Dennis’ Moment lived up to the hype in Saturday’s $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, where he cruised to an uncontested victory and gave the impression he could have won by more if asked.
The son of Tiznow never had an anxious moment in the 1 1/16-mile race, which offered a “Win and You’re In” berth to the November 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita. Favored at 2-5 with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle, the speedy colt showed a new dimension, as he rated comfortably in fourth place early on, about three lengths behind fractions of :23.35 and :47.31 set by Juggernaut in a strung-out field.
As he rounded the far turn, Dennis’ Moment casually advanced under his own power to challenge for the lead, and when Ortiz asked him to run at the top of the stretch, the race was over. Dennis’ Moment burst away from his rivals with such authority that Ortiz ultimately wrapped up on the Dale Romans-trained runner, who eased across the finish line 1 3/4 lengths in front.
Scabbard, who encountered traffic on the far turn, rallied impressively to finish second, 5 1/4 lengths ahead of the pace-tracking Lebda.
Despite easing across the finish line, Dennis’ Moment stopped the timer in 1:43.58. It was the fastest running of the Iroquois since the race was lengthened to 1 1/16 miles in 2013.
“This horse is speaking for himself. I don’t have to build him up anymore,” Romans said. “He’s just an amazing animal. He goes out there and does it (with) his ears up—like he’s just galloping around out there. The jock was shutting him down with a sixteenth of a mile to go, and he still finished in the time he did. He’s something special.”
Romans was particularly pleased by the way Dennis’ Moment rated off the early lead.
“It’s important going into these big races—to be versatile. That’s what I was worried about today,” he said. “I was concerned about him getting in a speed duel, with this being the first time around two turns for all these 2-year-olds. And it worked out perfect. He sat outside a horse that didn’t bother him at all and went three-wide, which is not easy to do on this racetrack and keep on going. And he kicked home good.”
Romans indicated the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile would be the next target for Dennis’ Moment, though the ultimate goal remains the 2020 Kentucky Derby. The Iroquois marked the first stop on the 2019-2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby, and the top four finishers received qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 schedule.
It’s safe to say Dennis’ Moment has emerged as a clear early favorite for the Derby. With his stout pedigree (he’s by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow out of a mare by Elusive Quality, sire of Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones), Dennis’ Moment is bred to improve with maturity and relish classic distances.
Big moments could be on the horizon for this Albaugh Family Stables runner.