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Big Bazinga, Asserting Bear Hope to Step Forward in Spiral

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 5:31 PM
  • Spiral Stakes

Big Bazinga, Asserting Bear Hope to Step Forward in Spiral

FLORENCE, Ky. (March 18, 2014) – Just as bazinga! has entered pop culture vocabulary, so Big Bazinga hopes to enter Kentucky Derby chatter after lining up for the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park this Saturday.

A zinger used by the nerdy genius character Sheldon on the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, bazinga essentially means “gotcha.” Big Bazinga has already shown he can come from off the pace to go for “gotcha” at the wire, and trainer Katerina Vassilieva is looking for a similar effort on Saturday.

“He’s coming off an excellent race,” Vassilieva said, referring to Big Bazinga’s out-of-the-clouds runner-up finish over seven furlongs at Gulfstream Feb. 22. “He’s been racing and training all winter in Florida, and he’s very fit. I’m excited to see him run.”

Big Bazinga broke his maiden at first asking on the Polytrack at Woodbine, coming from off the pace to win by a neck. In his next start he was second in the 1 1/16-mile Grey Stakes (G3) at Woodbine.

“In the Grey he went to the lead and he got caught,” Vassilieva said. “He has learned to relax and sit off the pace and come with a late run, although coming into the cooler weather here he might want to be closer to the pace this time.”

Big Bazinga shipped in to Turfway on Saturday. After jogging Monday, he galloped a mile and a half Tuesday morning over the Turfway Polytrack.

Luis Contreras, who won the Sovereign Award as Canada’s leading jockey in 2011 and 2012, was aboard for the race at Gulfstream and has the mount again Saturday.

Vassilieva, 31, took out her trainer’s license in 2011 after working for top Canadian trainer Reade Baker and as an assistant to trainer Michael Pino. She currently has 16 horses in her stable, which moves between Woodbine and Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.

Vassilieva will be competing Saturday against Baker, who plans to enter Asserting Bear in the Spiral Stakes.

Baker has a history of stakes success at Turfway; he won two of the 2008 Kentucky Cup Day of Champions races, taking the Sprint with Fatal Bullet, later named Canada’s Sovereign Award champion sprinter and Horse of the Year, and the Kentucky Cup Distaff with Bear Now, who won the 2008 Sovereign Award as champion older mare. Like Asserting Bear, Fatal Bullet and Bear Now were owned by Bear Stables Ltd.

Asserting Bear has two wins, a second, and a third in seven starts, six of them coming in his 2-year-old season. He broke his maiden on the turf in his second start, pushing the leader all the way and getting up at the wire. After finishing off the board in his next start, the Grade 2 Summer Stakes, Asserting Bear reeled off three excellent races in restricted stakes, finishing third in the Cup and Saucer, winning the Coronation Futurity, and finishing second in the Kingarvie, all at Woodbine in his 2-year-old season.

In his first start of 2014, Asserting Bear was fifth, beaten less than four lengths, in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay. Baker put blinkers back on for that race after running without them the previous three starts.

“We put the blinkers back on for the Sam Davis and it helped keep his attention. He’s not the easiest horse to train. He doesn’t apply himself at all in the morning. But the cooler weather (on Saturday) may help him. When it was 86 degrees and 90 percent humidity down here (Palm Beach Downs in Florida), he trained poorly, more so than any of the other horses.

“He doesn’t need the lead but he’ll need to stay in the race,” Baker continued. “We’ll look for a stalking trip, but maybe 11 other horses will also be looking for that, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Joe Rocco was aboard for the Sam F. Davis and will be aboard for the Spiral as well, and Baker expects that consistency to help Asserting Bear as well.

Asserting Bear had his final work on Saturday on the dirt at Palm Beach Downs, breezing five furlongs in 1:03 flat. He arrived at Turfway Monday morning and will gallop over the Polytrack on Wednesday.

According to Turfway’s assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator Tia Murphy, trainer Wayne Catalano has moved Battaglia Memorial runner-up Poker Player from “considering” to “expected to enter.”

The Spiral Stakes, for 3-year-olds, covers 1 1/8 miles on Turfway’s Polytrack surface. The companion Bourbonette Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies, covers one mile on Polytrack. The Spiral purse of $550,000 includes $50,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF); the latter portion of the purse is available only to Kentucky-sired, Kentucky-bred contenders. The $125,000 Bourbonette Oaks purse includes $25,000 in KTDF money.

Entries for the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes and the Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks will be drawn Wed., March 19.

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CORRECTED 9:05am March 19: spelling of trainer Katerina Vassilieva's surname.

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