Lucky Player took the first major step toward next year’s running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and earned a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for this year’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) when he held off stablemate Bold Conquest in deep stretch to score a neck victory in the 33rd running of the $115,500 Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds, one of four stakes races run on the first Saturday of Churchill Downs’ 12-date September Meet.
Steve Asmussen trains the top two finishers in the field of nine for the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois and won the race for the third time in his career. Ricardo Santana Jr. rode the winner, an 11-1 longshot who tracked a slow early pace set by favored Mr. Z and out-kicked Bold Conquest and Joel Rosario in the final yards to collect first stakes victory. Hashtag Bourbon, bottled up along the rail in traffic for much of the race, finally found room in the stretch and rallied to finish third, 1 ½ lengths behind the runner-up.
With the victory by Lucky Player, owner Jerry Durant’s son of Lookin at Lucky became the early leader in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” (“RTTKD”) points system that will determine the eligibility of horses vying to be part of the maximum field of 20 3-year-old Thoroughbreds that will compete in next spring’s Kentucky Derby. Lucky Player earned 10 RTTKD points with his Iroquois triumph, while Bold Conquest picked up four for his runner-up effort.
Along with its implications for the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the Iroquois also was the first event in the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Juvenile Division” and the win guaranteed Lucky Player a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 1. He also will receive a travel stipend of $10,000 for his journey to the Arcadia, Calif. track.
Lucky Player covered the 1 1/16-mile distance over a fast track in 1:45.76 and returned $25, $8.40 and $5.60. Bold Conquest, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin owned by Ackerley Brothers Farm, paid $6 and $4.20. Hashtag Bourbon, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver trained by Kellyn Gorder, rallied under Brian Hernandez Jr. to finish third and returned $3.60 to show.
“Lucky Player was laying extremely well, he was in a perfect spot,” Asmussen said. “Ricardo gave him a great trip. I think he benefitted a lot from his two-turn race that he had previously [in the Prairie Juvenile Mile at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows], and then Bold Conquest – I think he was a little wide early, [and there was] not a lot of pace, but he still continued well.
Hashtag Bourbon’s third-place run was good for two “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points, while Danny Boy collected a single point for his fourth-place run.
Source: Churchill Downs