10/28/2017 8:37PM

2018 Kentucky Derby: Iroquois analysis

Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
The Tabulator earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 76 for his victory in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Grade 3, $150,000 Iroquois Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Churchill Downs, Sept. 16, 2017

(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: The Tabulator, by Dialed In
Trainer: Larry Rivelli
Jockey: Jose Valdivia Jr.
Owner: Carolyn Wilson
Beyer Speed Figure: 76

The long and winding road that leads to the first Saturday in May began with this race, the first of the points-scoring races for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. One significant aspect of the Iroquois is that it is run at the home of the Derby, so a horse who does well here at least has shown he likes the surface over which the Derby will be run, but all that is a long ways off.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

THE TABULATOR successfully stretched out here, and remained unbeaten in three starts, with all those races occurring at different tracks. This was his first start with Lasix. He has good tactical speed, and is bred to handle longer distances. The Beyer figure was moderate, but he’s got plenty of time to develop.

In this race, The Tabulator broke sharply and led briefly early before SMART REMARK zoomed up inside him to take the lead around the first turn during a rapid opening quarter-mile. He sat second, just behind Smart Remark, down the backstretch, advanced to challenge for the lead on the far turn while under no duress – with his ears forward, a sign he was waiting on horses – kicked clear in upper stretch, but then took an erratic course to the wire and lasted over HOLLYWOOD STAR. It would have been nice to see him finish stronger, but I’m wondering if he was bored and went to cruising when no one was able to offer a challenge from the quarter pole to inside the sixteenth pole.

Hollywood Star, who finished second, had no early speed and hugged the rail near the back of the pack into the first turn, then suddenly took hold and passed about half the field to advance to midpack. He split horses on the far turn while following The Tabulator, made no impression in upper stretch but was gaining on the winner late in this, his first try around two turns. He was asked to do a lot here and performed well. He’s worth following to see how he develops.

TEN CITY, who was third, raced two to three paths off the rail around the first turn while in the latter half of the field, was outrun heading into the far turn while caught wide, began to pick off rivals three paths wide on the turn, came into the stretch about five paths wide, could not get to the top two but kept to his task.

EBBEN, who finished fourth, saved ground into the first turn while midpack, made a mild mid-race move to gain a position just behind the leaders, had to wait behind the tiring Smart Remark nearing the quarter pole, finally found room inside and finished evenly.

BIG GEMMY, who was fifth, raced midpack while just outside of Ebben into the first turn, lost position turning into the backstretch, was asked for his best while saving ground around the far turn and picked off a few tiring rivals late.

FLAMEAWAY, who was sixth, was a bit keen in the opening strides and was rated to settle into an ideal position behind the first three. He was outrun down on the backstretch despite being asked to hold his position, was even with Big Gemmy three furlongs out, and never came close to making an impact in his first try around two turns and first race on a fast dirt track.

PONT DU GARD, who finished seventh, broke slowly and then checked slightly shortly after the start, trailed into the first turn, was well back while inside down the backstretch and for most of the far turn, was angled out slightly in upper stretch but did not change leads and never showed any interest. He won his only prior start on turf, so perhaps that’s where he’s best suited.

Smart Remark, who was eighth, took a sharp hold of the bit into the first turn and set a quick pace while failing to settle, was a bit more cooperative down the backstretch while still keen, led into the far turn, had little response for The Tabulator, then dropped back while tiring and failing to change leads until late in the stretch.

TRES EQUIS, who was ninth, raced towards the rear of the pack while three to four paths wide around the first turn, dropped back to last with three furlongs to go while being encouraged, was fanned about four paths wide into the lane but was never close at any point.

MO DIDDLEY, who finished last of 10, stalked the early pace while three paths wide around the first turn, remained in that spot down the backstretch and around the far turn, was a bit late to change leads in upper stretch and then weakened badly through the lane.