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LOUISVILLE, KY – WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Major General took the lead at the top of the stretch and had enough left late to outlast Tough to Tame in Saturday’s $300,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs.
The Iroquois is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Major General receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar this November.
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Major General broke well from post 8 under Javier Castellano but took back after entering the clubhouse turn four-wide between horses, eventually settling into a mid-pack stalking position while racing in the three path.
Longshots Roger McQueen and Magnolia Midnight dueled through opening fractions of :23.82 and :47.89 heading into the far turn, which is when Castellano gave Major General the green light and sent him outside the even-money favorite Stellar Tap.
At the 1/4 pole, the Todd Pletcher-trained Major General pulled slightly ahead of Stellar Tap, who refused to go away quietly and fought back gamely inside.
The two appeared to make contact a couple times before Major General kicked away, then had just enough left to hold off Tough to Tame in the final stages to win the 1 1/16-mile fast dirt route by a neck in 1:44.88.
“You’re always confident whenever Todd puts you on a horse,” Castellano said. “His team does a great job and this horse is just learning. He seemed to enjoy going two turns, and when the other horses got to him in the stretch, he started to re-break.”
“He ran a great race closing late on the outside,” said Tough to Tame’s trainer Chris Davis. “I thought being on the rail hurt him in the early portion of the race. I’d love to see him draw to the outside next time and see what happens. We’re very proud of how he ran tonight.”
Another 3/4 of a length back, Red Knobs and maiden Bourbon Heist (second-to-last and last through the early running) rallied to take third and fourth, with just a 1/2-length separating them.
Stellar Tap faded to fifth, 1 1/2 lengths further behind. Following the race, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. lodged an objection against Castellano and Major General alleging interference, but the objection was disallowed.
“I was a little surprised Ricardo claimed foul,” Castellano said. “Going past the 3/16 pole, his horse’s head sort of came into mine when he was switching leads and I don’t think it affected the outcome of the race. After that, my horse was looking around a little bit when he got to the lead. This was his first time under the lights and with a crowd like this.”
Guntown, Strike Hard, Husband Material, Roger McQueen, and Magnolia Midnight completed the order of finish in the field of juvenile colts and geldings. Lucky Boss scratched.
Major General’s win was his second straight following a debut victory going 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga, a race he ironically won after making contact in the stretch with the race’s runner-up Bourbon Heist. The Constitution colt, purchased for $420,000 as a yearling, has now earned $232,525.
Major General returned $11.80 to win, $6.60 to place, and $4.80 to show. Tough to Tame brought back $23.40 to place and $11.60 to show. Red Knobs paid $9 to show.
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