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March 31 Barn Notes: Spiral Stakes

Thursday, March 31, 2016 3:03 PM
  • Spiral Stakes


FLORENCE, Ky. (March 31, 2016) – With post positions drawn, only the waiting remains for the $500,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park on Saturday, April 2.

The 1-1/8 mile Spiral Stakes offers 85 points toward the Kentucky Derby (G1), with 50 to the winner. The run for the Spiral trophy occurs five weeks before the Run for the Roses.


Reddam Racing’s RALIS shipped to Oaklawn Park from trainer Doug O’Neill’s base at Santa Anita Park for his 3-year-old debut in order to duck his more accomplished stablemate, Nyquist, last year’s Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old. The trip to Arkansas for that race, the March 19 Rebel Stakes (G2), didn’t do Ralis any favors, however, as he came up empty in the stretch under Mario Gutierrez and finished a disappointing 10th.

“He hadn’t the greatest of luck with the trip the other day so we’re putting a line through that,” O’Neill said. “He came out of it in great shape and we’re going to see how he acts on the synthetic at the Derby prep. He’s doing well.”

Ralis, a California-bred son of Square Eddie, was traveling comfortably on the rail coming into the Oaklawn Park stretch but was squeezed a bit making the turn for home, possibly causing Gutierrez to lose some momentum.

“At that point he knew he wasn’t going to be in the top five so he just kind of eased up on him,” O’Neill said. “We had the luxury of seeing how good he came out of it because of that. We’re going to chalk that up to just a workout type of effort and hopefully we get a better trip come Saturday.”

Ralis has never started on an all-weather surface but arrived at Turfway early in the week and has been getting the feel of the track.


Three-time Spiral-winning trainer Todd Pletcher would have preferred a better draw for Alto Racing’s AZAR, the 5-1 morning line second choice, but he is not overly concerned considering the Scat Daddy colt just won his last start, a first-level Gulfstream Park allowance, from the far outside. Azar was eligible for that race because his win in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga was also his maiden-breaker.

“Hopefully we can maneuver a trip from out there,” Pletcher said. “He’s overcome a wide post before and hopefully he can do it again.”

Azar’s win in the With Anticipation on Saratoga’s Mellon Turf Course last summer preceded a second in the Pilgrim (G3) at Belmont and an off-the-board try in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Last month’s allowance score was his main track debut.

“We had a few options to consider since he’s run well on both turf and dirt,” Pletcher said. “We felt like the synthetic angle for horses like that with a little bit of turf pedigree and success on the turf might come to his liking.”


A similar approach is being taken for Alto’s filly in the $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) on the Spiral undercard. Miss Meteor has never tested stakes company before but showed enough potential breaking her maiden on turf for Pletcher to believe she’s capable.

“It’s her first step up into the ranks against winners and in a graded stake, but we’re very pleased with her last few works, in particular, and it seems like she’s coming up to the race well,” Pletcher said.

Those works include her most recent, a four-furlong breeze in :48.88 over a track rated good at Palm Beach Downs training center on March 25. The move was third-fastest of nine at that distance.

The tough part for both trainers and handicappers is knowing whether a horse’s good form will transfer to a different surface.

“The only way that I’ve been able to truly identify which horses are going to perform well over the synthetic is to run them on it,” Pletcher said. “It’s an experiment until we do that and prove it but pedigree-wise and turf history-wise we felt like we have enough evidence to suggest they can handle it.”

On the undercard, Pletcher also has entered Gimlet in the Rushaway Stakes and Caribbean in the 11th race, a maiden special weight, both for 3-year-olds. All four of the trainer’s horses arrived at Turfway on Tuesday evening.


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