Michael McLaughlin’s $300,000 Iroquois Stakes (Grade III) winner Curly Jack headlines a field of nine 2-year-old colts that were entered in Saturday’s 96th running of the $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs, a “Prep Season” race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Jockey Club, run at 1 1/16 miles, will award the Top 5 finishers points on a 10-4-3-2-1 scale towards a spot in the starting gate for the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI).
First post Saturday is 1 p.m. and the 12-race program features all 2-year-old races as part of “Stars of Tomorrow II.” The Kentucky Jockey Club will go as Race 11 at 5:56 p.m. (all times Eastern). The card also will include the $400,000 Golden Rod (GII), $200,000 Ed Brown and $200,000 Fern Creek.
Curly Jack began his march on the Road to the Kentucky Derby when he scored a 10-1 upset win in the Sept. 17 Iroquois. The son of Good Magic made his debut at Churchill Downs on June 2 where he drew away to a four-length maiden special weight victory under jockey Colby Hernandez. In his first stakes try, Curly Jack finished fifth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths, in the $175,000 Sanford (GIII) at Saratoga. The Tom Amoss trainee returned in the $125,000 Ellis Park Juvenile where he was narrowly defeated by Top Recruit. In his last start, Curly Jack attempted Grade I glory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) but finished fifth. Jockey Edgar Morales will be in the irons for the Kentucky Jockey Club and the duo will break from the rail.
Another stakes winner that was entered in the Kentucky Jockey Club is Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Steven Schoenfeld’s $120,000 Awad winner Freedom Trail. Trained by John Terranova, who won the 2014 Kentucky Jockey Club with El Kabeir, Freedom Trail has raced exclusively on the turf in his first two starts. He broke his maiden on Sept. 25 during the Belmont meeting at Aqueduct and returned for a three-quarters of a length score in the 1 1/16-mile Awad. The son of Collected will be ridden by Florent Geroux from post No. 6.
Trainer Kenny McPeek has won two of the last four runnings of the Kentucky Jockey Club with Signalman (2018) and Smile Happy (2021). The veteran conditioner entered two colts in this year’s contest: Fern Circle Stables and Magdalena Racing’s maiden special weight winner Denington and Dixiana Farms’ Street Sense (GIII) runner-up Hayes Strike. Denington will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. from post 3 while Hayes Strike will break from post 7 with Rafael Bejarano.
Other top horses entered the Kentucky Jockey Club include Albaugh Family Stables and Castleton Lyons’ 5 1/4-length maiden special weight winner Cyclone Mischief and Gold Square’s debut winner Instant Coffee.
Here is the complete field for the Kentucky Jockey Club from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Curly Jack (Morales, Amoss); Western Ghent (Mickaelle Michel, D. Wayne Lukas); Denington (Hernandez, McPeek); Gigante (Corey Lanerie, Steve Asmussen); Red Route One (Tyler Gaffalione, Steve Asmussen); Freedom Trail (Geroux, Terranova); Hayes Strike (Bejarano, McPeek); Instant Coffee (Luis Saez, Cox); and Cyclone Mischief (Joe Talamo, Dale Romans).
Inaugurated in 2005, Churchill Downs’ Stars of Tomorrow programs have helped launch the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including more than 50 Grade I winners led by Horse of the Year champions Gun Runner (2017) and Rachel Alexandra (2009); Kentucky Derby winners Super Saver (2010) and Mandaloun (2021); and Longines Kentucky Oaks winners Rachel Alexandra (2009), Believe You Can (2012), Monomoy Girl (2018) and Secret Oath (2022).
All of Saturday’s action at Churchill Downs will air on FanDuel TV.
Wagering is available for the Stars of Tomorrow II program on www.twinspires.com, the official wagering provider of Churchill Downs Incorporated and the Kentucky Derby.