12/02/2014 2:51PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Iroquois Stakes

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Lucky Player (right) wins the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes by a neck over Bold Conquest.

Grade 3, $100,000 Iroquois Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Churchill Downs, Sept. 6, 2014
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Lucky Player
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Owner: Jerry Durant
Beyer Speed Figure: 82

The Road to the Kentucky Derby kicked off a full eight months in front of the Run for the Roses, with the home of the Derby, Churchill Downs, staging this 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds.

LUCKY PLAYER, making the fourth start of his career, prevailed after racing on or near the lead throughout. He and MR. Z volleyed through moderate fractions of 24.41 seconds, 49.51 seconds, and 1:14.82 for the first six furlongs. After disposing of Mr. Z, Lucky Player staved off the challenge of his Steve Asmussen-trained stablemate, BOLD CONQUEST, to win by a neck in 1:45.76 on the fast main track.

The time was better than that recorded one race later by the 2-year-old filly Cristina’s Journey for her victory in the Pocahantas Stakes. She was timed in 1:46.37. Lucky Player’s time was understandably slower than that recorded one race earlier by the high-class older mare Don’t Tell Sophia, who was timed in 1:44.93 for her victory in the Locust Grove.

The Beyer Speed Figure of 82 was a career-best for Lucky Player.

Lucky Player benefited by being in the race throughout. The moderate fractions hindered the late runners. Bold Conquest did well to get the runner-up spot, racing wide on both turns before launching his bid, but he failed to hold the lead after briefly wresting it from Lucky Player at midstretch.

HASHTAG BOURBON, who finished third, was caught in traffic for much of the race while on the rail, just behind Lucky Player and Mr. Z. He was finally able to secure room with a furlong to go but went evenly after appearing to have more in reserve.

DANNY BOY, who finished fourth, closed moderately after being floated wide into the stretch.

Mr. Z, who finished fifth, seemingly had no excuse. He was part of the moderate pace with the winner but readily backed out down the stretch and was beaten nearly 10 lengths.

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

CLEVELAND SOUND, who finished sixth, was just off the pace while racing three wide for the first six furlongs, then checked while tiring in the stretch. It was not enough of an excuse for his 11 1/2-length margin of defeat.

HOLY FRAZIER, DEKABRIST, and THE GORILLA MAN completed the order of finish, with none ever making an impact. Dekabrist acted up in the gate before the start but broke cleanly.