February 20, 2024

Road to the Kentucky Derby begins with 10-horse Iroquois

Ten City wins Bashford Manor (G3) at Churchill Downs (c) Coady Photo

The first of 35 qualifying races in America, Saturday’s $150,000 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs opens the 2017-18 Road to the Kentucky Derby series. It offers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers and a field of 10 2-year-olds, headed by Bashford Manor (G3) winner Ten City, has been assembled for the 1 1/16-mile test.

The Iroquois also serves as a “Win & You’re In” event, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile field at Del Mar.

After posting a seven-length debut score at Keeneland, Ten City followed with a 1 ½-length decision in the Bashford Manor on the closing-day program of the Churchill Downs’ spring/summer meet. The Kenny McPeek-trained colt was flattered when runner-up Copper Bullet came back to crush foes in the Saratoga Special (G2) but Ten City wasn’t so fortunate in his most recent appearance, rallying belatedly for third after a less-than-favorable trip in the August 20 Ellis Park Juvenile. The son of Run Away and Hide will try to rebound with a returning Jack Gilligan.

Hollywood Star showed an affinity for Churchill Downs when graduating at first asking on June 28, offering an eye-catching move into contention on the far turn, and displayed another fine closing kick when charging past rivals to be a clear second in the Saratoga Special. A $550,000 sales yearling, the Malibu Moon colt is eligible to benefit from the experience and the Dale Romans trainee should be rolling in the latter stages Saturday with regular rider Robby Albarado.

Flameaway easily broke his maiden first-time out on Woodbine’s synthetic track in late May and followed with another convincing tally in the off-the-turf Skidmore at Saratoga on August 18. One of two Iroquois runners trained by Mark Casse, the Scat Daddy colt cost $400,000 as a 2-year-old in training and will pick up the services of Julien Leparoux.

Casse will also send out Mo Diddley, a nice debut winner at Churchill Downs in late May. The Uncle Mo colt faltered last time in the Saratoga Special, weakening to seventh after setting the pace, but he may have been a short after a three-month layoff and it’s encouraging to see the $450,000 juvenile purchase return 34 days later in this spot. Corey Lanerie takes over the reins.

The Tabulator enters with a 2-for-2 mark, taking the July 28 Prairie Gold Juvenile by a 2 ¼-length margin in late July, and the Dialed In colt will add first-time Lasix for conditioner Larry Rivelli. Jose Valdivia Jr., who has enjoyed a fantastic Arlington meet with a 129-52 win advantage in the jockey standings, sticks with the dark bay.

Ebben, who checked in sixth in the Ellis Park Juvenile, will return for the Iroquois and completing the field are last-out maiden winners Big Gemmy, Pont Du Gard, Smart Remark and Tres Equis.