Cleburne (inside) holds off Smart Cover to win the Iroquois Stakes on Saturday night at Churchill Downs. (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
Donegal Racing’s Cleburne and stablemate Smart Cover completed a longshot one-two finish in the $173,250 Iroquois Stakes for 2-year-olds on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
The Grade 3 race was not only a “Win and You’re In” test for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, guaranteeing the victor a spot in the starting gate on Nov. 2, but it also was the first points-scoring race on the road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
The top-two Iroquois finishers both are trained by Dale Romans, the 2012 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer, and both 2-year-olds entered off a victory in a turf race at Ellis Park in their previous race for Donegal.
Tapiture edged past Ride On Curlin in the stretch of the Iroquois to take the lead and looked like a winner with about an eighth of a mile to race.
Cleburne surged boldly into contention from the outside, however, and began to slice away at the lead with every stride as the second-longest shot in the field at 34.10-to-1 odds. Cleburne soon was joined by 26-to-1 stablemate Smart Cover, who was finishing fastest of all on the far outside. Cleburne pushed past Tapiture in the closing strides and had just enough left to fend off Smart Cover for the win.
Cleburne completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.65 for his second win in as many starts. He won his debut on Aug. 16 at Ellis Park when he charged from near the back of the field to win a one-mile race on the grass at Ellis.
Cleburne paid $70.20 for a $2 win bet.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
DONEGAL FOUNDER JERRY CRAWFORD (right) CELEBRATES THE IROQUOIS WIN
Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography