The Spiral (Grade III)

3/25/2017 Turfway Park-Race 10

The Jack Cincinnati Casino Spiral-$500,000–Grade III

1 & 1/8th Miles on Polytrack for Three-Year-Olds

Post Time: 2:55 P.M. PST

Analysis by Michael Patricks

As the days of March begin to wane, so too do the number of Kentucky Derby prep races that give runners an opportunity to gain enough points to be eligible to start in the Run for the Roses on May 6th.  The leader in the clubhouse is Gunnevera with 64 points, while the favorite for the 143rd Kentucky Derby remains McCraken, idling at 12th on the Derby Points leaderboard. McCraken is being pointed for the Blue Grass from Keeneland next week, while Gunnevera is reportedly headed to the Florida Derby on the same day, Saturday, April 1st. 

The Saturday preview focuses on the lone three-year-old prep up for decision this weekend which is the Jack Cincinnati Casino Spiral from Turfway Park.  Hard Spun won this race in 2007 and even more notably Animal Kingdom won the Spiral in 2011.  Is there a sleeper in this race who can factor into the outcome on Kentucky Derby day, or will this be an uninspiring renewal in the 46th edition of this race?  Let’s go inside the numbers:

1-Blueridge Traveler 15/1 ML- Got the nod in an all-out cavalry charge in a Hot Springs maiden race last time, prevailing by a head at a tender 4/1 price with the same rider aboard.  Blueridge Traveler has had some trouble playing bumper cars in some of his races and had the unenviable task of chasing home the immensely-talented lone speed of Local Hero in his 2017 debut at Fair Grounds.  The question with him is his fondness over the Polytrack surface.  By To Honor and Serve and through Bernardini, one must wonder if synthetic surfaces are really his game.  However, given the fact that he’s never run a clunker and his running style should translate quite well to Turfway Park’s usual closing bias, you’d be wise to keep this guy in your calculations at a number; could put some spice into your exotic salsa.

2-Soglio 6/1 ML- As mentioned in the primer, Graham Motion won this race in 2011 with Animal Kingdom en route to winning the Kentucky Derby.  Soglio had a bit of a foot issue which caused his connections to back off him just a bit and this race comes on his radar as a bit of a backup spot from where his connections had originally intended to run him.  Speed has been holding up very well on the Santa Anita lawn so I don’t want to disparage his performance last time too much, but given the fact he ran home evenly at odds-on against middling allowance foes in a small field leaves me feeling a bit uninspired about advocating for him at the window.  Given his connections, he may even end up being a bit of an underlay and although he fired big off the shelf last time, I’m inclined to make him stick it to me as he appears to be the unimaginative, lazy man’s handicapping selection on paper and we all deserve better than that if we are going to be firing bullets at the window; will be fading him.

3-Fast and Accurate 15/1 ML- Picked up his diploma at this venue back in December while running against cheapies but has been a new horse with the addition of Lasix.  Given the fact his form from off the pace has been uninspiring to say the least he has to be considered an odds-on favorite to be on the engine heading towards the ½ mile pole of the Spiral.  That’s where things should prove dicey for this customer.  Trainer Mike Maker sends out two other runners in this race and it’s difficult to see him as anything other than a rabbit for his stable mates with this large bump up in class.  Hill and Leparoux both defect from him off wins in his last two efforts and morning line favorite Kitten’s Cat should be dogging him all the way down the backstretch to the point where this runner should be in complete submission by the time they turn for home; all or nothing type strikes me as much more of the latter in this Grade III.

4 Convict Pike 8/1 ML- Ran representative races against straight maidens on the turf at the tail end of last year before his “signature performance” which was briefly making the lead in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales restricted event before getting run over in the home stretch by Todd Pletcher’s Master Plan who will be running on the Dubai World Cup card earlier Saturday.  While turf and synthetic seem to be more into his groove than dirt, he has just the mere maiden victory on sod to boast about.  The jockey and trainer are 0-for-7 together and given that he could be a bit short off the layoff I’m inclined to take my money elsewhere.  If Master Plan runs big in Dubai that could change my tune, but at the time of the writing of this article suffice to say I’m not applying for membership in his fan club; his form seems a bit papier-mache to that of the other competitors.

5-Colonel Samsen 12/1 ML- Prevailed in the Gold Rush at Golden Gate over tapeta with a saloon passage on the rail and was indolently washed ashore in the Grade III Sham after not taking to the wet surface at all.  His two return trips to Golden Gate were largely disappointing, most notably last time out in the El Camino Real Derby where he raced wide and had no finishing punch in the lane.  The winner of the El Camino Real Derby, Zakaroff was nowhere to be found at Santa Anita in a minor stakes event and the runner up, Ann Arbor Eddie, was left quite threadbare in the Grade II San Felipe.  The Blinkers come off as a sensible change in tactics and it’s clear that his rider will drop anchor and make one late run for glory.  His closing style should suit the surface quite well and it’s reasonable to expect him to run an improved race off such a dull effort.  If he holds at his morning line you might want to consider tossing him into Trifecta and Superfecta wagers as he figures to at least pass the tired horses. Also, by Colonel John he will get the nine furlongs without a problem; “Mop up on Aisle Five please.”

6-Giant Payday 8/1 ML- Skimmed the rail of the Palm Beach before tipping out near the top of the stretch when failing to seriously threaten in what amounted to an even performance.  Ticonderoga ran by Giant Payday like he was standing still after chasing the soft fractions carved out on the front end by Kitten’s Cat.  Trainer Ian Wilkes has poor numbers going from turf to synthetic and Giant Payday enters the Spiral as a horse who finds his way into trouble more often than not.  His style should suit Turfway Park well. It is his all-important third start off the lay and he does reunite with the pilot who has had the most success with him in the past.  He’ll have to avoid being his own worst enemy to hit the ticket, but that’s not out of the realm of possibility given the late kick he can display.  However, at 8/1 he’s too short of a price in this field as a win bet only, and based on his three race losing streak, penchant for finding trouble, and the fact he lacks true value on the morning line, I’m going to try and beat him for top honors.

7-Shiraz 15/1 ML- The second starter from the omnipresent Michael Maker barn, Shiraz had his doors blown off by Master Plan and Convict Pike in the OBS race (See Convict Pike analysis above) and came back with a humdrum third place finish against New York-bred allowance runners last time on the inner dirt at Aqueduct when sprinting.  Given that he was 10/1 in a seven horse state-bred allowance event in his last race, it’s very difficult to concoct a scenario where he’d be at his morning line price in this race.  Sure, he has the name brand, local connections in his corner that merit respect, yet here’s a horse that’s 0-for-3 in 2017, has been unable to make up ground in the stretch in any of his last four races, and a horse that has been smoked like salmon in both efforts going around two turns.  You can expect him to show some pace for about five or six furlongs, but suffice to say a top three finish would be an astonishment of an accomplishment; expect he will come apart like a soup sandwich.

8-Kitten’s Cat 4/1 ML- There was no disgrace in getting run down by the promising Chad Brown-trainee Ticonderoga in his last start in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream.  Kitten’s Cat has only run on grass and the move to synthetic serves as a logical surface transition while transferring laterally in Grade III Company. Luis Saez has gotten to know him very well in his last four starts and will have a complete understanding of this one’s “can and can’t do’s” as they break from the gate.  Joe Sharp now calls the shots for the Ken and Sarah Ramsey horses and the Kitten’s Joys have had great success from the Ramsey outfit.  The Ramsey’s have won this race three times: 2010 with Dean’s Kitten, 2014 with We Miss Artie, and last year with Oscar Nominated.  Kitten’s Cat should be forwardly placed and get first run on the closers, but the final 1/16th of a mile may prove to be a bit of a nemesis off his recent running lines–and a mile may be about as far as he wants to run.  He will be the favorite at about 5/2 or 3/1 and his backers will be holding their breath inside the final furlong, especially how this track historically plays; logical contender for all the marbles.

9-Parlor 5/1 ML- Chased ordinary splits in his seasonal debut at Tampa Bay Downs in his last start and a dream split opened up at the top of the lane that Parlor exploited with devastating ease and a lot left in reserve.  Just as I’d made the comment in the Rebel last week that Malagacy was as scary as they come (before pitching him out foolishly), the same too can be said for Parlor.  He’s run well in all three lifetime races and is crying out for the added distance.  Parlor has plenty of gate issues and he will have to break better than he has thus far in his career to likely win this.  The upside to him is freakish and just the other day his connection ponied up the $6,000 as a late Triple Crown nomination, thus signaling the best is perhaps yet to come.  Take a look at his maiden race; Parlor broke slowly from the rail, chased a leisurely tempo, split horses and won by daylight over two next out winners including the morning line favorite who’s right next door.  You had me at 5/1…show me the money!

10-Bronson 10/1 ML- Well-bred son of Medaglia D’Oro has had a start and stop career so far while turning out only ordinary numbers. His mother is Cambiocorsa who owned the Santa Anita hillside turf course in her day so one would think turf racing on the West Coast should be on his radar.  Bronson was manhandled in the Hopeful last year in his Grade III debut but has run solidly in first level allowance spots at Gulfstream Park leading up to this.  Johnny Velazquez is unavailable to take the call so one of Pletcher’s “other boys” will be atop his back for the first time.  Bronson has a long string of Mid 60’s Beyer Speed Figs and that’s just not going to cut it.  I’d expect his price to double by post time and even at those odds you’re not getting me to climb aboard this sinking stone.  There will be far too much straw in his path for my liking; 10th place on the 10/1 morning line shot breaking from the 10-hole sounds just about right to me.

11-King and His Court 5/1 ML- Son of Court Vision didn’t run a step in the Sam F. Davis, beaten like a drum at 50/1 while trailing the field throughout.  Now, as somewhat of a surprise, he returns to face Grade III Company and is 5/1 instead of 50/1, so what gives?  Digging into his past performances yields strong synthetic form from his days racing at Woodbine.  He’s banked almost a quarter of a million dollars on synthetic and rates a long look to bounce back off such a disastrous effort last time.  Mark Casse is no fool and it will be very interesting to see if the betting public will go cold on him, or whether they’ll forgive his last effort and embrace him with open arms as he returns to his preferred surface.  As a morning line odds maker my gut instinct tells me that 5/1 may be a little short on him, but I would not at all be surprised to see him vindicate his prior effort with a bang-up performance in the Spiral.  Believe he can factor into the equation somewhere between 8 and 10/1 at post time and put a charge into some vertical sequences; exotics possibility.

12-En Hanse 15/1 ML- Leading trainer Mike Maker’s third and final runner comes into the Spiral off a second place finish in the local prep for this. En Hanse was too close to a brisk pace last time and paid a stiff price with Its Your Nickel going by him like he was tied to the quarter pole, running away by better than six lengths.  Maker goes to the bull pen to get Robby Albarado and that should be a feather in his cap but he appears to be pace compromised to the naked eye.  How is he going to work out a trip from the wide draw and have enough starch left to hold off the onslaught of late runners?  He’s definitely better on synthetic than he is dirt, so there is that.  If Albarado can get him to sit and pounce then maybe he can be a bit of an upset special.  I’d be a lot more excited about his prospects if he had some cover in front of him. It wouldn’t shock me to see him on the ticket given the fact he does his best moving over this surface, but the wide post is a considerable imposition on a horse who has shown that he wants no part of anything past a mile to this point; siding against him.

Selections: 9-8-5-11