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Catalano Takes Two Shots at the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes

Thursday, March 20, 2014 4:32 PM
  • Spiral Stakes

Catalano Takes Two Shots at the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes

FLORENCE, Ky. (March 20, 2014) - The top two finishers from the March 1 John Battaglia Memorial – Solitary Ranger and Poker Player – will both run back in Saturday’s Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park.

While Solitary Ranger landed on the probables list early, trainer Wayne Catalano waited until the day before entries were drawn to commit to Poker Player for the 1 1/8 mile Spiral Stakes. The $550,000 event is worth 85 points in Road to the Kentucky Derby points, with 50 to the winner, 20 to second, 10 to third and five to fourth.

Owned by Susan Moulton, Solitary Ranger led the Battaglia gate to wire, opening up an eight-length lead and holding on by a final margin of 4 3/4 lengths over his stablemate. Because Solitary Ranger is by U S Ranger, who never won at a distance beyond one mile, there are concerns about his ability to carry his speed over nine furlongs.

“Being a $500,000 race and a points race, Ms. Susan would rather take a shot at the distance for $500,000 than take a shot at a [shorter] distance for $100,000,” Catalano said. “We’ll take a shot at it and if everything goes well he might be OK. I glanced at the race and it does show that he’s the speed of the race.”

A similar scenario in the Battaglia allowed Solitary Ranger to clear the field under Saturday’s rider Florent Geroux and establish a commanding lead through moderate fractions, including a six-furlong split of 1:12.43. The $2 win price was $21.60.

“The 9-1 surprised me but not his performance,” Catalano said. “The horse has filled out, matured and is doing very well. I think the [last] race is going to help him.”

Although Solitary Ranger defeated his stablemate handily last time, Poker Player could once again be the shorter price Saturday. The Battaglia was Poker Player’s 2014 debut, off a four-month layoff, and his first try over an all-weather surface. The gray Harlan’s Holiday colt rallied from last, 18 lengths off the lead, to finish a clear second. Improvement on Saturday seems logical for a horse that also is bred to go a distance.

“Poker Player, if he runs like he did last time, the more added ground that he’s going to get, the mile-and-an-eighth, he’s going to appreciate that,” Catalano said.

Poker Player is not the only Harlan’s Holiday colt represented in the Spiral. Harry’s Holiday also is a son of Ohio’s richest Thoroughbred. In his two most recent starts, Harry’s Holiday first blew away the 6 1/2-furlong 96ROCK Stakes by eight lengths at Turfway on Feb. 1 and then finished third in the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia Memorial exactly a month later, also at Turfway.

“The Battaglia was his first try around two turns,” said co-owner David Koenig of Skychai Racing, who owns the colt with Terry Raymond and Jana Wagner. “But he went about a mile-and-an-eighth that day because he was so wide. We think he can handle it. If you’re not it in, you can’t win it.”

“He’s versatile,” said John Lynde, assistant to Mike Maker, who trains Harry’s Holiday. “He can show speed, but he can sit off the pace too.”

Harry’s Holiday worked Saturday at Turfway, going five furlongs in 1:01.40, fifth fastest of 28 at the distance. He is stabled at the Northern Kentucky track under Lynde’s care.

“It’s an advantage to walk out of your own barn to race,” Lynde said. “Some of the other horses have done well on Polytrack, but every Polytrack track is a little different. The track has been playing fair, and he’s doing good.  He came out of his work very well. He’s on top of his toes right now. He’s a very happy horse.”

In six career starts, Harry’s Holiday has three wins and has missed the money only once, finishing fifth in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay after what Lynde described as a troubled trip.

The 43rd running of the Spiral Stakes is the 11th of 12 races on Turfway’s Saturday card. The undercard features the Grade 3 Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks, which like the Spiral drew a full gate of 12. Also on the card is the inaugural running of the Hansen Stakes, sponsored by Kendall Hansen, M.D., and Interventional Pain Specialists to honor Hansen’s eponymous Breeders’ Cup and Eclipe Award champion.

General admission to Turfway Saturday is $10. Some reserved seats remain from $25 to $175. More information is available at www.turfway.com.

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