The combination of jockey Edgar Morales and trainer Tom Amoss has paid dividends over the last several months to horseplayers at Churchill Downs and the duo will team up once again with Michael McLoughlin’s $125,000 Ellis Park Juvenile runner-up Curly Jack in Saturday’s $300,000 Iroquois Stakes (Grade III), the kickoff of the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
“It’s great to ride for Tom (Amoss),” Morales said. “He and his staff do a tremendous job with their horses and we’ve been rewarded by them. Curly Jack seems to be improving with every start and that’s what you hope with a 2-year-old. He ran really well last time and has started to relax.”
In the Spring Meet, Morales and Amoss teamed up for six winners including five 2-year-old victories in maiden special weight competition. Morales could be on his way to earn the most purse money in his six-year-career. With about 3 ½ months remaining in 2022, the Puerto Rico native’s mounts have earned $3,047,649 which is nearly $600,000 shy of his career-best mark set in 2018.
Off the racetrack, Morales is just as busy. He and his fiancée Keely Sorrows recently announced they are expecting a baby girl in 2023.
Curly Jack is a 2-year-old son of Good Magic by the Roman Ruler mare Connie and Michael. The bay colt broke his maiden at first asking on June 2 at Churchill Downs then shipped to Saratoga to compete in the $175,000 Sanford (GIII) where he finished fifth behind top juvenile Mo Strike. In the Ellis Park Juvenile, Morales was able to relax Curly Jack off the pace and finished a head behind Top Recruit.
The 1 1/16-mile Iroquois will kick off the Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve. The Iroquois was carded as Race 9 of 11 with a post time of 4:55 p.m. First post Saturday at Churchill Downs is 12:45 p.m.
Curly Jack was tabbed at odds of 5-1 in the Iroquois field. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ impressive Saratoga maiden special weight winner Echo Again was made the 2-1 morning line choice by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
The Iroquois Stakes will award the Top 5 finishers points on a 10-4-3-2-1 scale toward a spot in the starting gate for the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI).
Here is the complete field for the Iroquois from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Hayes Strike (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 12-1); Zaici (David Cohen, Ricky Courville, 30-1); Damon’s Mound (Saez, Lovell, 5-2); Jin Tong (Rafael Bejarano, Doug O’Neill, 15-1); Curly Jack (Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss, 5-1); Jace’s Road (Geroux, Cox, 7-2); Honed (Julien Leparoux, Kenny McPeek, 12-1); Confidence Game (James Graham, Keith Desormeaux, 12-1); and Echo Again (Rosario, Asmussen, 2-1).
Wagering is available on the Iroquois and every race from Churchill Downs on www.TwinSpires.com, the official wagering provider of Churchill Downs Inc. and the Kentucky Derby.
PESSIN HOPES BELL’S THE ONE CAN HOLD OFF RIVAL SCONSIN IN OPEN MIND – Lothenbach Stables’ Bell’s the One will meet her rival Sconsin for the eighth time Saturday in the $300,000 Open Mind (Listed), and trainer Neil Pessin hopes she can avenge her defeat from last year’s race.
Bell’s the One got the better of Sconsin by 2 ½ lengths in the $200,000 Lady Tak one month ago. In last year’s Open Mind, Bell’s the One finished a half-length behind the Greg Foley-trained Sconsin in the Open Mind.
“She’s taken us on a lot of journeys and I’m so thankful for her,” Pessin said. “I was pretty confident with her going into the Lady Tak and I wasn’t holding back like a normally do talking about her.”
Bell’s the One has been dominate at the six-furlong distance throughout her career and has recorded eight of her 12 lifetime victories going three-quarters of a mile. Entering this year’s Open Mind, the 6-year-old daughter of Majesticperfection sports two swift half-mile moves in company with stablemate Fine Cotton. Two weeks ago, Bell’s the One recorded the best half-mile move of 106 horses to breeze at the distance when she cruised :47. Last week, Bell’s the One was the best of 90 other horses when she skittered four furlongs in :46.80.
Aside from Bell’s the One and Sconsin in the Open Mind, stakes-winning Joyful Cadence could loom large for Bill Simon’s WSS Racing and trainer John Ortiz. Joyful Cadence finished 1 ½ lengths behind Bell’s the One in the Lady Tak after setting swift opening quarter-mile fractions of :22.42 and :45.42.
“I think she’s right there with Sconsin and Bell’s the One,” jockey Rey Gutierrez said. “She ran so well last time and Bell’s the One and Sconsin are two very nice mares. Joyful Cadence is going in the right direction and is right there with them. I think she’s ready to run a big effort.”
The six-furlong Open Mind will go as Race 7 of 11 with a post time of 3:50 p.m. The compact field of five female sprinters will be one of five stakes featured on the program. The others are the $300,000 Iroquois (GIII), $300,000 Pocahontas (GIII), $400,000 Locust Grove and $275,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society. First post is 12:45 p.m.
Here is the complete field for the Open Mind from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Sconsin (Tyler Gaffalione, Foley, 8-5); Joyful Cadence (Gutierrez, Ortiz, 7-2); Cheetara (CHI) (Vincent Cheminaud, Ignacio Correas IV, 15-1); Bell’s the One (Lanerie, Pessin, 6-5); and Club Car (Brian Hernandez Jr., Ben Colebrook, 5-1).
SATURDAY CARD FEATURES ALL-STAKES LATE PICK 5 – Saturday’s 11-race card from Churchill Downs will feature an all-stakes 50-cent Late Pick 5 that will begin in Race 7 at 3:50 p.m.
The 15% takeout bet will cover the $300,000 Open Mind (Race 7), $400,000 Locust Grove (GIII) (Race 8), $300,000 Iroquois (GIII) (Race 9), $275,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society (Race 10) and $300,000 Pocahontas (GIII) (Race 11).
In the Open Mind, the compact field of five fillies and mares features the eighth matchup between multiple graded stakes winning rivals Bell’s the One (6-5) and Sconsin (8-5). Joyful Cadence, who finished second to Bell’s the One in the $200,000 Lady Tak last month was made the 7-2 third choice on the morning line odds. The field is rounded out by five-time winning mare Club Car and Chilean-bred stakes winner Cheetara.
The 38th running of the 1 1/16-mile Locust Grove is headlined by trainer Kenny McPeek’s graded stakes-winning stablemates Crazy Beautiful (9-5) and Envoutante (5-2). Recent Saratoga allowance winner Played Hard was tabbed at 2-1 on the morning line odds.
Nine 2-year-olds will contest the Iroquois where notable Saratoga maiden special weight winner Echo Again was made the 2-1 favorite over Grade II winner Damon’s Mound (5-2).
The second running of the Louisville Thoroughbred Society features a matchup of six-time winner Isolate (7-5) and seven-time winner Necker Island (5-2). The six-furlong dash also includes stakes winner Top Gunner (5-1) and Miles Ahead (6-1).
The sequence will close with the Pocahontas where Ellis Park Debutante heroine Justa Warrior was made the slight 4-1 favorite over debut winner Grand Love (9-2).
For expert selections, special offers and more information about Saturday’s all-stakes Pick 5 sequence, visit www.churchilldowns.com/handicapping.
Fans can bet the all-stakes Late Pick 5 sequence on www.TwinSpires.com, the official wagering provider of Churchill Downs Inc. and the Kentucky Derby.
IROQUOIS, POCAHONTAS PART OF BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT DOZEN BONUS SERIES – The $300,000 Iroquois (Grade III) and $300,000 Pocahontas (GIII) are both part of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen which will award partial entry fees to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and $2 million Juvenile Fillies (GI) on Nov. 4 at Keeneland.
The winners of the Iroquois and Pocahontas will receive $30,000 toward their fees to enter the Breeders’ Cup. The second place finishers will be awarded $15,000 and third will receive $7,500.
For more information about the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen, visit www.members.breederscup.com/dirtdozen.
Downs After Dark: Fiesta Under the Spires on Saturday, Sept. 24 – The final Downs After Dark of the year will take place Saturday, Sept. 24 as Churchill Downs presents a night full of thrilling horse racing and a Latin-inspired celebration of live music, dance and art for “Fiesta Under the Spires.”
Event highlights include music from DJ Roberton (5:30-8 p.m.) and Kentucky Salsa Allstars (8:30-11:20 p.m.); salsa lessons in the Plaza from Louisville Salsa Underground (6:45-7:40 p.m.); strolling mariachi performances by Mariachi Alegre; and a showcase of Latin artists including Claudia Hernandez, Mercedes Harn and Andy Perez.
Admission gates will open at 5 p.m. and the 11-race program will be conducted between 6-11:10 p.m.
General admission to Downs After Dark is $14 and includes an official program. Guests under the age of 18 will only be admitted to the track if accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Limited premium dining packages are available starting at $82 per person. Outdoor-third floor box seats are on sale for $17 per person. Reserved seating can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Racing continued Friday beneath the historic Twin Spires with a 10-race program that got underway at 12:45 p.m. There was a $28,317 carryover in the 20-cent Derby City 6 jackpot after there were no winning tickets in Thursday’s sequence. … Trainer Rusty Arnold II was two wins away from 400 at Churchill Downs. The veteran horseman had one entry in Race 1. … Jockey Tyler Gaffalione will have a one-day suspension Friday. He’ll resume riding Saturday where he was named on seven horses in the body of the 11-race card. … “Inside Churchill Downs” will not air tonight because of the University of Louisville football game but will return to the airwaves Friday, Sept. 23. The one-hour program will air on ESPN 680/105.7 and stream live on the station’s website at www.espnlouisville.com. … For more information about the Churchill Downs September Meet, visit www.churchilldowns.com.