Once the horses cross the wire in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), it will be only eight more months before the 1 1/4-mile classic is staged for a 147th time. Saturday’s $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs offers a sneak preview of 11 would-be prospects for the 2021 Derby, with the one-mile test also serving as a “Win & You’re In” prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland in November.
There is no Jackies Warrior for Therideofalifetime to fear on Saturday. The Candy Ride colt was a dominating maiden winner during the brief Keeneland meet in July, but that graduation was book-ended by a pair of second-place finishes to Jackies Warrior, who proved three lengths best in the Saratoga Special (G2) most recently.
Trainer Steve Asmussen, a three-time Iroquois winner, relies on a pair of colts. Midnight Bourbon rebounded from a debut loss to Notary to break his maiden by more than five lengths at Ellis Park going a mile. The Tiznow colt is a half-brother to Haskell Invitational (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) victor Girvin as well as 2015 Iroquois scorer Cocked and Loaded. Asmussen’s other starter is Super Stock, hero of the Texas Thoroughbred Futurity at Lone Star in his third start.
Pico d’Oro exits a maiden-breaking victory in the Ellis Park Juvenile by two lengths, and the son of Curlin should appreciate the extra furlong. Another last-out maiden winner worth a look is Dreamer’s Disease, who led wire-to-wire over a mile on the Ellis turf at 21-1 after a dull showing on dirt in his debut.
Dale Romans is another three-time Iroquois winner, including with Dennis’ Moment last year. He relies on Ultimate Badger and Sittin On Go, both of whom earned their diplomas at Ellis by a 4 1/4-length margin. Kenny McPeek, who’s captured the Iroquois twice including with Harlan’s Holiday, will be represented by debut winner Drop Anchor.
The Iroquois will offer 2021 Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers.