Dennis' Moment, the electrifying 19 1/4-length winner of an Ellis Park maiden race on July 27, will make his next start in Churchill Downs' $200,000, Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 14. The 1 1/16-mile Iroquois is the first points race on the road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby. It also is a “Win and You're In” race for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile, meaning its winner gets an entry fees-paid berth in the championship race at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.
Dennis' Moment, who is stabled at trainer Dale Romans' Churchill Downs operation, also was under consideration for Saratoga's Grade 1 Hopeful at seven-eighths of a mile on Labor Day.
“The 2-year-old campaign and going into your 3-year-old campaign, which hopefully is what we're on the path for, is such a long and grueling season that we think coming out of his stall where he trains and running in your backyard is a smart decision for us right now,” said Jason Loutsch, who co-owns Dennis' Moment with father-in-law Dennis Albaugh and who manages the stable.
“The Iroquois is the first Derby points race, so that's exciting. Going two turns is a big plus for him. We think the longer we go, he can continue to get better and better, being by (two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner) Tiznow. We're just excited for those opportunities. The Hopeful was on our radar, but we just thought at the end of the day, giving him a little extra time, backyard, Derby points, 'Win and You're In' for the Breeders' Cup, it just made sense to stay right there and run at Churchill. As big as he ran last time, we think the extra two weeks will really benefit him, also.”
Getting extra race experience over the home of the Kentucky Derby is another perk. “It would be great for our confidence to see how he runs on that track,” Loutsch said. “I know he trains great on it, so I have no doubt he'll run well on it. But that's obviously a selling point.”
Dennis' Moment had his first timed workout since his breathtaking victory on Saturday morning, tooling a half-mile in 49.60 seconds. “Just to stretch his legs going an easy half-mile,” Loutsch said. “It was tremendous. He came out of the race really, really well. We're excited about four weeks from today.”
So far Dennis' Moment is taking the same path as Albaugh Family Stables' Not This Time: Starting out without success at Churchill Downs (in Dennis' Moment's case, his rider came off when shut off), winning by double-digit lengths at Ellis Park and on to the Iroquois, which Not This Time won impressively. Not This Time skipped the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland to train up to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, which he narrowly lost to champion Classic Empire, that year also at Santa Anita.
While the stable would love nothing more than to get a do-over with Dennis' Moment in the Breeders' Cup, they hope the comparisons end there, as Not This Time sustained a career-ending injury in the Juvenile.
That experience only stressed to the colt's camp that you can't look past the race at hand. So Loutsch was non-committal when asked if Dennis' Moment might follow up the Iroquois with another prep at Keeneland or train up to the Breeders' Cup as Not This Time did.
“What's important to our entire team is let's just take one race at a time,” he said. “In this game, it's really easy to think ahead, but so many things can happen. You just have to see how the race plays out. The horse will tell us everything. But more than likely, if he runs like we think he will and runs big and does what we want, we'll train right into the Breeders' Cup.”
Donated by the stable, the halter that Dennis' Moment wore from the time he was sold at last summer's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale until this past Friday is part of an online auction that runs through Sunday to raise money for Kentuckiana Friends of V, an affiliate of The V Foundation for Cancer Research. Dennis' Moment started wearing the halter so early that he wasn't yet named and the nameplate instead carries his breeding, along with a cross.
The auction can be accessed at kfov.org.
An 18 by 24-inch poster commemorating Dennis' Moment's jaw-dropping performance at Ellis Park will be given away Sunday to those donating $5 or more to Kentuckiana Friends of V.
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