The first of 35 races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby series will take place on Saturday, when 10 juveniles will vie in the $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/16-mile endeavor is one of four stakes races on the fine opening Saturday card of the meeting, and the field boasts some exciting young prospects. Kentucky Derby points to the top-four finishers will be awarded on a 10-4-2-1 basis.
Each of the Steve Asmussen trainees, Zyramid (#1) (10-1) and Rowdy Yates (#4) (7-2), possess early foot along with Juggernaut (#7) (10-1), Dennis’ Moment (#8) (9-5) and Lebda (#9) (10-1). If Dennis’ Moment truly is the real deal, I think he will overtake the other four pace players in early stretch.
Letmeno (#2) (10-1), Scabbard (#3) (5-1) and Flute Maker (#4) (8-1) will benefit most if the pace is as swift and contested as I expect it to be.
$10 Win and Place #2 Letmeno = $20
$1 Trifecta 2,8 with 2,3,4,8 with all = $48
ZYRAMID (#1) (10-1) – Saratoga Special (G2) fifth was sharp in a maiden score at Saratoga two back and has room to improve. Steve Asmussen trainee has speed from the rail, and the son of City Zip could be dangerous in his initial two-turn attempt.
LETMENO (#2) (10-1) – Precocious one from the Ian Wilkes shedrow was a smart second despite a poor break in the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes most recently. Twirling Candy colt has trained well in the interim in advance of his first run at his home base. Win contender will be closing late beneath Calvin Borel.
SCABBARD (#3) (5-1) – Saratoga Special (G2) second placer was a superb debut winner at Churchill Downs and comes off a professional run at The Spa. Eddie Kenneally charge gives the impression of a miler type after two performances, and he might benefit from having more ground to aid his late kick.
ROWDY YATES (#4) (7-2) – Fleet youngster was never headed en route to a commanding win in the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes in preparation of today. Morning Line colt is a question mark going long, but he possesses a lot of ability and continues to show improvement. Tyler Baze retains the mount.
AUTOMATE (#5) (30-1) – Kent Desormeaux trainee was a going-away graduate at Ellis Park two prior in his lone dirt assignment to date. New Year’s Day colt will need to get faster to circle this cast from the back of the pack, however. Florent Geroux picking up the ride is a major plus.
FLUTE MAKER (#6) (8-1) – Ken McPeek pupil ran off to an 11-length maiden romp in an off-the-turf special weight test at Saratoga second time out. Interesting prospect shows a strong half-mile move on this surface most recently, and the colt is bred to run at least this long. Jose Ortiz comes along to keep the mount atop the son of Sky Mesa.
JUGGERNAUT (#7) (10-1) – Goldencents colt ran them off their respective feet at Ellis Park in a fine debut showing. Keith Desormeaux colt has trained in swift fashion since, and he figures to be among the early leaders from the break.
DENNIS’ MOMENT (#8) (9-5) – Sensational maiden romper has been a ‘buzz’ horse all summer and showed why at Ellis Park last time out. Dale Romans trainee continues to fire morning bullets on this surface, and he could be a special one with further development. The top prospect gets a rider change to top jock Irad Ortiz Jr.
LEBDA (#9) (10-1) – Sneaky contender has run well in each of his three races to date, which includes an 11-length allowance stroll most recently. Raison d’Etat colt is a mystery going farther than 5 1/2 panels at this class level, but he has obvious talent and shouldn’t be dismissed in his route debut at big odds.
JANUARY WON (#10) (15-1) – The second of two in the field for Ken McPeek was a solid debut winner on the dirt at Saratoga. New Year’s Day colt gets Lasix today, but the outside draw will not do the juvenile any favors. Kentucky-bred is cut out to run long and is one to watch down the road.
PHOTO: Letmeno (c) Coady Photography/Ellis Park