Iroquois Stakes 2021 Entries: KYD Points and a BC Trip at Stake

America's all-time leading trainer, Steve Asmussen, comes to Churchill with a pair of young colts ready to contest this important race. See what is at stake below ...
America's all-time leading trainer, Steve Asmussen, comes to Churchill with a pair of young colts ready to contest this important race. See what is at stake below ...
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Race 9: 1 1/16th (Dirt), Iroquois Stakes (G3), Purse $300k, 2 (Saturday)

Kicking off the Derby Trail is this race, the Grade III Iroquois. Structured for 2-yr-olds, it traditionally brings together a nice crop of runners. Of course, “Points” (10-4-2-1) towards the 1st Saturday in May are up for grabs, and even though winners do not have a fine record in America’s most celebrated race, it still is a meaningful test. Last year’s victor, Dale Romans’ Sittin On Go, is a case in point. The colt won in blistering fashion, but did little else over the course of the next 10 months. Still, should be an interesting way to get the 2022 Season underway, especially since this contest is also a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race for entry into the TVG Juvenile (G1). How about that for an extra incentive?

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Tough to Tame (Jky: S. Doyle/Trn: C. Davis):

Ratcheting up the class ladder is this Chris Davis runner out of Speightster. The colt ran well at Indiana Grand last time out, after competing in Arlington Park MSW-levels starting in late June. This is a much deeper pool, and Sophie Doyle is going to have to work hard to save enough power for the stretch run. It may just be too much of an ask.

Grade: C+


#2 Lucky Boss (Jky: B. Hernandez/Trn: K. McPeek):

The Street Boss line continues to be a nice sire, but one that has not reached its full potential as of yet. Kenny McPeek is probably looking forward to returning to Churchill after a very difficult time of it up at Saratoga. His entry today has some upside after some nice tries over at Ellis Park. If Brian Hernandez, who is the colt’s only jockey, can rate close to the front, then he might make a game of it at the top of the lane … Lucky Seven is hoping this is a lucky score.

Grade: B-


#3 Roger McQueen (Jky: A. Beschizza/Trn: L. Rivelli):

It is gratifying to see Larry Rivelli enter at Churchill. His stable is under siege up at another Churchill-owned track, Arlington, so he is going to need to make arrangements when everything sadly closes outside of Chicago. His runner, a colt out of Unified, was excellent stepping up into a “Non-G” 125k prep for this race at Ellis Park. Adam Beschizza, an underrated rider to be sure, took him all the way after wrestling the lead away from some rivals. Advancing in ability with each attempt, he could be a nice overlay come post time.

Grade: B


#4 Strike Hard (Jky: L. Reyes/Trn: M. Williams):

The Williams Barn was pleased to see this colt come from just off the pace back at Gulfstream Park at the end of August, and score a victory in an MSW65k race. The speed fig (91). that day was more than promising. It looks like the connections are going all out, since they are bringing in rider Leo Reyes who guided this one through his debut and aforementioned maiden win. The Flashback 2-yr-old is going to need every ounce of strength in what will be his toughest test yet. Can he ship outside of Gulfstream … that is a $300k query, if ever I heard one.

Grade: B


#5 Magnolia Midnight (Jky: C. Lanerie/Trn: D. Stewart):

When you see Dallas Stewart and West Point Thoroughbreds together, you know you are getting a runner who has a chance to score. A couple of excellent groups in that … strong owners … coupled with a seasoned Derby Trail professional who has seen it all. Stewart does not have an expansive barn, but he can still train at the highest levels. Last out at Colonial Downs, this colt out of Midnight Storm was devastating with only a furlong to go. It was an off-track that day, but he still won by a country mile it seemed. Now, coming to Churchill is going to be a major step. Luckily, he gets Corey Lanerie aboard, and his experience will be welcome, even though just hitting the board is going to be a chore.

Grade: B-


#6 Stellar Tap (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: S. Asmussen):

This Tapit colt holds a special significance in that Ricardo Santana rode the colt to perfection on debut at Saratoga, and the win pushed trainer Steve Asmussen over the line. Thus, in that instant he became the all-time winningest conditioner in North America. An impressive achievement … Now, those laurels are put to rest, and it is time to see what this 2-yr-old can really do. Coming into this spot, he is surely going to be bet down, and it will be interesting to see if he is worth it. No question about the talents of his jockey, trainer, or ownership group (L and N/Winchell), but can he move forward?

Grade: B+


#7 Red Knobs (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: D. Romans):

Dale Romans and Churchill Downs are like peas and carrots … but lately, you never know what you are going to get with this conditioner. His entry this year is much the same. The Union Rags colt improved last time at Ellis Park in a MSW51k, but that was the same level as his debut, just the month before. Granted, that was a turf sprint his 1st time out, but Romans clearly thought that the result of the off-track mile race was reason enough to enter the Iroquois. A 6+ length victory was a nice result with James Graham at the controls. He will once again be aboard, but I am not convinced this one is ready for action.  

Grade: C+


#8 Major General (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Owned by Winstar and Siena, this top-notch colt sold at the Keeneland September Sale last year to the tune of $420k. Out of Constitution, the connections are expecting him to run fast when it counts. Back at Saratoga he did just that, breaking his maiden 1st time out, with a number (92) that befits a high-priced former yearling. HOF trainer Todd Pletcher then put the colt through a couple of works, just to give him a freshening. Getting Javier Castellano to ride, should make for another win. Making the break, if that is indeed his style, will be key … If he does, that speed can be a powerful weapon out on the engine.

Grade: A-


#9 Guntown (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: S. Asmussen):

Right now, the former Asmussen champ, Gun Runner, is making quite a name for himself in the breeding news. That should continue … As for this Winchell-owned homebred, he was strong at Ellis Park in a MSW51k. Breaking his maiden the 2nd time around bodes well, and Tyler Gaffalione can have a major impact on this result. His aggressive style, coupled with this colt’s rating ability, should make him more than just a contender. Given the proper trip, he has the opportunity to make an immediate impact. Will this be the Asmussen entry who finally brings him that elusive Derby win?

Grade: A-


#10 Husband Material (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: J. Toner):

If you won your last race by 20-lengths would that make you the automatic favorite in your next one? Or did you just face paltry resistance, and still need to prove yourself? Jimmy Toner has a runner who did precisely that at Delaware Park in what was his 2nd career race—win by more than 3 touchdowns. The colt out of American Pharoah is obviously well-bred, but he is wading into much deeper waters at Churchill. Getting loose on the lead is going to be the strategy, but with so many other speedsters in here, that might be a chore. What we do know is that a major test awaits new rider Florent Geroux.

Grade: C+


#11 Bourbon Heist (Jky: J. Talamo/Trn: I. Wilkes):

If you are looking to back an up-and-coming sire, then this one by Bourbon Lane Stable is the one to pick, in my opinion. Practical Joke by way of Into Mischief, has some interesting lines that would speak to sprinting, but do not count out his offspring’s ability to route. Ian Wilkes had this colt against Pletcher’s entry last out at Saratoga, and he finished a neck too short at the wire. Joe Talamo gets aboard this one who has been working well. The connections will end up getting shot against their rival. That should make this race all the more interesting.

Grade: B+


Join us Saturday for all of our selections! Should be a great set of races from Churchill Downs!

Churchill Downs Race 9 22:11 ET

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