2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby
D. J. Stable LLC's undefeated colt Helium had an outsider's chance in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, but ultimately finished in eighth place in the Run for the Roses. Helium was ranked 15th on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 50 qualifying points.
Helium earned his way into the Kentucky Derby with a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 6. After the race, trainer Mark Casse stated that the son of Ironicus would train up to the Classic event and attempt to win the demanding one-and-a-quarter-mile contest off just one three-year-old prep race.
The Tampa Bay Derby was the sole start of Helium's three-year-old season.
After breaking slowly from post 10, jockey Jose Ferrer took the bay colt to the far outside, and the pair traveled five-wide the entire race. Helium circled the field and took the lead by the three-quarter pole. He repelled a late challenge by Hidden Stash and won the race by three-quarters of a length.
Helium's Tampa Bay Derby (G2) victory was impressive. He had not raced in over four months, had never competed on dirt, and he was stretching out to one-and-one-sixteenth miles for the first time.
Also, Helium ran farther than the rest of the field because he traveled in the middle of the track. Helium's final time for one-and-one-sixteenth miles was 1:43.55.
If he had won the Kentucky Derby, Helium would have become only the second Tampa Bay Derby winner to have done so. He hoped to follow in the hoofprints of Street Sense, who won both races in 2007.
Helium showed talent last year in the Display Stakes, a listed race for two-year-olds at Woodbine in Canada. Breaking fourth in a field of seven, Helium settled in mid-pack before taking command in the stretch. He opened up to win by four and one-half lengths as the race favourite.
The Display Stakes was Helium's second start. He graduated at first asking in a seven-furlong maiden event over Woodbine's Polytrack surface.
The Casse trainee flashed speed from the outset, pressing the pacesetter before taking over at the half-mile pole and opening up to win by three and three-quarter lengths.
Helium's trainer Mark Casse is a leading trainer in North America. He has earned Canada's Sovereign Award as Outstanding Trainer 12 times, from 2006 through 2008 and 2011 through 2019, a remarkable feat.
In 2020, he was the sixth leading trainer by earnings in North America and eighth highest by wins. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The prominent trainer began his career in 1979. Since then, he has amassed over $186million in earnings from more than 18,500 starters.
His most accomplished horses include two-time Champion Grass Mare, Tepin; Champion Turf Male, World Approval; and Champion Two-Year-Old Colt, Classic Empire.
Casse had taken eight Derby hopefuls to Kentucky prior to the 2021 iteration. The best result was a fourth-place finish by Classic Empire in 2017.
Besides Helium, Casse conditions the Florida Derby (G1) second-place finisher Soup and Sandwich, who finished with 40 Kentucky Derby points and was listed as 13th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Soup and Sandwich finished dead last in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
Mark Casse named jockey Julien Leparoux to ride Helium in the Kentucky Derby. Leparoux had ridden in 13 of the last 15 Kentucky Derbies prior to the 2021 edition. His best placing was when he piloted the aforementioned Classic Empire.
In the last 21 years, D. J. Stable's horses have earned more than $7.4million in over 1,500 starts. D. J. Stable has raced in partnership with various other entities over the years. They paired with Cash is King LLC to campaign 2018's champion two-year-old filly, Jaywalk.
Helium was the stable's first Kentucky Derby entrant.
The big, gray colt was campaigned by his breeder, Stuart S. Janney, III. Later-maturing, Ironicus didn't compete in a stakes race until he was a four-year-old. Due to Claude R. McGaughey III's patient training, Ironicus was victorious in his first stakes race, the Dixie Stakes (G2), at one-and-one-sixteenth miles over grass. The event was renamed the Dinner Party Stakes in later years.
Ironicus placed second in his next stakes, the Fourstardave Handicap (G2), missing by a neck in the one-mile contest. Next out, he set a course record in the one-and-one-sixteenth-mile in the Bernard Baruch (G2) of 1:38.54 over the Saratoga turf course.
As a five-year-old, Ironicus was victorious in the one-and-one-eighth-mile Fort Marcy Stakes (G3). He followed up with narrow losses in two Grade 1 events; in the Manhattan Stakes to champion Flintshire and in the Shadwell Turf Mile to Miss Temple City.