A prep race for the March 22 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway, the John Battaglia is a test for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16-miles.
Though not a household name on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) trail as of yet, Woodford Racing's Briarwood Circle could make a name for himself with a victory this weekend. A son of Smart Strike, Briarwood Circle began his career by breaking his maiden on the Woodbine turf in July. He followed that up with a 3 1/4-length allowance score on the Woodbine Polytrack one month later.
After a second-place finish in the Sept. 16 Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT), Briarwood Circle tried the Oct. 6 Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland, but his chances were compromised during a troubled trip in which he veered up to avoid a fallen rival, and was later bumped hard by another runner. Never able to recover, he finished eighth.
Briarwood Circle's last start was Nov. 24, when he missed by just a nose in the Display Stakes at Woodbine. Trainer Mark Casse is expecting a big effort from his Derby-nominated colt, who is out of the Magesterial mare Fleet Road and was a $150,000 yearling purchase.
"We were planning on running him the Risen Star (gr. III, Feb. 9, Fair Grounds), but I just didn't like he way he handled the track," said Casse, who also trains Derby hopeful Turf War. "So we brought him back to Ocala with an eye on this race. If he runs a big race we'll look at the Lane's End and he could be (a Derby horse). He has the pedigree and he's a nice horse. It's always on your mind this time of year."
Casse said he also planned on running another Derby-nominated horse, Miner's Claim, in the John Battaglia, but the Mineshaft colt ran a temperature.
Patrick Husbands comes in from Louisiana for the mount on Briarwood Circle, who drew the outside post. Casse said Briarwood Circle, who was bred in Kentucky by Will Farish, has breezed twice at Ocala since Feb. 14, although both efforts were unposted.
Another contender is the Cactus Ridgecolt Big Glen, who made a sweeping move around the turn in the one-mile WEBN to score by 1 ¼ lengths under James Lopez. It was the second consecutive win and third victory in five starts for Big Glen, a Polytrack specialist whose wins have all come on that surface at Turfway.
Trained by Frank Brothers, Big Glen was a $10,000 yearling purchase for Bill Jones and John T.L. Jones Jr., who is also the co-breeder. Out of the Unaccounted For mare Zamba Canuta, the chestnut colt last worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 Feb. 25.
Lopez gets the return call on Big Glen, who will break from post three and carry a co-high weight of 121 pounds.
Although second in the WEBN, KatieRich Stables’ Your Round may be primed for a breakthrough performance this weekend. The Distorted Humor colt has done well since making the transition from turf, which is where the first four starts of his career came.
After a ninth-place finish in the Oct. 27 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, trainer Mark Hubley moved the chestnut colt to dirt. His conventional surface debut was a rallying third-place finish in allowance competition Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs where he was forced seven-wide but was still gaining late on eventual winner, Monba. Your Round made the same kind of late move in the WEBN, but could not get up, this time after going five-wide around the turn. Victor Lebron rides again.
Third in the WEBN was Mr. Harry. The son of Flatter , who was passed in the stretch in each of his last two starts, will be the likely pacesetter once more.
The lone filly in the event is Absolutely Cindy, an Arch filly owned and trained by Ron Kinmon. She is 2-2-3 from nine starts, with her last effort a sixth-place finish in the Silverbulletday (gr. III) at Fair Grounds, which was won by Indian Blessing.
$100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes (Race 11, 5:45 p.m.), Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Polytrack)
PP., Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Beneficiary (IL), 115, Rex Stokes, III
2. Instill (IL), 121, John McKee
3. Big Glen (KY), 121, James Lopez
4. Mr. Harry (KY), 115, William Troilo
5. Dixie Decision (KY), 115, Dean Sarvis
6. Halo's King (FL), 115, Jesus Lopez Castanon
7. Your Round (KY), 115, Victor Lebron
8. Absolutely Cindy (KY), 116, Orlando Mojica
9. Cherokee Triangle (KY), 121, Miguel Mena
10. Best Buddy (IL), 115, Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.
11. Briarwood Circle (KY), 115, Patrick Husbands