couple days after the race to make sure how he came out of the race and Dale told me he was perfect,” Albaugh continued. “I just hope he can now live up to the hype because he could be very special.”
TOP PICK: #8 Dennis’ Moment (9/5)
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