Dennis' Moment breaking his maiden at Ellis Park - Photo by Coady Photography

Dennis’ Moment breaking his maiden at Ellis Park – Photo by Coady Photography

Three colts who won their last starts by double-digit margins will face off in Saturday’s $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, the much-anticipated first stop on the 2019-2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The 1 1/16-mile race also offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita, so there’s a lot more on the line than just the winner’s share of the purse.

In a normal year you might find #6 Flute Maker or #9 Lebda to be favored. The former had no difficulty crushing seven maiden rivals by 11 1/2 lengths at Saratoga last month, while Lebda easily defeated allowance foes by 11 lengths at Delaware Park.

But Flute Maker and Lebda will be thoroughly overshadowed in the Iroquois wagering by #8 Dennis’ Moment, who looms as an odds-on favorite for trainer Dale Romans. That’s what posting a 19 1/4-length maiden win at Ellis Park will do for you.

Dennis’ Moment was breathtaking in his maiden score. The well-regarded colt arrived at Ellis Park with no practical racing experience, considering he lost his rider on debut at Churchill Downs. The lack of experience made no difference, as Dennis’ Moment raced straight to the lead, carved out fractions of :22.92 and :45.84, and flew home the final three furlongs in :36.11 (including a final eighth in :12.14) to win the seven-furlong race in a blazing 1:21.95.

With a final time just 0.58 seconds off the track record, Dennis’ Moment received a Beyer speed figure of 97, the highest number posted by any juvenile so far in 2019. The way he rocketed home off a fast pace bodes well for his chances stretching out around two turns, particularly since he’s a stoutly bred son of Tiznow, out of an Elusive Quality mare.

The maiden score brought back memories of Not This Time, another Romans-trained runner who parlayed a 10-length maiden score at Ellis into powerful romp in the Iroquois. Much the same will be expected from Dennis’ Moment, and anything close to a repeat of his last run should land him in the winner’s circle Saturday. Since August 24 he has posted three straight bullet workouts at Churchill Downs, where he clocked five furlongs in the increasingly quick times of 1:00 1/5, :59 3/5 and :58 4/5. From all appearances Dennis’ Moment is ready to roll.

While playing the trifecta, I’ll lean against Flute Maker (whose big win came back modest on the Beyer scale) and Lebda (who has never run farther than 5 1/2 furlongs). Instead I’ll favor #4 Rowdy Yates and #2 Letmeno (who ran 1-2 in the seven-furlong Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes) and #7 Juggernaut (a 6 1/4-length debut winner for trainer Keith Desormeaux, who rarely saddles ready-to-win first-time starters).

$5 trifecta: 8 with 2,4,7 with 2,4,7 ($30)

Good luck!