And they’re racing again at Churchill Downs.
Home of the Kentucky Derby (G1), Churchill Downs returned to live racing Thursday (Sept. 14) after a rash of horse deaths from May 2-May 27 – including two on Derby Day – forced the track to move the rest of its spring/summer meet to Ellis Park.
There hasn’t been much buildup for the 14-day September meet, but after the first two days of racing, the road to the Derby begins Saturday with the $300,000 Iroquois (G3) at a mile to highlight a 12-race program.
Risk It, an impressive 4 ½-length winner in his debut at Saratoga on Aug. 19, is the 2-1 favorite in a nine-horse field. The son of Gun Runner leaves from post 8 with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons. The chestnut colt is trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who also sends out Edified (Ricardo Santana, Jr., 8-1).
Union Roll, a 5 ¼-length winner in his debut at Monmouth Park on Aug. 13, is 5-1 for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. Gerardo Corrales has the call leaving from post 3. Patriot Spirit is the 7-2 second choice for trainer Mike Campbell coming off a six-length debut win at Colonial Downs.
The first of 37 Derby point qualifiers offers 10 points to the winner, 5 for second, 3 for third, 2 for fourth, and 1 for fifth.
A report into the rise in deaths around Derby time – 12 during the May 2-May 27 period – was released by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority earlier this week but found no causal relationship between the horse deaths and the track. The report cited concerns about increased risk for some horses due to the frequency and cadence of their exercise schedules.
The picks: 1 Edified 2 Patriot Spirit 3 Union Roll
The field for the $300,000 Iroquois (G3), from the rail out, with jockey, trainer, odds:
1 Liberal Arts (Cristian Torres, Robert Medina), 20-1
2 West Saratoga (Rafael Bejarano, Larry Demeritte), 8-1
3 Union Roll (Gerardo Corrales, Todd Pletcher), 5-1
4 Edified (Ricardo Santana, Jr., Steve Asmussen), 8-1
5 Market Street (Gabriel Saez, D. Wayne Lukas), 8-1
6 Seize the Grey (Jaime Torres, D. Wayne Lukas), 10-1
7 Gettysburg Address (Flavien Prat, Brad Cox), 12-1
8 Risk It (Tyler Gaffalione, Steve Asmussen), 2-1
9 Patriot Spirit (Jesus Castanon, Michael Campbell), 7-2
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.