Early Kentucky Derby implications surround Saturday’s $300,000 Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill Downs, the first qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
We’ll see whether unbeaten Saratoga Special (G2) winner Damon’s Mound can carry his outstanding form to two turns. And if smashing Saratoga maiden winner Echo Again is the real deal in his first class test.
They are the principals among nine juveniles in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois, which will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 scale to the top five finishers.
Damon’s Mound overcame a slow start to win his debut handily by 12 lengths under the Twin Spires in early July, and the Michelle Lovell-trained colt rolled to a 3 1/4-length decision in the 6 1/2-furlong Saratoga Special on Aug. 13. From the first crop of Girvin, Damon’s Mound appears to be training forwardly in the interim, and the stalker retains the services of Gabriel Saez.
The word was out when Echo Again made his first career start on Aug. 20. Bet down to 3-5 favoritism, the gray Gun Runner colt broke on top and never appeared to take a deep breath, drawing off to a 6 3/4-length decision, and the 6 1/2-furlong race came back fast. Echo Again will bring a field-best 99 Brisnet Speed rating to the Iroquois, and Joel Rosario will ride for Steve Asmussen.
Jace’s Road, who romped by 6 1/4 lengths when opening his career in a Aug. 6 maiden special weight at Ellis Park, merits respect for Brad Cox. Florent Geroux has the call on the Quality Road colt. Confidence Game left a favorable impression when graduating by five lengths in his second career outing at Churchill on Aug. 13, and James Graham guides the speedy Candy Ride colt for Keith Asmussen.
Curly Jack exits a neck second in the Ellis Juvenile S. on Aug. 14, and Jin Tong ships in for two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill following a fifth in the Best Pal S. (G2). Last-out Ellis maiden scorers Hayes Strike and Honed are also entered, and Zaici, a Churchill maiden winner two back, completes the field.
One race later on the program, eight older horses will contest the $275,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society S. at six furlongs. Top contenders include Isolate, Miles Ahead, Necker Island, and Top Gunner.