Kentucky Derby

Spiral Stakes Preview: Wide-Open Field Searches for Derby Points

Oddsmaker and national racing commentator Mike Battaglia has made Kitten’s Cat the 4-1 morning line favorite in the Grade 3, $500,000 JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes Saturday at Turfway Park.  The draw was held at the casino Wednesday as the featured event of the annual Call to the Post luncheon.  The event offers a total of 85 points (50-20-10-5 ) to the top four finishers as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Trained by Joe Sharp for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Kitten’s Cat will break from post eight in the 12-horse field.

“His best races have been when he’s been outside,” Sharp said.  “He’s gotten more mature and more confident with every race, so I think he would run well from anywhere, but we think he’s a little better drawing outside.  If I had been able to pick a post, I’d have picked the eight, so we’re very happy with it.  And being the favorite in a $500,000 race never feels bad.”

Co-second choices at 5-1 are Parlor, who breaks from post nine for trainer Eddie Kenneally, and King and His Court, who breaks from post 11 for trainer Mark Casse.

Parlor has two wins and a second, in which he was beaten a neck after traffic trouble, through his only three races to date, all coming from far back.

“We like where we’re at,” said Brad Anderson, who owns Parlor.  “The nine [post] is fine.  We thought we’d be second to Kitten’s Cat [on the morning line].  All three of [Parlor’s] races have had very slow paces, and I don’t think he’s ever really gotten to run.  What we’ve been so impressed with is, you’d think with the slow pace, the front-runners would have beaten him, but he just goes.  I’d like to see some real pace [Saturday].  I think for him, the longer, the better.  I think he’s sitting on a big race.”

Top Choice

#8 Kitten’s Cat – This race is more of a guessing game than anything else each year, as very few of the horses that run in this race have ever tried the synthetic surface.  Kitten’s Cat has only run on turf during his career, but he’s easily the classiest horse in the race.  Last time out, he was second in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park to Ticonderoga, a horse I think highly of.  He has two stakes wins on his resume, along with a $128,000 maiden special weight win at Kentucky Downs.  Hopefully, he takes well to the synthetic surface in this spot.  If he runs as well on synthetic as he does on turf, he’ll be tough to beat.

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#3 Fast and Accurate – He has several positives, including an important win over this track two races back.  That race was only a $30,000 Maiden Claimer, though, so this will be a big jump up.  However, last time out, he won a $60,000 stakes race on the turf at Gulfstream Park, which helps with the idea that he’s ready for this kind of race.  His connections are no stranger to winning races at this track, and you can bet that his owner, Kendall Hansen, would love to get the sire, Hansen, a big win in this race.

#4 Convict Pike – He finished second last time out to Master Plan, who is running in the $1 million UAE Derby this weekend.  That race was the one that caught my attention, and after looking at some of his other races, you can see an improving horse.  Hopefully, he can run at Turfway Park as well as he ran at OBS in January.

#12 En Hanse – One of the only horses in the field that has experience over the Turfway Park surface, he’s run three times over the track, picking up two wins and a second.  That second-place effort last time out was in the local prep race for this one, which was also his first race around two turns.  He might run a bit better in his second start around two turns, so that and his local track experience make him worth putting on a ticket.

#6 Giant Payday – He seems to be getting better with each race.  He does well on turf, winning twice and running his fastest career race, which should equate well to synthetic.  He also had a decent fifth-place effort in the Palm Beach last time out, beaten by only three lengths.  Like nearly all of the horses entered here, you’re guessing who will like this surface, but the signs are there that he could take to it well.

#10 Bronson – I put this horse in this category out of respect for trainer Todd Pletcher, but there are several question marks.  The biggest problem I have is from a speed figure standpoint, as he’s been fairly slow.  Also, like many in here, this will be his first start on synthetic, and his only two-turn race was over a sloppy surface.  We’ll see if the synthetic moves him up, and we’ll also see if Pletcher can win yet another Derby prep.

Exotic Plays

#2 Soligo – He’s only been on the turf, like many in here, but he’s run well at tracks like Del Mar and Santa Anita.  Last time out was his first start of 2017, and it was only an okay third at Santa Anita in an allowance.  Trainer Graham Motion knows how to campaign a horse, and with him running second off the layoff, I think he’s likely to run well.

#9 Parlor – This solid-looking horse is progressing and trending in the right direction.  As with many already discussed here, the surface is an unknown.  This horse has only run on turf, but he’s kept decent company, so this race isn’t going to overwhelm him.  If he takes to the surface, he can make some noise.

Party Crashers

#5 Colonel Samsen – He has some synthetic stakes form, which is a positive.  It’s always a handicapping challenge when horses change surfaces, especially at Turfway Park, where the track plays uniquely.  If he can return to his speed number two races back, it will give him a little bit of a shot to pull the upset.  In a race like this, finding the right long shot is key, and this horse could be it.

Throw Outs

#11 King and His Court – After a solid fall season at Woodbine last year, he made his first start on dirt last time out in the Grade Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay and ran poorly.  Getting back to the synthetic surface today is going to help, but I’m leery that he’s fast enough, even on this surface.  He’ll take some action at the window, but I’m against him.

#7 Shiraz – He doesn’t look to be good enough no matter what way you look at it on paper.  He will have to improve several lengths just to compete in what is not that strong of a field.

#1 Blueridge Traveler – This recent Oaklawn maiden special weight winner will try synthetic for the first time today.  It appears that his connections are just taking a shot here, and I don’t blame them, as this field is very weak, but I still don’t think he’s fast enough.

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