Points chase for 2017 Kentucky Derby begins with Iroquois
Saturday’s $150,000 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs is the first of 35 qualifying races in the 2016-17 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series and a contentious field of eight juveniles has been assembled for the 1 1/16-mile test, which will award points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
Stakes winner Lookin at Lee and graded stakes-placed Recruiting Ready and Thirstforlife boast top credentials but promising last-out maiden winners Blame Will, Not This Time and Skinflint are also eligible to factor in their stakes debut.
Lookin at Lee broke his maiden the second-time out by a widening 4 ¾-length margin and followed with a rallying victory in the August 6 Ellis Park Juvenile. Ricardo Santana Jr. will take over the reins on the Steve Asmussen-trained son of Lookin at Lucky.
Recruiting Ready returns to Churchill Downs after being disqualified from a runner-up finish and placed fourth in the August 14 Saratoga Special (G2). A 10-length debut scorer at Laurel Park, the Horacio DePaz trainee just missed in the Bashford Manor (G3) two starts back under the Twin Spires, coughing up a sizable midstretch advantage in a second-place effort, and the speedy Algorithms colt adds Gary Stevens.
Thirstforlife, a Mark Casse-trained colt from the first crop of Stay Thirsty, posted an impressive maiden win two starts back at Churchill and exits a third-place effort in the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar to Klimt, who came back to establish himself as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) favorite with a sharp score in the Del Mar Futurity (G1). Thirstforlife will be re-united with Florent Geroux.
Blame Will possesses the top BRIS Speed rating, registering a 97 winning a salty Saratoga maiden race on August 20. Luis Saez sticks with the Blame colt for D. Wayne Lukas.
Not This Time romped by 10 lengths when making his second career outing, and two-turn bow, in an August 12 maiden at Ellis Park and trainer Dale Romans is very bullish on the Giant’s Causeway colt’s potential. Robby Albarado rides.
Skinflint exits a 4 ¾-length romp in an August 6 maiden at Gulfstream. A $175,000 yearling purchase, the son of Super Saver will make his first start outside of Florida for conditioner Dane Kobiskie and Jesus Castanon picks up the mount.
Rounding out the field are Honor Thy Father, third as the favorite in the Ellis Park Juvenile; and Just Move On, who will make his first dirt start after capturing a turf maiden at Arlington Park.