Friday, March 22, 2013

Spiral to the Kentucky Derby

Check out the analysis and selections for the Sunland Derby at ThoroFan's Weekend Handicapper's Corner 

The Spiral Stakes (also run as the Jim Beam Stakes from 1982 – 2001) has sent two colts to the Kentucky Derby winner's circle. The race has also produced two Preakness heroes and a couple of Classic runner-ups.
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A full field of twelve colts will scramble 1 1/8 miles over the Turfway Park Polytrack for a chance to win 50 points in the Kentucky Derby points system. Second place is worth 20 points, 10 points for third and 5 points for fourth place.

Here's where pedigree handicapping comes in handy. 1 1/8 miles separates the middle-distance/classically bred horses from the sprinter/milers. Also, certain sires are noted for getting runners over Poly.

Below are the horses who should handle poly and 1 1/8 miles:

BALANCE THE BOOKS (Lemon Drop Kid - Kreisleriana, by Seeking the Gold) by a Champion Older Horse out of a stakes mare by the sire of four Breeders' Cup winners, Balance The Books has the pedigree to handle 1 ¼ miles. He hasn't tried Poly, but his sire is an above average producer of poly runners. Of concern is the lack of stamina works and the tough spot to come back off of a layoff.

CHANNEL ISLE (English Channel - Dandanna (IRE), by Linamix (FR)) placed behind Taken by the Storm twice as a two year old. His sire is an excellent producer of turf and Poly runners and Channel Isle is a winner at 1 1/8 miles. Trainer Wayne Lukas has revived his career this year with wins in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Sprint, Lecomte Stakes and one-two finishes in the Rebel.

UNCAPTURED (Lion Heart - Captivating, by Arch) the only black mark on this colt's record is an off the board finish in the Gray Stakes after encountering racing trouble. He's a winner over Poly and he has the pedigree to handle classic distances. Like Balance The Books, Uncaptured is making his three year old debut in the Spiral. Unlike that rival, Uncaptured has been prepared with a string of stamina works.

FEAR THE KITTEN (Kitten's Joy - Dynarhythm, by Dynaformer) has strong Spiral implications. Kitten's Joy sired 2010 Spiral winner Dean's Kitten and Dynaformer produced 2002 Spiral winner Perfect Drift. Trainer Mike Maker trained Dean's Kitten and 2006 Spiral winner With a City. Fear the Kitten is making his third start off of a layoff, has improving BRIS speed figures and owns a second to last bullet work. Fear him.

FOR GREATER GLORY (Afleet Alex - Lady's Touch, by Touch Gold) found trouble in the stretch of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, but was right there at the finish. His polytrack pedigree is average and he is likely a better dirt horse. On the plus side, there's no shortage of stamina in his pedigree. His sire won the Kentucky Derby/Preakness; his damsire won the Belmont Stakes and second damsire is the legendary Secretariat. For Greater Glory's unraced dam is a ¾ sister to Ashland Stakes (G-1) winner Well Chosen (by Deputy Minister). That one is the dam of two-time Sword Dancer (G-1) hero Telling.

GENERAL ELECTION (Harlan's Holiday - Menekineko, by Kingmambo) won the John Battaglia Memorial after going eight wide on the turn at Turfway in his last race. With the Classic/Stout Chef-de-race Kingmambo as his damsire and three-time Champ Spectacular Bid as his second damsire, General Election should have no difficulty navigating 1 1/8 miles. General Election is a half brother to Breeders' Cup Mile winner Ready's Echo (by More Than Ready).

BLACK ONYX (Rock Hard Ten - Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town) showed instant improvement when switched to the grass in his last start. Not surprising, since his sire's progeny are best over turf and Poly. Rock Hard Ten spent his racing career on the dirt and won the Santa Anita Handicap (G-1), but as a son of Kris S. his turf genes are showing. Black Onyx's damsire Cape Town won the Florida Derby. As a damsire, he's represented by only one stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles, Louisiana Derby surprise Pants on Fire.

GIANT FINISH (Frost Giant - Apocalyptic, by Hickman Creek) made all of the pace in the John Battaglia Memorial to just miss the win by ½ length to General Election. The colt was shipping, trying a new distance and surface for the first time. His young sire has only 18 starters, but 13 of them have won, including two stakes winners. His sire Giant's Causeway gave us 2009 Spiral winner Hold Me Back. Giant Finish's dam is a half sister to the dam of multiple G-1 sprinter Crafty C.T.

TAKEN BY THE STORM (Stormy Atlantic - Paint Brush, by Broad Brush) is a winner over Polytrack. He has the bloodlines of Derby/Preakness runner-up Broad Brush, plus Classic heros Unbridled and Seattle Slew as his second and third damsires. There is little blacktype in his immediate female family, however, Taken by the Storm's third dam is a full sister to the dam of Lemon Drop Kid and she's a half to the dams of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall. Taken by the Storm breezed a bullet in his last work and won an optional claiming race over the turf in his last start.

MAC THE MAN ( El Corredor - Marchmont, by Mountain Cat) has dominated the prep races at Turfway Park by a combined 14 ½ lengths. He's a half to Charlies Quest (by Quest), who placed in a 1 ½ mile stakes race. Mac the Man has shown improving BRIS speed figures in every start. He may try to gallop them into submission, but lone speed doesn't fare well in the Spiral.

The following horses are borderline for 1 1/8 miles or may not handle Polytrack.

MY NAME IS MICHAEL (Macho Uno - Graciously Soft, by Vindication) is a stakes winner over Poly. He closed quickly to finish third in the Sam Davis stakes, his first start of the season. The colt missed almost a month of training due to illness and his pedigree is light on stamina. His damsire's daughters are just starting to bear offspring. Vindication has one other stakes winner, Sunland Derby entrant Shaken It Up. My Name Is Michael's dam is a half sister to the multiple Grade 1 router Spoken Fur and to Grade 1 turf sprinter Unbridled's Note.

CAPO BASTONE (Street Boss - Fight to Love, by Fit to Fight) won his maiden over the DelMar Pol, but the colt appears distance challenged. His second crop sire never raced beyond 7 furlongs and set a new track record for 6 furlongs. So far, his offspring have yet to win beyond 1 1/16 miles in the US. Capo Bastone's dam and half siblings won at 1 1/6 miles, but not beyond. A half sister placed at 1 1/8 miles. Fit to Fight,  Capo Bastone's damsire, won from a mile to 1 1/2 miles, including victories in the Met Mile, Suburban and Brooklyn, plus the Jerome and Stuyvesant.  No problem with stamina there....except that as a broodmare sire, his offspring appear more stamina oriented. Only four have won a stakes at 1 1/8 miles and none beyond that distance. Capo Bastone barely held on to win his three year old debut at 1 1/6 miles in a slow 1:48 at Gulfstream. He should benefit greatly from the race.


Track bias: In the last six years, three press pacers, two stalkers and one mid-pack runner won the Spiral. Frontrunners, even lone speed, haven't fared well. Only one pace setter has finished in the money in the last six editions of the Spiral.

Four colts like to be on or pressing the pace. Mack the Man, Uncaptured, Giant Finish and For Greater Glory. Uncaptured has an almost perfect race record and it would be a masterful training job by Mark Casse to ship in and win a 1 1/8 mile stakes race in his first race off of a 119 day layoff. At M/L odds of 3-1 I'll pass for the win, but the colt might finish in the money. Balance The Books is entering off of a 140 day layoff. Same goes for him. Could Capo Bastone advance over the Poly? Possible, but there are still distance considerations. Pletcher has had a Spiral entrant in almost every edition of the race. He's won twice since 2001.

There are some intriguing longshots in the race. Fear The Kitten has Spiral connections, is making his third start off of a layoff and owns a sharp bullet work two back. His speed figures appear a little slow, but that was over dirt. He should get a boost on Poly. Another horse who should show improvement with a switch to poly is Channel Isle. The colt was three wide and improve his position in the Southwest Stakes and he's a winner at 1 1/8 miles. If he's kept a little closer to the pace we could be looking at a winner. General Election is co-owner of the highest late pace speed figure. He flew eight wide yet won his last race and he should love the extra real estate.

#8 General Election
#4 Fear The Kitten
#3 Uncaptured
#2 Channel Isle – longshot pick


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