A dozen Kentucky Derby hopefuls will line up on Saturday in the Grade 3 $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, with the winner of the 1 1/8 mile test on polytrack all but assured of a starting berth in the gate in the Run for the Roses.
The Spiral has 85 points in total up for grabs (50-20-10-5) in the Churchill Downs Road to the Derby series, and with just six weeks until the first Saturday of May there is not much for error for the two runners who likely will be sent off as favorites.
The Mark Casse trained Uncaptured (3-1) and Chad Brown’s Balance the Books (7-2) both won graded stakes as juveniles but will need to gather points to make it into the Derby field.
Uncaptured is ranked 19th in points, coming into the race with 10, while Balance the Books won his stakes on turf and has no points in the bank.
It is being estimated it may take somewhere between 40 to 50 points to assure a start in the Derby if the race is oversubscribed, which at this point seems likely. Starting with the Derby preps next week, the points go up to 170 points (100-40-20-10).
Coming up on Sunday is the last Derby prep worth 50 points to the winner when a field of nine will go to the post at Sunland Park in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby.
The Spiral and Sunland Derby are not thought of as traditional Derby preps, but offer the same points as the Fountain of Youth, Tampa Bay Derby, and Rebel.
However, both races have produced a recent winner of the Kentucky Derby.
Animal Kingdom used the Spiral Stakes as a prep in in 2011, winning the race and going on to win the Kentucky Derby, returning $43.80.
Mine That Bird used the Sunland Derby, which at the time was ungraded as a tune-up for the Run for the Roses in 2009. The colt was fourth in the prep and then pulled off the huge upset on the first Saturday of May, paying $103.20.
This weekend is Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, although only one of the 23 separate betting interests is in action. Uncaptured is listed at 20-1 on the morning line for the KDFW.
The undefeated Verrazano is the 7-2 morning line favorite.
Pool 3 features six horses that were not wagering interests in this year’s second pool. The newcomers are Hear the Ghost, Java’s War, Mr Palmer, Noble Tune, War Academy and Will Take Charge.
Wagering in the three-day pool is set to open at noon on Friday, March 22 and conclude at 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 24.
Let’s head out to Turfway Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Turfway Park Race 10 The Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Grade 3 Post time 5:50 ET
3. Uncaptured 3-1
5. My Name Is Michael 10-1
1. Balance the Books 7-2
6. For Greater Glory 20-1
Uncaptured is a late arrival on the Road to the Derby, making his first start since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs last November, which was his sixth win in seven starts as a juvenile. That race has not been real productive although Will Take Charge, who finished dead last, has won the Smarty Jones and Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park. Our top pick’s lone loss came on poly in the Grey (G3) at Woodbine where he checked in fifth, his first start going two turns.
He did have a tough trip, as he was shuffled back heading down the backstretch, came with a four wide bid and had to check in behind a foe at the eighth pole. He sports a string of bullet works at Ocala for the Mark Casse barn that is 17% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. The colt is a half to stakes winner Dancing Raven ($396,338). He owns a solid pace profile throughout and is proven over poly.
My Name Is Michael makes his first start since a fast closing third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) which was his first career start on conventional dirt. The top two finishers came back to run third and fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in their next starts.
The colt was a good second in the Display at Woodbine on poly two back in his stakes debut and first trip around two turns. The colt makes his second start since landing with the Bill Mott barn and Joel Rosario sticks for another go. Worth tossing in the mix here if he goes off neat his 10-1 morning line.
Balance the Books is also making his three-year-old debut and this will be his first trip on polytrack in his career. All four starts as a juvenile came on turf, winning the With Anticipation (G2) and Bourbon (G3) and capping off his year with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
The colt came into the stretch and ran out of running room and had to alter course toward the outside a couple of times for clear sailing. The colt should be fit and ready to go off works at Palm Meadows for the Chad Brown barn that is 28% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff.
WIN: Uncaptured to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 3,5 / 1,3,5,6
TRI: 3,5 / 1,3,5,6 / 1,3,5,6,7,12
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$500 Bet America Spiral Stakes Day Handicapping Contest
The Road to the Kentucky Derby goes through Turfway Park on Saturday, and thanks to our friends at BetAmerica.com horseplayers have $500 to shoot for in the Bet America Spiral Stakes Day Handicapping Contest!
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Saturday’s contest is on the entire card at Turfway Park which includes the Grade 3 $550,000 Spiral Stakes, a key prep race for the Kentucky Derby.
Contest Prizes: First place in the contest is $100, second place is $50, and fourteen $25 prizes will be awarded!
This contest will be a LIVE contest with payoffs based on a $2 win and place wager on each selection. There are caps on payouts, 30/1 on win and 15/1 on place. Please make sure you get your wagers in a few minutes before post time to avoid being shut out!
Go to Track Champion to sign up for the action!