Seize the moment! ‘Dennis’ rolls into BC Juvenile with Iroquois win

Churchill Downs’ stakes recap:

Dennis’ Moment cruised to victory in Churchill Downs’ $200,000, Grade 3 Iroquois under Irad Ortiz. Coady Photography

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019)Albaugh Family StablesDennis’ Moment is the early points leader on the 2020 “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve” after the promising colt confirmed his runway maiden victory with an easy 1 ¾-length win over Scabbard in Saturday’s 38thrunning of the $200,000 Iroquois (Grade III) for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

Sent to post as the odds-on 2-5 favorite following his 19 ¼-length maiden win at Ellis Park on July 27, Dennis’ Moment covered 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in a stakes record 1:43.58 to bank $117,800 and 10 points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point system that will determine the field for next year’s 146thrunning of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) on May 2, 2020 at Churchill Downs. The Iroquois was the first in a series of 35 select races on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” which is now entering its eighth year.

The Iroquois also is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Juvenile Division” Challenge and the win by Dennis’ Moment earned the Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on “Future Stars Friday,” Nov. 1. Dennis’ Moment’s $60,000 entry fees will be paid by Breeders’ Cup Ltd. and his connections will receive a travel stipend.

“Right here in my hand is the invitation to the Breeders’ Cup,” Albaugh said. “They officially delivered it, so that’s exciting. His name came from his sire, Tiznow — the “now” — and we went with Dennis’ Moment. We’re very happy with him now, and they named him after me, which was a surprise. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, of course, but getting 10 points toward getting into the Derby, that’s a big help. We’ll give this horse plenty of time. Dale Romans has been excellent on what’s the timing, where do we go. We’ll start looking at things next week, once we see how he came out of this race, although he looked like he’s perfect after the finish.”

Juggernaut led the field of 10 juveniles through early fractions of :23.35, :47.31 and 1:11.96 as Lebdapressured the pace just off his right hip with Zyramid covered up down on the inside and Dennis’ Moment tracking from fourth in the clear on the outside. Lebda briefly poked his head in front of a fading Juggernaut midway around the far turn but a looming Dennis’ Moment was making a bold three-wide move on the far turn to assert his presence. It was all over from there. The winner drew well clear in the stretch and his jockey, national earnings leader Irad Ortiz Jr., geared down Dennis’ Moment to a gallop inside the final sixteenth of a mile. Scabbard, who briefly checked his run into the far turn, recovered to rally down the lane but was clearly second best.

“This horse is speaking for himself, I don’t have to build him up anymore,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He’s just an amazing animal. He goes out there and does it, his ears up, like he’s just galloping around out there. The jock was shutting him down with a sixteenth of a mile to go, and he still finished in the time he did. He’s something special.

“It’s important going into these big races, to be versatile. That’s what I was worried about today, I was concerned about him getting in a speed duel, with this being the first time around two turns for all these 2-year-olds. And it worked out perfect, he sat outside a horse that didn’t bother him at all, and went three-wide, which is not easy to do on this racetrack and keep on going, and he kicked home good. We’ll be going straight to the Breeders’ Cup from here.”

Added Ortiz: “He’s good, he’s a nice horse, he’s done everything he’s been asked to do, we’ll see what’s next (Breeders’ Cup). He felt great, really great for a 2-year-old. He did everything right. I asked him to run and he was going really well. He had some more, but I saved it for the end. He was going to win going away, so I didn’t ask him for any more.”

Dennis’ Moment paid $2.80, $2.60 and $2.20 to give Romans his third win in the race. He won in 2013 with Cleburne and again in 2016 with Not This Time, who would go on to finish second to Classic Empirein that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Scabbard, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $6 and $4. Lebda was another 5 ¼ lengths back in third under Trevor McCarthy and paid $6.

Letmeno, Rowdy Yates, January Won, Flute Maker, Automate, Juggernaut and Zyramid completed the order of finish.

Dennis’ Moment’s earnings total $147,800.

Dennis’ Moment, a $400,000 yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton’s 2018 Saratoga Sale, was bred in Kentucky by Tolo Thoroughbreds. The Tiznow colt is out of the Elusive Quality mare Transplendid.


Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.