Harry's Holiday obliterated the field in the 96ROCK Stakes, the first local prep for the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park, but he faces a tougher crowd March 1 when 11 sophomores line up for the next round, the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes.
The Battaglia, at 1 1/16 miles, is the 10th of 11 races on Saturday’s card with a 5:22 p.m. EST scheduled post.
One month ago, Harry’s Holiday cruised home in the 96ROCK Stakes eight lengths the best over 6 1/2 furlongs on Turfway's Polytrack. That easy margin bodes well for his first attempt at two turns in the 1 1/16 mile Battaglia. Harry's Holiday is 8-1 on the Battaglia morning line.
Trained by Mike Maker, Harry’s Holiday was claimed by current co-owner Terry Raymond out of his debut race, a maiden win at Churchill Downs in September. Two races later he added another win in an optional starter/claimer at Gulfstream Park. He came from off the pace in that race, and that versatility should work to his advantage when he breaks from the outside post in the Battaglia. Rodney Prescott picked up the mount on Harry’s Holiday on race day in the 96ROCK and retains it for the Battaglia.
Poker Player didn’t fare well in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) when eighth at Santa Anita Park in his last start. But one month earlier he made a bold late run to take the Bourbon Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, a race taken off the turf. He broke his maiden in similar style in his second start, a mile on the turf at Kentucky Downs.
He has been working steadily at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots toward his return and could take advantage of a likely speed duel in the Battaglia. Channing Hill comes in for the mount on 9-2 hope Poker Player, who starts from the rail and adds blinkers.
Solitary Ranger, leaving from post 2 at 5-1 on the morning line, broke his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) last September at a mile on Polytrack, but the speedster was ninth in his next step, the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland in October, also on Polytrack. Solitary Ranger was given three months off before coming back to win a mile optional allowance in January on yielding turf at Fair Grounds. The colt led all the way in that race, and his two recent works at Fair Grounds produced bullets at five furlongs at the New Orleans track. Florent Geroux comes in to ride.
Poker Player, owned by Gary and Mary West, and Solitary Ranger, owned by Susan Moulton, are both trained by Wayne Catalano and carry high weight of 124 pounds for the Battaglia.
Solitary Ranger likely won’t go unchallenged on the front end Saturday. Right next door in post three is 4-1 morning line choice Canzoni, who set the pace in the 1-1/16 mile OBS Championship Stakes at the Ocala Training Center in January before losing by a nose. If Canzoni resists the urge to duel, however, he could show the off-the-pace style that made him a debut winner in a maiden special on the Gulfstream turf, also at the Battaglia distance. Turfway’s leading rider, Albin Jimenez, has the mount for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Laddie Boy (6-1) won a strong allowance race at Keeneland two starts back and next finished second to the highly regarded Tapiture in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) on the Churchill dirt, both at 1 1/16 miles. He has been off since that runner-up finish in November and may need Saturday’s race, especially given his tendency to also go for the lead. Jesus Castanon returns to Turfway and rides for trainer Chuck Peery.
Darley Stable's Empower (6-1) ships in from Belmont Park for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin off a solid 1 1/2-length maiden tally as the favorite Jan. 31 at Aqueduct Racetrack. Jeremy Rose takes the call on the son of Distorted Humor out of the graded stakes winner Magnificience, by Stormy Atlantic .
The $550,000 Spiral Stakes at nine furlongs, the highlight of Turfway's winter/spring meet, is March 22.
$100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes (Race 10, 5:22 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Poker Player (KY), C Hill, 124, W M Catalano, 9/2
2. Solitary Ranger (KY), F Geroux, 124, W M Catalano, 5/1
3. Canzoni (KY), A Jimenez, 118, T A Pletcher, 4/1
4. Emmett Park (KY), L A Wydick, 118, R J Pincins, 12/1
5. Red River Rising (KY), R A Vazquez, 118, K Gorder, 15/1
6. Laddie Boy (KY), J L Castanon, 118, C Peery, 6/1
7. Kids Rule (FL), D A Sarvis, 118, M Stidham, 15/1
8. General Jack (KY), D Davis, 122, M J Maker, 10/1
9. Empower (KY), J Rose, 118, K P McLaughlin, 6/1
10. Chester's Park (KY), B Creed, 118, C M Godsey, 12/1
11. Harry's Holiday (KY), R A Prescott, 122, M J Maker, 8/1
Blinkers On: Poker Player
Blnkers Off: General Jack