Churchill Downs will open the doors on its September meet Friday, and the stakes action at the Louisville, Kentucky, venue will get underway Saturday night as four black-type contests, including three graded, highlight the "Downs After Dark" program.
The Grade 3, $150,000 Iroquois will feature a field of 12 colts and geldings and the 1 1/16-mile event for two-year-olds carries extra significance this year as the opening event of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, the points system that determines eligibility for the three-year-olds that will compete in next year's 140th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Points are awarded on 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four respective finishers.
The Iroquois has also been added to the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Challenge Series, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Saturday, November 2. The winner additionally receives a $10,000 travel stipend for transport from anywhere in North America to the Arcadia, California, track.
Rise Up is the only member of the Iroquois field with any prior stakes knowledge, having captured the Mountaineer Juvenile by 4 3/4 lengths on August 3 in his first try on a conventional dirt track. Trained by Tom Amoss, the Rockport Harbor colt will retain the services of Rosie Napravnik.
Laddie Boy jumped up in a big way when trying dirt for the first time on June 19, breaking his maiden by 13 lengths at Indiana Downs for conditioner Chuck Perry. Jesus Castanon will ride the gray son of War Pass.
Tapiture is still a maiden for Steve Asmussen, but the chestnut colt figures to receive support following a runner-up finish to Strong Mandate in his career debut at Saratoga on August 17. That rival came back to win Monday's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes by a resounding 9 3/4-length margin. Ricardo Santana Jr. picks up the mount on the well-regarded son of Tapit.
Trainer Kelly Breen appears well-represented by a pair of convincing maiden winner at Monmouth Park, Solemnly Swear and Jimmy Connors. The former broke through in a big way when making his third start on August 11, scoring 8 1/2 lengths, while the latter romped by 4 1/4 lengths when making his lone career outing on July 27. Joe Bravo keeps the mount on Solemnly Swear and Elvis Trujillo will be back aboard Jimmy Connors.
Other maiden winners of note include Honorable Judge, who posted a 6 3/4-length victory in his career bow at Parx on August 11; and Ride on Curlin and Cee 'n O, convincing winners at Ellis Park. Cleburne and Smart Cover also broke their maidens at Ellis, but did so on that track's turf and will be switching to dirt.
All Cash and Stonecrusher are still seeking that elusive initial score in the Iroquois.