Saturday’s $200,000 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs, which kicks off the 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby series and serves as a “Win & You’re In” prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), could be all about Dennis’ Moment.
After clipping heels and losing his rider over the Churchill Downs strip in his late June debut, Dennis’ Moment rebounded to swamp Ellis Park maiden rivals by 19 1/4 lengths a month later, earning a 95 BRIS Speed rating. Trainer Dale Romans wouldn’t surely mind an effort close to that in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois, which awards Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers.
“I can only think of one other horse that I’ve trained that has shown this much potential as a two-year-old and that’s Not This Time,” Romans said, referring to his 2016 Iroquois winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up. “I think we are all looking at a potential future star. Even though this horse is only a maiden winner, the way he was able to just simply dominate the competition that day at Ellis Park left me breathless.
“I am going to start acting like a football coach and say ‘one race at a time’ with him. Let’s just get it done Saturday and then see where we stand.”
Dennis’ Moment figures as the odds-on choice in the Iroquois, which attracted nine others. The only previous stakes winner in the field is Rowdy Yates, who won the Ellis Park Juvenile last month, though Scabbard was second best in the Saratoga Special (G2) to Green Light Go, arguably the leading juvenile colt in New York at present.
Letmeno, second in the Ellis Juvenile, remains with upside as does Juggernaut, a dominating 6 1/4-length debut winner at Ellis for Keith Desormeaux. Lebda, like Rowdy Yates, is a two-time winner. Second to the American Pharoah colt Maven in his Aqueduct debut in April, Lebda has come back to win twice, most recently a 5 1/2-furlong allowance at Delaware Park by 11 lengths.
Also of note are Zyramid, fifth in the Saratoga Special last time, and Kenny McPeek’s Saratoga graduates Flute Maker and January Won.
The Iroquois is the 10th of 11 races at Churchill Downs on Saturday, with a scheduled post time of 5:18 p.m. (EDT). You can watch and wager at TwinSpires.com.