The Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes is a highlight of Churchill Downs opening day for the fall meet. This is the first race of the Kentucky Derby qualifying events, with points distributed as follows - the winner will earn 10 points, 4 for second, 2 for third and 1point for fourth.
None of the past winners of the Iroquois Stakes have had influence on the three Triple Crown races, although the 1983 third place finisher At The Threshold was also third in the Kentucky Derby. The 2012 Iroquois third place runner Overanalyze won the Arkansas Derby. Some of the previous winners, Court Vision, Harlan’s Holiday and Capt Candyman Can became Grade 1 winners.
This year’s 1 1/6 mile contest is headed by MR Z, runner-up in the Sanford and Saratoga Special. He faces eight other colts. Mr Z should love the extra distance. He’s a tough colt who doesn’t know the meaning of quit. He’s the one to beat. He’s bested Iroquois entrants Hashtag Bourbon and Cleveland Sound.
HASHTAG BOURBON (Super Saver - Waltzing With Deb, by Robyn Dancer) won the Mountaineer Juvenile by over four lengths, but was beaten 3 ¾ lengths in his debut by Mr Z. The son of hot sire Super Saver should also enjoy running longer distances. Hashtag Bourbon is a half to 2002 Arkansans Derby runner-up Wild Horses (Saint Ballado) and stake placed Waltzing With Blue (Malibu Moon). The Keller Gordon trainee was forced to go wide in both starts, but draws post one in the Iroquois.
Both Mr Z and Hashtag have raced over the Churchill dirt. LUCKY PLAYER (Lookin At Lucky - Janetstickettocats, by Storm Cat) won his debut at Churchill and then finished fourth in the Bashford Manor Stakes. He was on the wrong end of a photo finish, beaten a neck in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile in his last start.
CLEVELAND SOUND (More Than Ready - Twilight Service, by Horse Chestnut (SAF)) was all over the place in the Sanford Stakes. He was behind a wall of horses going five wide on the turn, then ducked down to the inside. He did manage to make up ground despite this and was beaten a nose for third. He adds Lasix and gets a jock switch.
The rest of the field appears up against it. DEKABRIST was soundly beaten by 23 lengths just last week in the Hopeful at Saratoga. HOLY FRAZIER has three starts at a mile under his girth, all over the Ellis Park lawn. He won his maiden last out, but was beaten previously by DANNY BOY. That one is a half to Arlington Classic hero Meal Penalty. Both Holy Frazier and Danny Boy have dirt-oriented pedigrees, and could hit the board.
Two others are coming off of maiden victories. BOLD CONQUEST (Curlin - One for Jim, by Distorted Humor) won the dog fight by a head in his last race at Saratoga. After finishing second at 5 ½ furlongs, the colt added a furlong and got the job done. Sprinting isn’t his game, he should love the extra distance and he’s had two strong post-race breezes.
THE GORILLA MAN (After Market - War Indian, by Indian Charlie) beat maidens by ½ length at Ellis Park last time out. In his debut which was over the lawn, he finished three lengths behind Holy Frazier after having to steady. He faces a deeper field here.
MR Z has faced :21 and change early fractions in each start, but has the ability to rate. LUCKY PLAYER and CLEVELAND SOUND may also vie near the lead. HASHTAG BOURBON draws the rail, but he’ll likely take back. If he stays out of traffic, he could come running at the end. CLEVELAND SOUND could have earned a graded stakes placing with a better ride last time out. He gets a jock switch and could play the spoiler’s role. BOLD CONQUEST had a strong debut for Assmusen. Joel Rosario rides and he could also be tough.
#2 MR Z
#5 LUCKY PLAYER
#1 HASHTAG BOURBON
#6 CLEVELAND SOUND – longshot pick