Horse Racing: Preview of the 2014 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park

In this weekend’s Horse Racing Race of the Week, we will be taking a closer look at the 2014 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky where Tamarando has been install as the 3-1 morning line favorite.

The Spiral, as I like to call it, is run at nine furlongs for $550,000 and drew a field of 12.

Being run for the 42nd time, the Spiral picked up a sponsor in 1982 when bourbon whiskey maker Jim Beam put its name on the race and it was renamed the Jim Beam Spiral Stakes. In 2002, Lane’s End Farm took over as sponsors of the race until February 15, 2013 when Horseshoe Casino stepped in.

The Spiral has produced several classical winners including Hansel (1991), Summer Squall (1990), Lil E. Tee (1992), Prairie Bayou (1993), and Animal Kingdom (2011).

The other race you should watch this weekend is the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico on Sunday. The nine furlong race is an up and coming Kentucky Derby prep race run in a picturesque part of the country. The Sunland Park Derby, which was granted Grade 3 status as of 2010, drew a field of eight.

Sunland Park

Sunland Park

Although it’s a relatively small field on quantity, it’s fairly high in quality. Of the eight entered, I see five or six with an excellent chance of winning…making this race very difficult to bet on should you choose to.

Bob Baffert is bringing a pair of horses in in Midnight Hawk, who won his first two starts then finished a close third to the talented Candy Boy (in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes) before running into a buzz saw named California Chrome in his last, and Chitu, who was 2nd to Candy Boy last out (which was also in the Bob Lewis Stakes). They certainly form a strong 1-2 punch for Baffert in this spot.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has also entered two in Global Strike, who was an impressive wire to wire winner in a 1 1/8 mile maiden race at Gulfstream Park in his last race, and the highly touted Commissioner, who looked so good winning a $75,000 optional claimer back in January but seemingly “mailed it in” in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes last out when he finished 6th and was beaten 10 lengths.

If you are betting this race, you also must consider Tanzanite Cat , who showed a great amount of courage in winning the  $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn on Jan 20 but wilted in the stretch to finish 5th, beaten 10 lengths in his last (Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Feb 16) behind Tapiture and Strong Mandate.

“When it looked like to me that maybe we were just a notch below those two horses (at Oaklawn), and sometimes, the Sunland Derby, I think might come up a tick easier,” trainer Cody Autrey said.

“But now we have to face Baffert’s two horses and Pletcher’s two ship-ins. But they’re kind of in the same position we are; they’re maiden winners or stakes winners but they’re really young horses trying it to take the next level up. So we’d rather go there and try (them) at the mile and an eighth.”

Other runners who could go well in this race include Rebranded, 2nd in the Mine That Bird Stakes here last time out and Garen, who wired a field of maiden at Santa Anita getting 8 1/2 furlongs in 1:43.2 back on Feb. 17th.


Saturday, March 22, 2014


Race: 11

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes

Purse: $550,000

For Three Year Olds

1 1/8 miles











1 1 Big Bazinga 3/G L L Contreras 123 K Vassilieva


2 2 Asserting Bear 3/C L J Rocco, Jr. 123 R Baker


3 3 Poker Player 3/C L C Hill 123 W M Catalano


4 4 Tamarando 3/C L R A Baze 123 J Hollendorfer


5 5 Coastline 3/C L S Elliott 123 M E Casse


6 6 Smart Cover 3/C L C J Lanerie 123 D L Romans


7 7 All Tied Up 3/C L L Saez 123 T A Pletcher


8 8 Solitary Ranger 3/C L F Geroux 123 W M Catalano


9 9 Almost Famous 3/C L C H Borel 123 P B Byrne


10 10 Harry’s Holiday 3/C L R Napravnik 123 M J Maker


11 11 We Miss Artie 3/C L J R Velazquez 123 T A Pletcher


12 12 Arctic Slope 3/C L A Jimenez 123 K G McPeek




1) Tamarando– is as consistent as the day is long with that 10 start and nine times on the board record including being four for seven over the synthetics.

This dark bay colt by Bertrando ran the best race of his life in his last race (Feb 15) when he was eighth early on in the El Camino Real Derby but unleashed a powerful late run while circling the field five wide on the final turn and won by a half length.

He did something similar back on Nov 23 while winning the Real Quiet Stakes (After dropping back to seventh early on, he came roaring off the turn to win that race by three).

Sandwiched between the Real Quiet and the El Camino are a third (to champion Shared Belief and recent dominant winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Candy Boy) and a distance second to a streaking California Chrome. He meets no such rival(s) in this race and he’s been working right along (I like that seven furlong move on March 16) dating back to December.

“He’s very good on synthetic,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “I wanted to keep him on a synthetic surface and run for a big purse on synthetic.”

“He’s never gone backwards,” Hollendorfer added. “Usually if a horse goes backwards, we try to freshen him up, but he’s gone steadfastly forward, so we just keep going on with him. He’s been very ultra consistent. We take horses out and jog them on the road, and he has never shown any filling in any joints”.

“After running 10 times we wouldn’t be putting him on a plane if he wasn’t doing well. We’re bringing a nice sound horse out there. He’s been in against some of the best in California, so I feel he’s going to run well in the East.”


2) Poker Player– uncorked one of the best late running moves I’ve seen in this young year in the John Battaglia Stakes in his last race (three weeks ago) and that run, where he was six wide on the turn for home, becomes even more impressive being a) that was his first race over the synthetic surface and b) his first race in four months.

“If he runs like he did last time, the more added ground that he’s going to get, (in this race) a mile and an eighth, he’s probably going to appreciate that,” trainer Wayne Catalano said, who is running a pair in this race. 

In fact, the more I looked at this gray colt’s past performances the better he looked. Listen, if you draw a line thru that Breeders Cup debacle (he stood no chance almost from the get go) he hasn’t run a bad race yet.

Yet another who has been working right along and, assuming he improves off the John Battaglia, he should be among the vanguard at the end of this even though his speed figures don’t stack up that well.


3) Solitary Ranger– speedster by a $5000.00 stallion has been first or second in five of six lifetime starts and his last race, the aforementioned John Battaglia Stakes, was an impressive runaway win.

In the Battaglia, be broke well/running, quickly established the early lead, blew the race open at the quarter pole (led by eight) and cruised home by almost five while recording the highest speed figure of anyone in the race.

Good looking colt is another from the Wayne Catalano barn (that’s hitting at 23% with synthetic runners) is still another with solid works coming into this (March 15- 6F 1:13 and Feb 20- 5F- :59.4) looms a huge threat if left alone on an uncontested lead.


Honorable Mentions:

Arctic Slope’s last two races Nov 6 and Nov 30 were not good, but there were a few things that grabbed my attention about this colt. Like say, his trainer hits at 19% with second time Lasix starters, (which is the case here), absolutely red hot rider on him (Jimenez last 16 starts…four wins and five seconds), strong work coming into this race (March 15- 5F :59.4 at Gulfstream Park) and most importantly, his first and only time on the synthetics was a good late running third after getting a horrible break and being forced six wide on the turn for home….you get all that for 30-1? He might be worth a flyer…  Smart Cover showed nothing in his 2014 debut (11th of 12 in the March 1- Palm Beach Stakes at GulfstreamPark), but completely missed the break in that race, so might want to give him a pass on that. But let me draw your attention to the Sept 7 race (The Iroquois Stakes). Yes, I know it was six month ago, but he did show an explosive turn of foot in that race while charging hard down the lane to miss by a neck after being four wide on the final turn. Long-shot threat if he runs back to that race.


2014 Record: 6-15 = 40%

2013 Record: 20-59 = 34%

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Little Bets N’ Pieces

**** 2014 San Felipe Stakes blow out winner California Chrome is headed for the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5, trainer Art Sherman confirmed.

“It’s a relief that we’ve made the decision,” Sherman said.

“The horse will blow out a half-mile Saturday (March 22) with Victor (regular rider Victor Espinoza) on, and probably have one more half-mile (work) before the race, then ship over five days before we run.”

California Chrome, who annihilated his rivals in the San Felipe Stakes while drawing off to win by 7 1/4 lengths on March 8, was “a little knocked out” afterwards and Sherman was contemplating skipping the Santa Anita Derby and going straight to the Kentucky Derby.

“The horse is acting really good right now.” Sherman said. “So we are going to go.”

The Santa Anita Derby is setting up to be quite a barn burner with California Chrome, who has won his last three starts by a combined 19 lengths, matching up with dominant Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Candy Boy

California Chrome, who has won his last 3 races by a combined 19 lengths, is heading to the Santa Anita Derby

California Chrome, who has won his last 3 races by a combined 19 lengths, is heading to the Santa Anita Derby


**** Bayern drilled a half-mile in :47 2/5 over the Santa Anita main track yesterday (Thursday) with Gary Stevens aboard.

“He went nice,” trainer Bob Baffert said “He sat behind a horse, he relaxed nice.”

Bayern, who is 2-for-2 in his career after  pounding a strong allowance field 15 lengths in his most recent start on Feb. 13, was scheduled to run in the San Felipe Stakes, but was withdrawn a couple of days before the race with a foot bruise.

When asked whether Bayern might run in either the Santa Anita Derby or the Arkansas Derby April 12, Baffert said, “I don’t know yet.”



 **** 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, fresh off a win in the March 8 Gulfstream Park Handicap, will run next in the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap March 29 at the Fair Grounds.

“Todd Pletcher reports that he recovered quickly from a courageous effort (in the Gulfstream Park Handicap) in which he was headed and then fought back to win the mile race in near track record time,” Dogwood president and owner of Palace Malice Cot Campbell said on his website. “The next race options are best suited by the Fair Grounds race. He has run there twice. He is an easy shipper and we reunite with a rider who knows him well.”

Palace Malice

Palace Malice

**** The first four finishers of the roughly run Rebel Stakes last weekend all came out of the race none the worse for wear despite the “rodeo” events that occurred from the quarter pole to the wire and, it appears, all four will point to the April 12, $1 million Arkanasas Derby.
Hoppertunity, the half-length winner and was one of several that were bounced around like a pinball, was sent back to Santa Anita with a decision due in the next few days.

“That was a really exciting race, there were four horses coming down to the wire together with all of that pushing and shoving,” said Bob Baffert’s assistant trainer, Jim Barnes. “He came back just fine, no worse for the wear. It’s up to Bob if we come back with him for the Arkansas Derby.”

The trainers for the next three finishers, (in order) Tapiture, Ride On Curlin, and Strong Mandate, all said their respective horse are “definates” on April 12.

Tapiture, the beaten 2-1 favorite and seemed to have taken the worst of  jostling, was also doing well the next morning.

“He came back good,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He ate up good and he’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, which was the big concern. He didn’t seem to mind (not winning) and he didn’t get his feelings hurt. I wish we would have won, but we still have him and that’s a good thing. Coming back in the Arkansas Derby is definitely the plan. That’s why we’re here.”

Third place finisher Ride On Curlin seems to have come out of the race the best of all.

“He came back great and is perfect this morning,” said trainer Billy Gowan. “He likes a fight, and he got one and he ran hard. We’ll just try to keep him sound and keep him moving forward for the Arkansas Derby. That’s the way it looks.”

Fourth place finisher Strong Mandate was “fine this (last Sunday) morning and we’re looking forward to the next one (Arkansas Derby),” said trainer D. Wayne Lukas. “Hopefully, we’ll do better next time.”

In case you missed it, here it is again…the race really gets interesting on the turn for home: