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MIKE BATTAGLIA RETURNS TO CALL BATTAGLIA MEMORIAL’S FULL FIELD

Thursday, March 2, 2017 6:24 PM
  • General
  • Spiral Stakes

MIKE BATTAGLIA RETURNS TO CALL BATTAGLIA MEMORIAL’S FULL FIELD
Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund to Benefit from Riders’ Autograph Signing

FLORENCE, Ky. (March 2, 2017) – Race fans will hear a familiar voice as the field for the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes breaks the gate at Turfway Park Sat., March 4. Mike Battaglia, who retired last year after 43 years as track announcer, returns to call the 1 1/16-mile race, the second local prep for the $500,000 Grade 3 JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes March 25.

Saturday’s 35th running of the Battaglia Memorial drew an overflow field of 13. Back for the contest are the first three finishers of the Feb. 11 WEBN Stakes, a sprint that serves as the first local prep for the Spiral.

En Hanse led every call of the WEBN and drew away to win by 3 1/2 lengths despite racing wide in the stretch. That effort bodes well for his return to two turns after two unsuccessful attempts last year, one of which came over the grass at Kentucky Downs. Mike Maker trains the son of Eclipse champion Hansen for owners Kendall Hansen and Olympic skier Bode Miller, tuning him up with bullet work after bullet work at Turfway. He breaks from post eight with Abel Lezcano back aboard.

The Battaglia Memorial marks just the second start for WEBN runner-up Star Empire since a three-month layoff followed an aborted start in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 5. Twice Grade 3-placed, Star Empire will break from post two under Arny Fontanez for trainer Wesley Ward.

Hunka Burning Love, third in the WEBN, is one of two in the field with wins at the Battaglia distance. Trained also by Maker for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Hunka Burning Love led every step for his two-turn win, a $75,000 claiming race at Keeneland in October. He breaks from post four in the Battaglia under Albin Jimenez.

The other Battaglia distance winner is It’s Your Nickel, trained by Ken McPeek. It’s Your Nickel came from off the pace to win a 1 1/16-mile maiden special on the Saratoga turf Aug. 28. He was off until Jan. 27, when he was second by a neck but first by disqualification going a mile on the dirt at Fair Grounds. The colt has been training progressively well at Fair Grounds, culminating with a best-of-35 five-furlong breeze Feb. 25. James Graham rode the January race and returns Saturday for It’s Your Nickel’s first start on an all-weather surface.

The field for the Battaglia Memorial from the rail out: Hot Dad, also trained by Maker (jockey Jack Gilligan); Star Empire (Fontanez); Montu (Rodney Prescott); Hunka Burning Love (Jimenez); Strike Your Light (John McKee); Sailin’ Shoes (Richard Bracho); It’s Your Nickel (Graham); En Hanse (Lezcano); Durango Dan (Malcolm Franklin); stakes-placed Ventry Bay, also trained by Ward (Julio Garcia); Fulkerson (Gabriel Lagunes); and Gorgeous Kitten (leading rider Alonso Quinonez). Prince Hansen, a mile winner and the fifth entry trained by Maker, is also eligible. All carry 118 lbs. except En Hanse at 122 lbs.

The John Battaglia Memorial honors Mike Battaglia’s father, Turfway’s former general manager who launched the Spiral Stakes in 1972 as a step toward the Kentucky Derby. The race is the sixth of nine races Saturday. First post is 6:15 p.m.

Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund to Benefit from Riders’ Autograph Signing

Retired jockeys return Battaglia Memorial day for an autograph signing to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Among those expected are Kentucky Derby winners Pat Day, Jean Cruguet, Steve Cauthen and Mike Manganello; Turfway meet leaders including Tony D’Amico, Charlie Woods, Robert “Cowboy” Jones and Jamie Bruin; pioneering female jockeys Karou Tshuchiya, Suzie Oldham and Darlene Green; Otto Thorwarth, who starred as Ron Turcotte in the movie Secretariat; and jockeys-turned-racing officials Ron Herbstreit, Bill Troilo, Melinda Vest and Jean Chalk. Jockeys currently riding at Turfway will be available for autographs as their schedules allow. Track photographer Coady Photography has provided a “Then and Now” poster featuring jockeys’ photos, or collectors may bring one item for signing. A donation is required. The event is scheduled from 7 to 8 p.m. on the first floor.

Fans also may bid on silent auction items including a commemorative Maker’s Mark bottle signed by Cincinnati Reds broadcasting legends Marty Brennaman and the late Joe Nuxhall; an autographed Steve Cauthen bobblehead; unique bow ties designed by Thorwarth; and a Turfway saddle cloth signed by current and retired riders.

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