WinStar Farm and Siena Farms’ Major General is the early points leader on the 2022 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” after the promising colt invaded from New York to win the 40th running of the $300,000 Iroquois (G3) for 2-year-olds by a neck over Tough to Tame in front of a crowd of 20,204 at Churchill Downs on Sept. 18.
Sent to post as the 9-2 second betting choice following a 6 ½-furlong maiden win on Saratoga, the Todd Pletcher-trained Major General covered 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.88 under jockey Javier Castellano to bank $177,525 and 10 points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point system that will determine the field for next year’s 148th running of the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 7, 2022 at Churchill Downs. The Iroquois was the first in a series of 37 select races on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” which is now entering its 10thyear.
The Iroquois also is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Juvenile Division” Challenge and the win by Major General earned the Kentucky-bred son of Constitution a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar on “Future Stars Friday,” Nov. 5. Major General’s entry fees will be paid by Breeders’ Cup Ltd. and his connections will receive a travel stipend.
Roger McQueen and Magnolia Midnight battled head and head for the lead through the first 5 ½ furlongs while setting fractions of :23.82, :47.89 and 1:12.83. Major General, who stumbled at the break from post No. 8 in the field of 11, raced sixth in the clear down the backstretch.
Major General and even-money favorite Stellar Tap poked their heads in front leaving the final turn. Major General put away the favorite at the final furlong marker and had enough left to hold off a late-running 37-1 longshot Tough to Tame.
“You’re always confident whenever Todd puts you on a horse,” Castellano said. “His team does a great job and this horse is just learning. He seemed to enjoy going two turns and when the other horses got to him in the stretch he started to re-break.”
Major General survived a jockey’s claim of foul by Ricardo Santana Jr., who finished fifth aboard Stellar Tap. The claim for an alleged incident at the top of the stretch was dismissed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards.
“I was a little surprised Ricardo claimed foul,” Castellano said. “Going past the three-sixteenths (of a mile) pole his horse’s head sort of came into mine when he was switching leads and I don’t think it affected the outcome of the race. After that, my horse was looking around a little bit when he got to the lead. This was his first time under the lights and with a crowd like this.”
Major General paid $11.80, $6.60 and $4.80. Tough to Tame, under Sophie Doyle, returned $23.40 and $11.60. Red Knobs, three-quarters of a length back of the runner-up with James Graham up, paid $9.
Major General, perfect in two starts, has earnings that total $232,525.
A $420,000 yearling purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September Sale, Major General was bred in Kentucky by Circular Road Breeders. The Constitution colt is out of the Uncle Mo mare No Mo Lemons.
Stakes Record for Hidden Connection in Pocahontas
Hidden Brook Farm’s Hidden Connection reaffirmed that her flashy 7 ½-length debut win at Colonial Downs wasn’t a fluke as she rolled to a 9 ½ length victory over Mama Rina in Saturday night’s 53rd running of the $300,000 Pocahonatas (G3) for 2-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, Hidden Connection ran 1 1/16 miles in a stakes record 1:43.78 to give jockey Reylu Gutierrez his first career Churchill Downs win.
Hidden Connection, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Connect out of the Awesome Again mare C J’s Gal, banked $177,525 for the win and guaranteed herself a starting spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on Nov. 5 at Del Mar. The Pocahontas is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Juvenile Fillies Challenge Division, which means the winner will also have her entry fees and a travel allowance paid by Breeders’ Cup.
Hidden Connection also is the early points-leader on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks after collecting 10 points. The Pocahontas was the first of 30 qualifying races to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run next May, and points were awarded to the Top 4 finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
Breaking from post No. 9 in the field of 10 two-year-old Hidden Connection sat just off the right hip of leader Lemieux, who set fractions of :24.26, :48.62 and 1:13.27. With three furlongs to run, Hidden Connection dragged herself to the lead, which rapidly widened from the final three-sixteenths of a mile to the wire.
“It is incredibly special to get my first win at Churchill Downs for these great people, in front of this amazing crowd and aboard this filly,” Gutierrez said. “She’s is unbelievable. Yesterday, Florent Geroux was talking to me in the jocks room about how to ride this track. He said sometimes in the turns you want to wait a little longer than usual. So, I waited as long as I could in the turn and she just drew away. That was unbelievable. She was the first horse I worked this meet at Churchill Downs. Now, I’ll be right back at that barn tomorrow morning at 5:30 for more workers.”
Hidden Connection (2-2-0-0—$207,525) paid $5.60, $4 and $3.20 as the 9-5 favorite. Mama Rina, who rallied to get second by a neck under Brian Hernandez Jr., returned $21.40 and $7.80 at odds of 30-1. Goddess of Fire, with Javier Castellano up, paid $4.20 to show.
Hidden Connection is among the first-crop of 2-year-olds from her sire Connect. She was purchased at the 2021 OBS June Horses of Racing Age Sale for $85,000.
“She was working at Keeneland this spring before we went to Colonial,” Calhoun said. “When she was working there I thought she could be special. Then we went to Colonial and she won so impressively on debut. She didn’t have as much experience as some of the horses in this race but she backed up that win very well. If she comes out of things okay, you’d have to think she’s on to the Breeders’ Cup.”