Expert picks: 2021 Iroquois and start of Kentucky Derby trail

Expert picks: 2021 Iroquois and start of Kentucky Derby trail
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes, Saturday at Churchill Downs, represents the first points race for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Continue reading to see how the experts are playing the race.

Ron Flatter, Horse Racing Nation

Winner: #9 Guntown

On the board: #6 Stellar Tap

Longshot I like: #7 Red Knobs

Analysis: Guntown had a troubled debut but made up for it in his last race, and he may bring value as the "other" Steve Asmussen horse on the toteboard. When he won at Saratoga and got Asmussen the North American training record, Stellar Tap looked like he barely used anything in his tank. Breeding says both Asmussen colts should appreciate the added distance. Red Knobs is trained by Dale Romans, who in the last eight years has four wins, two seconds, one third and two fourths in the Iroquois.

Reinier Macatangay, Setting the Pace

Winner: #8 Major General

On the board: #6 Stellar Tap

Longshot I like: #11 Bourbon Heist

Analysis: Major General needs to sharpen up the mechanics of how he runs, but the fact that he beat Bourbon Heist while green and racing on the wrong lead makes his maiden win impressive. He also gets a better post position than Stellar Tap, as Post 8 allows Major General to press his main opponent from the outside. Besides his talent and post position, Major General also figures to offer value, while Stellar Tap's odds might fall to 2-1 or less by post time.

Jeffrey Byrnes, Byrnzzze's Corner

Winner: #6 Stellar Tap

On the board: #8 Major General

Longshot I like: #10 Husband Material

Analysis: Stellar Tap gave Steve Asmussen the all time wins record at Saratoga on debut. While a memorable win for Asmussen, it was a very impressive debut by Stellar Tap.

He sat on a fast pace and won going away. Winning first out at Saratoga is no east task. Being by Tapit, he should have no problem stretching out. From that maiden win, the second and 10th place finishers came back to win their next starts, indicating a key race. Expect him to stalk the pace again and pounce turning for home.

Major General was an ultra game winner on debut despite setting a fast pace. From the 8 post, he should be sitting on go and could be in front or right up with the leaders early on. By Constitution, he should love the two turns. Todd Pletcher pointed to this race knowing he needed the extra ground. Should be tough.

Husband Material is a regally bred colt who thrived going two turns at Delaware Park last out. Though it came on a wet track, he won by 20 lengths, and came out of the race in great shape. He's posting fast works at Fair Hill and should get a nice trip from the outside. Florent Geroux is aboard for the first time.

I will play a 6-8-10 trifecta box.

Jarrod Horak, Best Bets

Winner: #6 Stellar Tap

On the board: #9 Guntown

Longshot I like: #11 Bourbon Heist

Analysis: Steve Asmussen might hold the aces in this spot. Stellar Tap earned quality pace ratings in his sharp seven panel debut score at Saratoga, and Guntown exits an easy flat mile maiden win at Ellis Park. Major General edged Bourbon Heist at Saratoga on Aug. 21, and the latter is clearly on the upswing for Ian Wilkes. I will make a win wager on Stellar Tap, and I definitely want to get Bourbon Heist somewhere in the top three.

Mark Midland

Winner: #9 Guntown

On the board: #11 Bourbon Heist

Longshot I like: #1 Tough to Tame

Analysis: #6 Stellar Tap put in a huge debut at Saratoga and will be heavily bet, but there's a lot of speed in this race and 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs is a different story than 7 furlongs at Saratoga.  Let's play against him in this spot and take advantage of some nice prices in this deep field.

#9 Guntown also comes from the Steve Asmussen barn, and he won nicely going 1 mile at Ellis Park in his last.  We'll also take a shot with #11 Bourbon Heist, who could close if the pace gets hot.

How to play it:  We'll play a bigger trifecta here:  9,11 with 4,6,9,10,11 with 1,2,4,6,9,10,11

Victor Ryan, Horse Racing Nation

Winner: #9 Guntown

On the board: #8 Major General

Longshot I like: #4 Strike Hard

Analysis: Morning-line favorite Stellar Tap could prove formidable based off his impressive debut win at Saratoga last month, but I'll look to take a shot with his stablemate. Guntown prompted a slow pace going a mile at Ellis Park before uncorking a 99 late-pace rating, per Brisnet, to draw off and win by five lengths when graduating in his second start for Steve Asmussen four weeks ago. He doesn't figure to be near the pace against this group, but Guntown should be closing fast, particularly if the stretch-out sprinters falter late. We'll look for Strike Hard to also make an impact from off the pace at 10-1 on the morning line. He posted a race-high 102 late-pace rating when graduating by 2 1/2-lengths going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park on Aug. 29. 

I will bet #9 Guntown to win if at least 3-1 and key in an exacta box with #8 Major General and #4 Strike Hard.   

Candice Curtis

Winner: #9 Guntown

On the board: #6 Stellar Tap

Longshot I like: #7 Red Knobs

Analysis: The Asmussen horses will be ready to run, with Stellar Tap on the pace to set up for Guntown, who will be pressing. Use #7 Red Knobs underneath, he'll be running late.

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