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
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
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).
’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
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
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
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);
(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.