Donegal Racing’s unbeaten Cleburne, a 34-1 longshot, defeated stablemate Smart Cover to win the 32nd running of the Iroquois Stakes (G3) Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
The result of a three-horse photo finish provided a 1-2 finish for Iowa-based Donegal Racing and trainer Dale Romans, a Louisville, Ky. native who won the Iroquois for the first time. With the victory, Cleburne became the first horse to collect points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the points system that will determine the eligibility of horses to compete in the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 3 at Churchill Downs.
The victory in the Road to the Kentucky Derby opener provided Cleburne with 10 points, while runner-up Smart Cover collected 4. Third-place Tapiture, who finished a neck back of the top pair in third, earned two points.
The Iroquois also was a stop on the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series and Cleburne’s victory earned the son of Dixie Union a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 2.
Cleburne, whose only previous race was a victory on grass at Kentucky’s Ellis Park, covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.65 over a fast track under jockey Corey Lanerie and paid $70.20 for the win.
“They both ran super races,” Romans said. “They’re both nice horses, they want to run long and I couldn’t be happier with them.”
Ride On Curlin, the favorite in the field of 10, led by a half-length in mid-stretch, but finished fourth under Calvin Borel.
Pacesetter Laddie Boy finished fifth and was followed by Rise Up, Stonecrusher, Solemnly Swear, Jimmy Connors and Honorable Judge.
The Iroquois victory by Lanerie was one of two stakes victories on the night at the historic track. He also won the $100,000-added Locust Grove aboard Flashy American.