A full field is possible for the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) March 24, Turfway Park officials said. The race highlights a four-stakes program at the Kentucky racetrack.
The Spiral, at 1 1/8 miles, will be broadcast live from 5-6 p.m. EDT on NBC Sports Network. It’s the first of four television programs on consecutive Saturdays leading up to the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The $300,000 winner’s share of the Spiral purse guarantees a horse a spot in the Kentucky Derby, at least on graded earnings. Last year Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom won the Spiral and the Kentucky Derby.
Several 3-year-olds from the March 3 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway are expected for Turfway’s signature race. They are State of Play and Ill Conceived, the one-two finishers, respectively, and Mr. Prankster, who checked in fourth.
Also expected are Stealcase, sixth in the March 3 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct; Tizanexpense, seventh in the Feb. 25 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots; Gulfstream Park maiden winner Went the Day Well; and perhaps five or six others. The draw is scheduled for March 22.
Ill Conceived, a Spanish Steps colt owned by S.M.D. Ltd., finished a nose behind State of Play in the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia Memorial after giving up the rail on the far turn and rallying again on the outside of the winner to just miss. Stewart Elliott is named to ride again for trainer John Servis.
“I was very happy with the race,” Servis told Turfway officials. “He was getting out a little bit on the turn, lost the lead through the stretch, and battled back very gamely to just miss. It was so close. I actually thought he won the race until I saw the photo.
“For a young horse to do that, I was very happy.”
Ill Conceived raced on the lead in the Battaglia; Servis said there could be a change in tactics for the Spiral. The colt has rallied in sprints but raced on the lead in his two starts at one mile or more.
“He’s better coming from off the pace,” Servis said. “However, he was very sharp coming in to that last race and there wasn’t a lot of pace. That’s one of the reasons he started getting out because (Elliott) cranked him down so much. I don’t expect him to be in front in this race.”
Ill Conceived and Servis will make the trip to Turfway March 21 from his base at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania.
Trainer Mark Casse said he’d like to see a first- or second-place finish in the Spiral from Stealcase, a Lawyer Ron colt owned by John Oxley. Stealcase broke his maiden at Gulfstream in January.
Stealcase broke awkwardly in the Gotham and caught a speed-favoring racetrack, Casse said.
“Aqueduct was really speed-biased that day, and our plan was to be very close to the lead, but after that break he lost all chance,” Casse said. “I’m not saying I think he would have beaten (winner) Hansen that day, but I think we’d have given the second-place horse (My Adonis) a run for his money.”
Casse said Stealcase, who will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh, will ship to Turfway on race day from the Churchill Downs Training Center.
The Saturday program includes the grade III Bourbonette Oaks for 3-year-olds fillies, and the Rushaway and Hansel Stakes for 3-year-olds.