Equibase Analysis: Nine Colts Looking for Road to the Derby Points in Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

The Grade 2, $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes is a very important race for 2-year-old males on the early “Road to the Derby” and could give us a number of top horses to watch as 3-year-olds. Last year’s winner, Smile Happy, went on to finish second in this year’s Risen Star Stakes and Blue Grass Stakes before an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. The 2021 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes runner-up, Classic Causeway, won both the Sam F. Davis Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby and ended up 11th in the Kentucky Derby, while last year’s third-place Jockey Club Stakes finisher White Abarrio won both the Holy Bull Stakes as well as the Florida Derby before finishing 16th in this year’s Run for the Roses.

This year’s group of nine aspiring stars doesn’t have a standout, per se, but does have a strong field starting with Grade 3 Street Sense Stakes runner-up Hayes Strike. Street Sense fifth-place finisher Red Route One was third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity prior to that and may have a big say in the outcome, as might Breeders’ Futurity fourth-place finisher Instant Coffee.

Then there’s Freedom Trail, who moves to dirt for the first time after winning the Awad Stakes on turf in only the second start of his career, after winning in his debut. Similarly, Gigante won the Kitten’s Joy Stakes on grass in September before a 10th-place finish in the much tougher Grade 2 Bourbon Stakes last month. Curly Jack is another likely contender, having won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at the distance of the Kentucky Jockey Club in September before a fifth of 10 finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile three weeks ago. Cyclone Mischief and Denington enter the race off maiden wins and hope to step up their game to this graded stakes level. Western Ghent rounds out the field off a last of 10 finish in the Street Sense. 

Top contenders:

Red Route One made his career debut running two turns on grass this past summer at Saratoga, which is no easy feat for a young colt. After a fifth-place finish in that debut, Red Route One improved markedly to win by almost four lengths in September, also on turf. Moving to dirt for the first time in the Breeders’ Futurity one month later, the colt broke 11th in a field of 14 horses and although wide on the far turn, rallied for third while the top two had drawn off by seven lengths. That was a strong field, as winner Forte returned to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race Red Route One passed to run in the Street Sense Stakes one month earlier. However, that choice did not help as the track came up sloppy and the colt finished fifth of 10. Still, with his effort in the Futurity resulting in a strong 94 Equibase Speed Figure, which is tied for the best dirt figure in the field with Instant Coffee, Red Route One might be the horse to beat if he runs back to that effort. This is particularly true as jockey Tyler Gaffalione gets on for the first time and has won 25% of the time he rides for trainer Steve Asmussen over the past couple of years. 

Freedom Trail sports the best last race effort in this field, moving his record to a perfect two-for-two when winning the Awad Stakes four weeks ago with a 96 figure. That win, as well as his debut win one month earlier, came on turf but the colt does have good breeding to suggest he can transfer his top form to dirt. Given this is only the third start of his career and that he improved off an 82 figure in his debut to 96 last out, logical further improvement suggests Freedom Trail has a big shot to win for the third time in three starts. 

Instant Coffee finished on even terms, or very close to it, when fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity just inches behind third place finisher Red Route One. That was his first attempt in a two-turn race following his debut win at seven furlongs at Saratoga one month earlier. Like others in this field, Instant Coffee is on a recognizable pattern of improvement, going from an 89 debut figure to 94 last month. As such, and since the Futurity produced next out Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Forte as well as the runner-up finisher in the Bob Hope Stakes last weekend, this colt should be considered strongly as a contender in this year’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. 

The rest of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures in a similar race, is Curly Jack (83), Cyclone Mischief (78), Denington (78), Gigante (81), Hayes Strike (77) and Western Ghent (70). 

Win Contenders:
Red Route One
Freedom Trail
Instant Coffee

Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes – Grade 2
Race 11 at Churchill Downs
Saturday, November 26 – Post Time 5:56 PM E.T.
One Mile and One Sixteenth
Two Year Olds
Purse: $400,000

Ellis Starr is national racing analyst for Equibase

The post Equibase Analysis: Nine Colts Looking for Road to the Derby Points in Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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