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All Systems Go for Spiral Stakes and Bourbonette Oaks

Saturday, March 22, 2014 11:44 PM
  • Spiral Stakes

All Systems Go for Spiral Stakes and Bourbonette Oaks
Coastline Looks to Regain Top Form

FLORENCE, Ky. (March 22, 2014) – All systems are go for today’s $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Spiral Stakes (G3) and $125,000 Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway Park, with no defections since Ben Colebrook elected yesterday not to run Turtle River in the Bourbonette.

John Oxley’s Coastline set off early Kentucky Derby alarms with an easy win in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs last October. That turned out to be his last win to date, though, and the Speightstown colt comes into the Spiral looking to redeem himself off a distant fourth in Oaklawn Park’s Southwest Stakes.

“I had Coastline at Churchill as a two-year-old and really thought he was going to be one of our better three-year-olds,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, trainer Mark Casse. “So far this year has been a bit of a disappointment and we’re not exactly sure why. We do believe he deserves another chance because we’re not sure he was completely fond of the Oaklawn racetrack. So we’re trying to explore a different avenue and give him another chance. Obviously he does like the synthetics because he broke his maiden at Keeneland.”

After the Southwest, his second straight subpar effort in Hot Springs, Ark., Coastline was sent to the Casse farm in Ocala, Fla., to regroup. A strong five-furlong work in :59 1/5 last week gave the elder Casse confidence that this colt is still a contender for the spring classics.

“Dad was there for that and he said he worked unbelievable there,” Norman Casse said. “Hopefully we’ve figured him out. I think he’s ready; I just can’t put a finger on why he’s been a disappointment at Oaklawn.”

Arctic Slope Returns for McPeek

Trainer Ken McPeek is looking for a strong effort from Arctic Slope, who broke his maiden at first asking and was third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland but struggled in his next two outings and has not raced since the Kentucky Jockey Club in November. 

"He's coming into the race really well,” said McPeek.  “He really needed the break. He's gotten a lot bigger and stronger. I had limited options with him; I didn't want to run him on the grass at Gulfstream and I didn't want to run him in an allowance at Turfway, given the smaller purse. It's just a matter of overcoming the 12 hole. He ran third in a Grade 1 last fall, so he's a nice horse."

Polytrack Debut for Almost Famous

Almost Famous comes into the Spiral Stakes off a troubled off the board finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream, but trainer Patrick Byrne expects better Saturday. 

"He has been doing well,” said Byrne. “He's been training well in Florida and his race in the Holy Bull (finishing fourth) was good. He lost a chance at the break (in the Fountain of Youth), and Gulfstream is speed favoring. After he broke bad, it was difficult. He got clobbered by a horse on the outside, and that knocked him out of it. That race is a cross-out. We just wanted to get him out of the state of Florida for some better luck. The X-factor in this race is how he'll handle the Polytrack. We sent him up there last week with Joe Deegan, who has a horse on the undercard."

Almost Famous is part of the speed in the Spiral and likely will lock up with Solitary Ranger; the two break side by side, with the latter in post eight and Almost Famous in post nine.

"I’m not really (concerned about the pace),” Byrne continued.  “We'll run along side him (Solitary Ranger) and be forwardly placed. I don't know if we'll be on the lead or not, but Calvin (Borel) knows the horse well. I think the horse to the outside (Harry's Holiday) shows some early speed as well."

Casse Aims for Fifth Bourbonette Win

Casse also has two chances in the Bourbonette, a race he’s won four times: Pretty Sham (1986), Appella (1990), Top Notch Lady (2006) and Sealy Hill (2007).

Cheerful Contender comes in to the Bourbonette Oaks off a solid first-level allowance win at Oaklawn.

“I know they’ve thought a lot of her for a long time,” said Norman Casse, referencing his dad and the filly’s owner, Debby Oxley. “Her last race at Oaklawn was really good. She’ll move forward having a few races under her belt this year.”

Woodbine stakes winner Zensational Bunny, meanwhile, tasted defeat for the first time in her three-race career when she finished fourth in the Old Hat (G3) at Gulfstream in January, her first time on dirt.

“She was a bit of a disappointment in the Old Hat, but we don’t think she likes the dirt as much as synthetic,” Casse said. “If she runs the race that she ran up at Woodbine she’ll be quite competitive.”

Trainer Wayne Catalano, who has both Solitary Ranger and Poker Player in the Spiral, will be represented in the Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks by James F. Miller’s Aurelia’s Belle, who hit the board in all of the first three graded stakes in Gulfstream Park’s sophomore filly series.

“We were coming down this way and we were going to run in one of these races on the synthetic where she broke her maiden, and three races at Gulfstream Park is enough,” Catalano said. “Those aren’t easy races down there; you have to hook Pletcher and all of those powerhouse horses. We want to get them on our surface, which we think is the Poly and the grass.”

Catalano was especially encouraged by the filly’s Tuesday morning breeze – a bullet five-furlong move in :59 on the same day that top older horses like Wise Dan and Successful Dan also breezed five-eighths at Keeneland.

At 30-1, Sommerville Miss is the longest shot on the Bourbonette Oaks morning line. By The Daddy, Sommerville Miss comes into the race off a runner-up finish in an optional allowance at Turfway; all four of her races have come on the Turfway Polytrack, and she has no stakes experience.

“Given the circumstances, (the morning line is) fair,” said owner Frank Mayfield, who is looking for his first graded win as an owner.

“It’s a good load for her,” said trainer Rowena Beck of her filly’s post five draw.

Mike Maker, who sends Harry’s Holiday in the Spiral, has Shanon Nicole in the Bourbonette. She has not missed the money in the last half of her eight-race career and comes into the Bourbonette off a third-place finish in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds.

"She's coming in excellent,” Maker said. “We're trying to make her a graded stakes winner.  She hasn't run on Polytrack yet, but you never know until you run."

First post for Saturday’s 12-race card is 1:10 p.m. ET. The Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks goes off at 5:42 p.m. and the Spiral Stakes goes off at 6:28 p.m.

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