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Iroquois Stakes Preview: The Road to the Kentucky Derby Begins

Iroquois Stakes Preview: The Road to the Kentucky Derby Begins

The Grade 3, $150,000 Iroquois Stakes is always a special event each season. The first major juvenile dirt race contested around two turns serves both as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the Sentient Jet Juvenile and as the first points race on the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby. This year’s running has drawn a full field of a dozen 2-year-olds looking to prove themselves. While the field is wide-open, headlining the race will be the Steve Asmussen-trained Tight Ten, who is coming off of a second-place effort last time out in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes.

The winner of the Iroquois will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile Stakes this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based internationally.

The Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes will share the card on Saturday at Churchill Downs with the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes, which will serve as a “Win and You’re In” for the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies. The North American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on Saturday, September 29, and Sunday, September 30, with a monster weekend of racing at both Santa Anita and Belmont Park. In total, there will be eight challenge races contested over the weekend.

The full field for the Iroquois includes: Mr Wrench It, Royal Urn, Drunk as a Skunk, Tight Ten, My Sixth Sense, Tobacco Road, Pole Setter, Cairo Cat, Manny Wah, Hot Creek Hustle, Synthesis, and Everfast.

Top Choice

#7 Pole Setter – After running him twice on the turf, trainer Brad Cox makes a change and will run this horse on the dirt. His pedigree suggests that he’ll like the surface, and it’s a positive sign that he has run at a mile in both career starts, so he shouldn’t mind this distance. If he takes to the surface, then he could pull off the upset, and you have to love his connections – Cox and jockey Florent Geroux hit at 32% when they team up.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#4 Tight Ten – This is the most established horse in the race, and from a speed figure standpoint, he looks like a clear standout. He was a winner at Churchill Downs on debut by over 4 lengths while going 6 furlongs in a maiden special weight, then shipped to Saratoga to finish second by a length in the Saratoga Special. That race was easily the best effort of any in this field. If he can be as effective around two turns, then this is his race to lose, and his pedigree suggests that the distance should not be a problem.

#9 Manny Wah – Another first-crop sire, Will Take Charge, is represented here. After finishing second on debut over this track in a maiden special weight, he shipped to Arlington Park and won by a neck. That earned him a spot in the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes, where he finished third but only by 3/4 of a length. His breeding suggests that he will run very well going longer, which could lead to major improvement here.

#6 Tobacco Road – Asmussen is loaded for this race, as he has the likely favorite Tight Ten and the likely second choice, Tobacco Road. This horse is coming off of two straight victories, both of which came at Ellis Park. Two races back, he broke his maiden by 3 lengths before winning the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes by 3/4 of a length. His running style is to drop back early and make one big run, which could work out well here, as there are plenty of speed horses signed on to run.

#8 Cairo Cat – This first-crop son of Cairo Prince ships to Churchill Downs after breaking his maiden last time out. That win came in an off-turf maiden special weight contested at Saratoga. After falling behind early, he made a strong move on the turn and out-finished his rivals to win by a head. He was able to defeat some decent horses in that race, including Opry, who won the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes last time out.

Exotic Plays

#10 Hot Creek Hustle – Yet another Ellis Park juvenile graduate takes his shot at the big time in this race. He was a 3/4-length winner on debut while going 5 furlongs. After starting slowly, he closed from the back of the pack with a rush in a visually-impressive move. More distance will be to his liking, and jockey Corey Lanerie is back aboard again.

#5 My Sixth Sense – Ellis Park has been known to produce several solid juveniles, and trainer Mark Casse hopes that this could be another to add to that list. My Sixth Sense won on debut at Ellis by a length while going 7 furlongs in wire-to-wire fashion, earning a decent speed figure for his efforts. The son of Street Sense figures to run well with this longer distance, which could end up leading to improvement. His early speed will be a solid weapon.

Party Crashers

#11 Synthesis – He is still a maiden, but he did compete in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakeslast time out at Del Mar. Instagrand dominated him by over 13 lengths, but that horse is easily one of the crop’s top juveniles, so this will be slightly softer competition. Two races back, he was only 4 1/4 lengths behind Rowayton, who finished second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity Stakes. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke ships in for the mount as well, which adds to the intrigue.

Throw Outs

#1 Mr Wrench It – The son of Lookin At Lucky has been hot lately with a pair of nice wins coming into this race. Two starts back, he broke his maiden by a neck at Thistledown, then stretched out in distance to win the $63,000 Prairie Meadows Juvenile Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths. The distance should not be a problem for this horse, but he will be jumping up in class.

#2 Royal Urn – This colt ships to Churchill Downs from Gulfstream Park after breaking his maiden by a neck on debut while going 6 1/2 furlongs. The son of Kantharos showed solid early speed in that debut race, but he was also able to stalk the pace nicely and wait to pounce at the right moment. His debut speed figure could improve as he tries two turns for the first time.

#3 Drunk as a Skunk –This Prairie Meadows shipper improved greatly from his first start to his second and will look to improve once again here while stretching out in distance. He was beaten badly on debut but bounced back to win by 1 1/2 lengths in wire-to-wire fashion. He has been working steadily leading up to this race.

#12 Everfast – Finally, we end with one more Ellis Park graduate. Trainer Dale Romans always has his horses ready to run well in this race, and that could be the case again as Everfast was solid on debut going 7 furlongs. He won the race by a neck after a determined move down the stretch to edge clear late. That race should set him up well for this one, and his pedigree suggests that long distances will be where he excels.

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