Photo: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Donegal Racing's unbeaten Cleburne, a 34-1 longshot making just the
second start of his young career, rallied from eighth to grab the lead
near the finish and then held off a furious late surge by stablemate
Smart Cover to win the 32nd running of the $173,250 Iroquois (Grade III)
for 2-year-olds by a head on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
The result of a three-horse photo finish provide a 1-2 finish
for Iowa-based Donegal Racing and trainer Dale Romans, a Louisville, Ky.
native who won the Iroquois for the first time. With the victory,
Cleburne became the first horse to collect points in the Road to the
Kentucky Derby, the points system that will determine the eligibility of
horses to compete in the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands
on Saturday, May 3 at Churchill Downs. The victory in the Road to the
Kentucky Derby opener provided Cleburne with 10 points, while runner-up
Smart Cover collected 4. Third-place Tapiture, who finished a neck back
of the top pair in third, earned two points.
Iroquois also was a stop on the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In"
Challenge Series and Cleburne's victory earned the son of Dixie Union a
spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI)
at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 2. Cleburne also earned a travel
stipend for the trip to Southern California for the Breeders' Cup
Cleburne, whose only previous race was a
victory on grass at Kentucky's Ellis Park, covered 1 1/16 miles in
1:45.65 over a fast track under jockey Corey Lanerie and paid $70.20,
$22.80 and $12.00. Stablemate Smart Cover, a 26-1 risk ridden by Shaun
Bridgmohan, paid $18 and $9.60. Tapiture, the second-betting choice
under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., paid $3.40 to show.
"They both ran super races," Romans said. "They're both nice horses,
they want to run long and I couldn't be happier with them."
Ride On Curlin, the favorite in the field of 10, led by a half-length
in mid-stretch, but finished fourth under Calvin Borel.
"He's just a baby and this was his first time going two turns," Borel
said. "Believe me, he's a racehorse and if we do right by the horse
he'll show up. He'll be just fine."
The top two finishers
lagged well behind a solid pace set by Laddie Boy and Rise Up, with the
former leading through fractions of :23.34 for the quarter-mile, :46.61
for a half-mile and six furlongs in 1:11.63. Tapiture, who stalked the
leaders along the inside, and Ride On Curlin, who was four-wide on the
run down the backstretch, moved on the leaders on the far turn. Ride On
Curlin moved to the lead in upper stretch, while Tapiture was forced to
squeeze through a narrow opening along the rail and brushed with Laddie
Boy inside the final furlong. Cleburne, who had saved ground along the
inside, swung out of the drive under Lanerie, caught Tapiture near the
finish and just held off the surging Smart Cover, who finished fast in
the middle of the track and just missed catching his stablemate.
Pacesetter Laddie Boy finished fifth and was followed by Rise
Up, Stonecrusher, Solemnly Swear, Jimmy Connors and Honorable Judge.
The Iroquois victory by Lanerie was one of two stakes victories
on the night at the historic track. He also won the $100,000-added
Locust Grove aboard Flashy American.
ROMANS, trainer of CLEBURNE(winner) and SMART COVER (runner-up): "They
both ran super races. They're both nice horses, they want to run long
and I couldn't be happier with them."
Q: This is been a tough
year by your recent standards. Does that make this finish any sweeter?
"It always feels good to win a big race, especially with young horses.
You can start thinking about next year. It's been a tough year. But
we've had a lot of reasons for that, we've worked them all out and we're
going good again."
Q: Did you think both of these horses would
run well tonight? "I did think they would run well. I thought they
were both underbet. They're both nice horses, they both want to make the
distance and they both ran super races."
Q: So you've earned a
spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with the winner - will you be
heading in that direction? "We'll at least go with the winner, and we
might go with both."
Q: And then start thinking about May? "We're thinking about May right now."
LANERIE, rider on CLEBURNE (winner): "He's a nice horse. He broke out
of there a lot more aggressive than he did in his first race. I didn't
ride him that day, but I was able to watch it. I was hoping he would do
that, but I wasn't going to take him out of his game. He broke sharp and
put me in a really good start. I tried to keep him close to the rail
because the dirt wasn't hitting him and I think he would have come on
through if I'd had the opportunity, but I was following Tapiture and
when he took that spot, I went around and it was just a race to the
"He's got a big future. Dale (Romans) takes his time
with his babies and they're not really geared up for their first couple
of races. But this horse is two-for-two and he's got a lot of promise."
BRIDGMOHAN, rider of SMART COVER (runner-up): "He ran hard. There was a
lot of speed and he settled back there. The more I rode him, the more
he gave to me. He just ran out of ground."
Q: Is that the kind
of trip you were expecting? "He was a little farther back than I
anticipated, but I just let him be comfortable. He kicked-in really good
the last part."
RICARDO SANTANA JR., rider on TAPITURE (third):
"He ran good but that was a tough spot down on the inside. This was only
the second time he's run."
CALVIN BOREL, rider of RIDE ON CURLIN
(fourth as the 2.20-1 favorite): "No excuse. He ran good. He's just a
baby and this was his first time going two turns. We asked a lot of him
today. He took me out there good and to the quarter pole, but then he
had enough. Believe me, he's a racehorse and if we do right by the horse
he'll show up. He'll be just fine."