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Iroquois Kicks-Off Road to Kentucky Derby 2014

The Road to the Kentucky Derby kicks-off in prime time under the lights Saturday at Churchill Downs as the legendary Louisville racetrack enters into its a first foray of September racing since 1890.

 
A new chapter in Churchill Downs’ storied history began today (Friday) in earnest with the start of the new 12-date September Meet. The four-week flurry of weekend horse racing will mark the first time in the track’s 139 years that three race meets will be conducted in a calendar year.
 
Ten-race programs with be staged every Friday (1:45 p.m. EDT), Saturday (12:45 p.m. EDT) and Sunday (12:45 p.m. EDT) in September, with two 11-race “Downs After Dark” night racing programs scheduled for this Saturday (Sept. 7) and Sept. 28.
 
The special “Downs After Dark” racing begins at 6 p.m. EDT.
 
Over the course of the boutique meet, horsemen will have the opportunity to compete for a daily average of $407,000 in prize money, which includes eight stakes events cumulatively worth $975,000.
 
More than $500,000 in stakes prizes will be awarded Saturday as Churchill Downs’ hosts a stakes quartet, led by two important $150,000 juvenile fixtures at 1 1/16 miles.
 
The 32nd running of the Iroquois (Grade III) for 2-year-olds, which was previously staged during the Fall Meet in late October, was moved to September, received a $50,000 purse increase and the distance was elongated by a sixteenth of a mile so it could launch the 18-race “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” at the home of the America’s greatest race.
 
Points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers – 10 points for first, 4 for second, 2 for third and 1 for fourth. The top point-earners at the series’ conclusion next spring will ultimately determine which horses have preference to start in the 140th renewal of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
 
A dozen colts and geldings were entered in the Iroquois – the most since 13 ran in the 2005 renewal. The race also is a part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series, and the winner will earn a starting position in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI).
 
Dan Dougherty’s Ride On Curlin, a dazzling 7 ¾-length maiden winner at Ellis Park in mid-July, was made the Iroquois’ 5-2 morning line favorite by veteran oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. The son of 2008-09 Horse of the Year Curlin made a favorable impression in his second career start for trainer Billy Gowan while clocking 5 ½ furlongs in a track record 1:03.00 under recently-inducted Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner. The victory appeared to be validated when clear runner-up Union Hall returned to win his maiden by 4 ¼ lengths on Aug. 17 at Remington Park. However, the colt returned to finish fourth Thursday night at Remington Park against allowance competition.
 
Ride On Curlin’s promise could be prosperous for Dougherty. He bought the Kentucky-bred colt for $25,000 as a yearling and recently entertained a lofty $1 million offer to sell. Ultimately, he declined to sell when a deal couldn’t come to terms.
 
Ride On Curlin, who will break under Borel from post No. 9, may receive his biggest challenge from a colt that has yet to win a race. Arguably, Ron Winchell’s promising maiden Tapiture exits the strongest race, a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga on Aug. 17. Tapiture was second and beaten 4 ½ lengths by Strong Mandate , but the winner returned Monday to romp in Grade I Hopeful by 9 ¾ lengths.
 
Other top contenders are Andrena and Paul Van Doren’s 4 ¾-length Mountaineer Juvenile winner Rise Up, and George and Lori Hall’s Solemnly Swear, who drew off to win a one-mile maiden race at Monmouth Park by 8 ½ lengths.
 
The Iroquois field (with jockey and morning line odds) from the rail out: Laddie Boy (Jesus Castanon, 20-1); All Cash (Miguel Mena, 15-1); Rise Up (Rosie Napravnik, 5-1); Tapiture (Ricardo Santana Jr., 7-2); Cleburne (Corey Lanerie, 10-1); Honorable Judge (Joe Rocco Jr., 12-1); Solemnly Swear (Joe Bravo, 6-1); Jimmy Connors (Elvis Trujillo, 12-1); Ride On Curlin (Calvin Borel, 5-2); Smart Cover (Shaun Bridgmohan, 12-1); Stonecrusher (Joe Johnson, 20-1); and Cee ’n O (Alan Garcia, 20-1).
 
The Iroquois will go as Race 7 at 9:05 p.m. EDT.
 

 

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