LOUISVILLE, Ky.— The road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby kicked off on Saturday at Churchill Downs with the 41st running of the Grade 3, $300,000 Iroquois, won by Michael McLoughlin’s Curly Jack.
Breaking smoothly from post position five, the Tom Amoss trainee found himself part of a rather tight pack heading into the clubhouse turn, winding up sixth just a half-length off of the pace. In a change of tactics, Grade 2 winner Damon’s Mound was setting said pace, racing through a sharp quarter in 23.53. After the half in 47.48, heavily favored Saratoga maiden winner Echo Again started to put the pressure on, and he and Damon’s Mound began knocking heads.
While the aforementioned duo drew away, shoulder to shoulder rounding the far turn, Curly Jack and jockey Edgar Morales were making their bid, gaining four wide outside of rivals. The favorites began to weaken and an onslaught of closers poured on, Curly Jack clear by a length by midstretch.
Jace’s Road and Honed challenged gamely from either side of the new leader but Curly Jack held them off, maintaining a length advantage as he stopped the clock in 1:45.62 over the fast main track. He earned himself 10 qualifying points towards the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
Honed got up for second over Jace’s Road. Rounding out the order of finish were Hayes Strike, Confidence Game, Damon’s Mound, Echo Again, Jin Tong, and Zaici.
The payoffs for the top three finishers were 23.66, 31.08, and 3.74, respectively.
In his most recent start prior to the Iroquois, Curly Jack had been a narrow runner-up to Top Recruit in the Ellis Park Juvenile. Finishing a distant fourth in that race was Frosted Departure, who recently dominated an allowance optional claiming field at Churchill Downs.
Curly Jack, a two-year-old son of freshmen stallion Good Magic, became the second graded stakes winner for his sire with his Iroquois victory, alongside Grade 2 Sorrento winner Vegas Magic.
Trainer Tom Amoss picked out Curly Jack at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for Michael McLoughlin. They took the colt home for $180,000, which he has nearly doubled.
By Amber Joyce, Contributing Editor
Photo: Curly Jack pulls off the upset in the Grade 3 Iroquois (Coady Photography)