The Road to the Kentucky Derby continues at Churchill Downs this weekend, as there is prep race action on the agenda. The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes is a Grade 2 affair for horses aged two, with the field competing over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
It could offer some early clues for the first Triple Crown race in 2024, with five winners of this race having returned on the first Saturday in May to land Derby success.
History & Records
The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes has been staged annually since 1920, with points available to the top four on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. It has been staged at Churchill Downs since 1934, with some famous winners of this race having landed Derby success as a three-year-old.
The most recent of those was Super Saver, who still holds the speed record in the Kentucky Jockey Clubs Stakes. Four further runners have landed victories in both races, including Cannonade, Clyde Van Dusen, Reigh Count, and Twenty Grand. D. Wayne Lukas is the most successful trainer in the history of this race, while Calvin H. Borel is the leading jockey.
Steven Asmussen is still looking for his first Derby winner, and Risk It will be one of his early contenders to take to the track in 2023. The two-year-old has made just two career starts. He was a winner on debut at Saratoga over six furlongs, scoring a speed rating of 98.
However, he could only finish a close second over a mile when he was last in action, finishing a couple of lengths behind West Saratoga in the G3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs.
Stretch Ride represents the Dale Romans yard on Saturday in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. The two-year-old looks like a very interesting contender on his first attempt in stakes company after winning on each of his previous two starts.
He was a winner at Churchill Downs on debut over six furlongs in September, scoring a speed figure of 86. He showed excellent improvement last time out when winning an allowance optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. This kind of test could suit him perfectly this weekend.
Brad Cox unleashed an impressive Instant Coffee in this race last year, and he could have a very good chance for a second straight win in the race this year with Awesome Road. The two-year-old drops in grade this weekend, as he was last seen finishing seventh in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.
That could be an impressive piece of form, with Locked looking like a very progressive contender. He was a winner on debut over six furlongs, scoring a speed rating of 98. There could be more to come from Awesome Road this weekend.
Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Prediction
This is a fascinating race, with Risk It and Stretch Ride both appearing to boast solid chances. However, we like the chances of Dancing Groom for trainer Antonio Sano.
The two-year-old ran a strong race in defeat over a mile when third behind Timberlake in the G1 Champagne Stakes, and was a fine winner over a mile at Saratoga when scoring a speed rating of 89. Bigger targets await this runner, but he could be one that presents a lot of value in the betting for a field of untested runners this weekend.
Pick: Dancing Groom