You have a little bit of everything in today’s Derby prep, the Grade 3 Spiral at 9 furlongs on the Turfway polytrack. It’s a $500,000 pot and the winner will take away enough graded earnings to dance the big dance in May. A nearly full field of 11 has shown up to try and get their golden ticket.
You have three- first- time- blinkered horses. The 1 horse is the North Cal shipper Russian Greek. The 8 horse, Coach Royal, is a maiden and also going turf to poly with a trainer switch. And the 11 horse is Stealcase, who has shown a sharp bullet since his last race, when breaking awkwardly.
There are two more Cal shippers, Handsome Mike and All Squared Away. The latter, not only has to ship, but is coming back in 9 days. Handsome Mike however, has had more than a month to re-coup from his OK finish in a Grade 3 and appears to have the most upside of these two, as he has a class edge.
Only two horses have ever had a race over the track. The PA –bred, Ill Conceived got beat a neck in the Battaglia, after going to the front in his first time on the stretch-out. It was a 5 horse field that day, and he will have to do more, this time. Mr. Prankster, however has shown a liking for the oval, with 2 wins from 3 starts, but he too, will have to move forward after his poor effort in the Battaglia.
Why is Red Jack in here? Well it’s the “coach” and you know how DWayne likes to be involved in the pre-Derby dances. The colt’s maiden breaker was his only start on turf (at 9 panels) and it is a longshot that he can reproduce a race like that again on poly.
The Graham Motion horse, Went The Day Well, looks interesting. Like the Proud Citizens and this horse may have a little talent. He showed he could perform well in England on various wet surfaces, and handled dirt just fine at Gulfstream. So he can run, he is versatile and, has the right connections. He IS coming in off just breaking his maiden 3 weeks ago and he will go to a synthetic track for the first time. The added distance should only help and he looks to have a good shot in here.
Tizanexpense is another interesting horse in here, if only because he has never had a clean, easy trip. Every race has had an excuse, including his maiden breaker, when the jock lost the whip. His breeding suggests he will love a little more ground, and if things finally go his way, he could be right there.
The two Pletcher horses round out the field and both look very live. Heavy Breathing has won at the distance and is coming in undefeated after winning two-for-two at Gulfstream. Not sure what was behind him though, but TP, with his arsenal of Derby types, knows exactly where to spot them.
The OTHER Pletcher horse, Holiday Promise, could be a sleeper in here. While he has run with lesser, a little more ground may suit him perfectly.
So like any Derby Prep, you have your pretenders and your contenders, everyone looking to get lucky on the right day, to catapult them into the Derby picture. Whoever wins this, will, with certainty, get a chance to go to Louisville.