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Iroquois Preview: Stellar Tap Returns
Stellar Tap (Credit: NYRA)

Iroquois Preview: Stellar Tap Returns

LOUISVILLE, KY – L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Stellar Tap, an impressive debut winner at Saratoga, returns for his eagerly-anticipated second start against a deep field entered in Saturday’s $300,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs.

The Iroquois is a 1 1/16-mile dirt route restricted to 2-year-olds that serves as the ninth event on an 11-race card with a local post time of 10:11 PM. The race is also a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, awarding an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar this November, as well as 17 total points on the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1).

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Iroquois:

1. Tough to Tame 20/1 – One of two entries with multiple wins on the resume, he broke his maiden at second asking in a 5-furlong sprint over Arlington Park’s synthetic main track, then romped by 3 3/4 lengths going 5 1/2 furlongs on Indiana Grand dirt against first-level allowance foes. His Beyer Speed Figures have improved every start and two runners from his last won next out, including a stakes.

2. Lucky Boss 10/1 – He broke his maiden at second asking in an off-turf mile-long route at Ellis Park while running gate to wire, then finished second by a 1/2-length in the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes while cutting back to a one-turn 7-furlong distance. Both trifecta horses from his victory race won next out and trainer Kenny McPeek wins 21% with the barn’s top rider Brian Hernandez Jr.

3. Roger McQueen 10/1 – The other entry who’s visited the winner’s circle more than once, he broke through at second asking going 5 furlongs at Ellis Park and successfully stretched out in the Ellis Park Juvenile while outdueling Lucky Boss. Expect jockey Adam Beschizza – riding for the second straight start – to let this horse unleash his early speed and set the pace heading into the first turn.

4. Strike Hard 10/1 – He raced twice at Gulfstream Park to start his career, winning the latter and earning a 78 Beyer for conquering the one-turn dirt mile event by 2 1/4 lengths. The 2/5 favorite when victorious, this Flashback colt – who represents 1 of just 2 winners from 40 starts this year for trainer Matthew Williams – has yet to change leads in a race, so winning will be difficult if he misbehaves here.

5. Magnolia Midnight 12/1 – He broke his maiden at second asking in an off-turf 5 1/2-furlong sprint over fast Colonial Downs dirt last month, running off to win by 7 1/4 lengths. He received race-day Lasix in his first 2 starts but won’t get that here. Freshman sire Midnight Storm’s first crop has a combined record of 27-4-5-1 record in dirt sprints (14% win rate). Expect him to be prominent early.

6. Stellar Tap 3/1 – His 5 1/4-length smashing score going 7 furlongs at Saratoga on August 7 gave Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen the all-time training wins record and secured this horse’s place as the new barn favorite. A son of elite distance-influence sire Tapit, his dam and granddam were both multiple turf route winners, so he should easily handle two turns based on his pedigree.

7. Red Knobs 20/1 – He broke his maiden at second asking in an off-turf mile-long route on fast Ellis Park dirt by an impressive 6 1/4 lengths. His debut came in a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint, but Union Rags offspring are notoriously terrible on turf as a whole (5% winners), so unless trainer Dale Romans has completely lost his mind (which isn’t impossible), he’ll stay on dirt and could step forward here.

8. Major General 4/1 – As a son of Constitution out of an Uncle Mo mare, his owners very likely paid $420k for him expecting an early return on their investment, and he rewarded them with a gutsy debut score going 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga on August 21. While he ran greenly at times, the Todd Pletcher trainee rebid gamely when returning foe Bourbon Heist bumped and passed him in the stretch.

“I liked the fact when that other horse came to him, he dug in and fought back, which I thought was encouraging,” Pletcher told Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch after the race.

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9. Guntown 9/2 – Breeder Winchell Thoroughbreds thought so highly of this colt that they bought him back at auction for $750k, and the Asmussen trainee looked the part in his second start when taking an Ellis Park mile-long dirt route by 4 1/4 lengths. This son of red-bleeping-hot freshman sire Gun Runner is a half-brother to a pair of Grade 1 route winners and should love the slight stretch-out.

10. Husband Material 15/1 – He broke his maiden at second asking in an off-turf mile-long route over a wet fast Delaware Park main track, skipping away to win by 20 1/2 lengths while facing just two foes. He wasn’t very fast early in either prior start so this outside draw could hurt his chances if jockey Florent Geroux doesn’t gun him like a quarter horse – which Geroux’s been known to do.

11. Bourbon Heist 9/2 – The field’s lone maiden ran a dud on debut over this course but nearly broke through in each of his past 2 starts at Saratoga, missing by a head at 6 furlongs and a neck at 6 1/2. The latter defeat came at the hands of Major General, whom this horse bumped while rallying late but couldn’t keep at bay. Freshman sire Practical Joke’s offspring have won 31% in dirt sprints (through Wednesday).

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