How to Bet the Iroquois Stakes
It seems hard to believe, but the 2018-19 Road to the Kentucky Derby kicks off this Saturday with the running of the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, which also serves as a “Win and You’re In” prep race for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I).Suffice to say, there’s a lot on the line in this 8 ½-furlong race, and if one were to handicap the race based exclusively on Beyer speed figures, then it would be impossible to look past the likely favorite #4 Tight Ten. Let’s put it this way—in his two starts to date, Tight Ten has earned Beyers of 75 and 80. His 11 rivals have run 24 races between them with a peak Beyer of 68.
It’s hard to knock Tight Ten’s bare accomplishments thus far; he won his debut at Churchill Downs in easy fashion before finishing second by just a length in the Saratoga Special Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga. That’s rock-solid form, but I think it’s important to note that this son of Tapit was very green in both of his races, drifting inward to hit the rail in his debut before drifting in yet again in the Saratoga Special, where he interfered with the eventual winner and didn't do himself any favors either. Tight Ten also has a tendency to carry his head a bit higher than normal.
With this in mind, I’m tempted to try to beat Tight Ten with the up-and-coming Ellis Park maiden winners #10 Hog Creek Hustle and #12 Everfast. I’m particularly excited about Hog Creek Hustle, who was deceptively impressive in his debut sprinting five furlongs on August 18th. The son of Overanalyze was quick out of the gate, but seemed uncomfortable racing behind and in between horses shortly after the start, causing him to back out of a pocket and lose several lengths in the process.
However, this ultimately proved to be no obstacle and Hog Creel Hustle came roaring down the homestretch to swallow the field under jockey Corey Lanerie, running the final furlong in well under :12 seconds to win going away. It was an eye-catching performance, and I think he was much more dominant than his margin of victory or 65 Beyer suggest. Drawing post ten should help him stay out of trouble in the Iroquois, and if he can work out a nice trip, I think we’ll see him improve significantly on Saturday.
As for Everfast, he was very professional rating along the rail in his debut before producing a sharp late rally to get up and win by a neck for trainer Dale Romans. I think the son of Take Charge Indy can take a step forward while stretching out around two turns, though obviously his extreme outside draw is a concern.
Here’s how I would play the race:
$2 exacta: 4,10,12 with 4,10,12 ($12) $0.50 trifecta: 4,10,12 with 4,6,7,10,12 with 4,6,7,10,12 ($18)