OSCAR NOMINATED EARNS KENTUCKY DERBY BERTH WITH SPIRAL STAKES WIN
FLORENCE, Ky. (April 2, 2016) – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated made the lead at the eighth pole and held off Alto Racing’s determined Azar by a neck to win the $500,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park Saturday. It was another neck back to Beverly Anderson and Edward Seltzer’s Surgical Strike in third.
Oscar Nominated, a son of the Ramseys’ prize stallion Kitten’s Joy, earned 50 “Road to the Derby” points for the win, assuring him a spot in the starting gate for the world’s most famous race, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Azar earned 20 points, Surgical Strike took 10, and Two Step Time, also trained by Maker, got five for his fourth-place effort. The Spiral result represented the first Derby points for each of the top four.
Breaking from post five, winning jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. eased Oscar Nominated into a stalking position behind the early pacesetters. Ralis, hustled to the early lead from post 11, set the opening quarter-mile in :23.22 while pressed from the outside by Azar, who assumed the lead through a half-mile in :48.23.
Oscar Nominated advanced gradually around the far turn and came into the stretch a length behind Azar in a race that was still wide-open at the quarter-pole. A chaotic stretch run ended with the top five finishers all within a length at the wire.
“I saw the white ‘R’ and the red cap and I didn’t know which one it was at first but I knew it was mine,” said winning trainer Mike Maker, who saddled a third of the full field of 12. “Oscar Nominated’s really been tipping his hand since he came back (from Fair Grounds), and so was Two Step Time, and fortunately we had two of the top four.”
The final time was 1:51.12 for the 1 1/8 miles over an all-weather Polytrack surface rated fast.
“We had a lot of confidence in him because he handled the Polytrack so well and he traveled under me the whole way really well,” Hernandez said. “He handled the mile-and-an-eighth really well today.”
The winner paid $49.20, $18 and $11. Azar paid $9 and $6.40, while Surgical Strike returned $5.40.
In fifth behind Two Step Time came Ralis, Don’t Be So Salty, Kasseopia, morning line and post-time favorite Airoforce, Strike Up the Band, Jensen, Swagger Jagger and That Makes Sense.
Anyone who has ever heard Ken Ramsey talk about his dream of winning the Kentucky Derby knows there is little doubt where Oscar Nominated will run next.
“We’re going to the Derby one way or another,” Ramsey said. “We love this horse. He’d been showing a lot in his training moves and these Kitten’s Joys really love the Polytrack so we thought we had a big shot.
“He’ll be in the Derby if he comes out of the race well. If someone wants to pay the $200,000 supplemental fee, we’ll split whatever I earn out of his next three races and he’ll go in the Preakness and the Belmont assuming everything is OK. I’m pretty optimistic about him.”
Oscar Nominated was claimed by Maker for the Ramseys for $75,000 in October at Belmont Park.
“It was a Kitten’s Joy and they tend to do better when they go longer,” Maker said.
Maker said Oscar Nominated will van back to his Churchill Downs barn to prepare for the Derby.
This was the third Spiral win for the Ramseys and the third for Maker. They teamed up to win in 2010 with Dean’s Kitten, another son of Kitten’s Joy, who went on to run 14th in that year’s Derby.
The win improved Oscar Nominated’s record to three wins and two seconds in seven starts. The $282,000 winner’s share of the Spiral Stakes purse boosted his earnings to $371,860. The colt was bred in Kentucky by Mrs. Jerry Amerman and is out of Devine Actress, a daughter of the Irish-bred Theatrical.