The 2013-2014 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” kicks of this Saturday with the 32nd running of the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs listed as the first of 34 qualifying races that will determine Derby eligibility.
For the second year in a row, Churchill Downs will use a tiered point system to determine which horses qualify to enter the Derby starting gate. The winner of the Iroquois Stakes will receive 10 points while the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and 1 point will be awarded to the fourth-place finisher.
Ride On Curlin, with two previous starts, is listed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the field of 12 horses that have been entered in the race. And, if he repeats the performance of his previous two starts, Ride On Curlin will be a tough competitor.
In his maiden-debut at Churchill Downs in June, Ride On Curlin broke poorly at the start and was last out of the gate. He quickly made up ground to finish a strong second only 2-lengths shy of victory. He followed up that performance with an easy 7¾-length romp in a 5½-furlong sprint at Ellis Park, setting a new track record of 1:03.00.
After the race, owner Daniel Dougherty turned down a $1 million dollar offer for the purchase of Ride On Curlin who was a $25,000 yearling in the 2012 Keeneland September sale.
Hall of Fame Jockey Calvin Borel has ridden Ride On Curlin in both of his previous two starts and he believes the colt has a lot of potential.
Ride On Curlin has good speed. In video replays of his races, he looks professional and I like the ease of his motion as he moves around the track.
Already in his young career, Ride On Curlin has shown better form than his sire, Curlin, who did not make his debut until February of his 3-year-old racing season. I’m looking forward to see how well Ride On Curlin performs in the stretch out to 8½-furlongs.
Another young colt with good speed is Rise Up (5-1) who finished second in his maiden-debut but followed up that performance with two back-to-back victories including a 4¾-length romp in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes at Mountaineer Race Track And Gaming Resort.
The racing form of Rise Up is similar to that of his sire, Rockport Harbor, who was undefeated in his first four starts as a 2-year-old including a 6¼-length romp in the Nashua Stakes (G3) and a narrow victory by a neck in the 9-furlong Remsen Stakes (G2).
Jockey Rosie Napravnik, a very tough competitor, guided Rise Up to victory in the Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes and she retains the mount in the Iroquois. I look for them both to be competitive in Saturday’s race.
A couple of other horses I like in this race are Tapiture (7-2) and All Cash (15-1).
Tapiture, trained by Steve Asmussen, comes into the Iroquois with a solid performance in his maiden debut where he finished second to a very nice colt named Strong Mandate. The fractional splits in that race were fast and Tapiture ran the entire race in second place, just a few lengths off of the pace.
A repeat of his maiden debut performance should make Tapiture competitive in the Iroquois.