Synthetic racing surfaces have brought out the best in Positive Response, so he'll get another opportunity over the Turfway Park Polytrack in the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) March 26.
The last try at Turfway turned out well for the Northern California-based son of Pomeroy, producing a seven-length romp as the slight favorite in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes March 5.
Positive Response is owned by Saul Gevertz, Roger Newman, Ray Pagano, and William E. Morey, who also trains the Florida-bred gelding.
"I don't have any reason to think he wouldn't be good (on dirt), but he's so good on synthetics," Morey said during a national teleconference March 22. "But there's going to be a time he'll have to try dirt. He's done everything else we've asked of him."
Off his big win in the Battaglia, Positive Response leads a field of a dozen 3-year-olds entered for the 1 1/8-mile Spiral Stakes. He is 3-1 on the morning line.
The 10th race on the Turfway program, it follows another test for 3-year-old colts and geldings, the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway, which drew a nine-horse field—all in search of a first stakes win. The Spiral is at 5:31 p.m. EDT, with the Rushaway 30 minutes earlier.
Positive Response drew post 2 and will be ridden once more by Julien Couton. Positive Response has won four of his past five races, with the only loss a third-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III).
"After the El Camino Real Derby at home at Golden Gate Fields, we had run out of options at Golden Gate for him," Morey said. "Santa Anita—he hadn't run on a dirt track and that's very tough competition. So, I looked around the country. The Battaglia was a test to see if he was good enough for the Spiral.
"In the Battaglia, he showed his stuff," the trainer added. "We're almost in a must-win situation as far as the (Kentucky) Derby goes, with graded earnings. If we get lucky, he has that possibility."
Positive Response ran away from the field in the Battaglia after jumping to an early lead. But in the California Derby, a race he won before the El Camino Real, he rallied from fifth to tally by 2 3/4 lengths. He may need that stalking ability in the Spiral, which has some speedy horses entered.
Decisive Moment, who set the pace in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) last month before weakening to fifth and also went gate to wire in the Jean Lafitte Stakes in January, would appear to be the likely pacesetter. Trained by Juan Arias, the Just for Fun Stable homebred son of With Distinction ran second in the Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) last year as well. He leads the field in earnings with $432,330.
"The owner took him to the OBS sale last year but didn't like what he got for him in the sales ring so he bought him back," said Arias. "According to the farm manager, he loved the synthetic surface at Ocala. All his works there were fast. So I think he'll like the Turfway surface a lot."
After the Risen Star at Fair Grounds, Arias detected a slight soft tissue injury in the horse's left hind ankle. But Arias says the problem was minor and now a thing of the past.
"He's doing great," said Arias. "He just must have taken a bad step in Louisiana. We gave him a week of treatment, and we x-rayed and ultra-sounded him and everything came back negative."
Decisive Moment, 5-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by his regular jockey, Kerwin Clark.
King Congie, disqualified and placed third after crossing the wire first in the Hallandale Beach Stakes on the Gulfstream Park turf Feb. 6, tries Polytrack for the first time. The Badge of Silver colt, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Tom Albertrani, won the Tropical Park Derby on grass at Calder Race Course prior to that.
Javier Castellano has the call on King Congie, pegged at 4-1 on the morning line.
Listed at 5-1 is Team Valor International homebred Animal Kingdom , making his stakes debut for trainer Graham Motion. The son of Leroidesanimaux broke his maiden by 3 1/4 lengths on the Polytrack at Keeneland last October. He returned to action this season with a fast-closing second after an awkward break in his first start on turf against an optional allowance claiming field March 3 at Gulfstream Park.
The three horses that followed Positive Response across the wire in the Battaglia are also back—in order, Taptowne (20-1), Son of Posse (50-1), and Twinspired (10-1).
Trainer Mike Maker is expecting a rebound from Twinspired, a 4 1/4-length winner of the WEBN Stakes prior to the Battaglia, where he was a narrow second choice.
"He stumbled out of the gate, and he got himself straightened up, and then he stumbled again," Maker said. "It put him in a bad position throughout the race. Did I think it cost us the race? No, I didn't. But I think it probably cost us second."
Trainer Doug O'Neill has shipped Thirtyfirststreet from Southern California. The California-bred son of Good Journey ran fourth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 12.
“He ran well on synthetics and has a good style for those surfaces," O'Neill said. "I just thought a Polytrack stakes might come up a little lighter than a comparable dirt race.”
Kendrick Carmouche will have the Spiral mount.
Glint (10-1), scratched from the March 19 Rebel Stakes (gr. II), ran third in Oaklawn Park's Mountain Valley Stakes March 5.
Preachintothedevil, third in Aqueduct's Whirlaway Stakes on a muddy track Feb. 5, is returning from a minor physical issue that caused trainer Gary Contessa to withdraw the Pulpit colt from the Gotham Stakes (gr. III).
"It was a typical casualty of winter racing," Contessa said. "He probably stepped on a frozen dirt clod. I pulled his shoe and tubbed him, but on the day of the race he was 90%, not 100%, so we scratched."
The Rushaway is wide open. Team Valor's Crimson China, a maiden winner on the synthetic track at Wolverhampton in Great Britain, debuted in the United States with an optional claiming allowance win on the Gulfstream turf Feb. 16, coming from eighth in the stretch to get up by a half-length. Motion trains the Kentucky-bred son of Giant's Causeway .
Susan Austin's St. Ivan, from the Maker stable, has back-to-back wins on the Turfway Polytrack, defeating Rushwaway foe Grandpa Gibby by a head in an optional claimer at one mile Feb. 27. The Ole Gen, trained by Larry Jones for owner/breeder Brereton Jones, comes off an allowance victory at Oaklawn Feb. 27.
$500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III, Race 10, 5:31 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Preachintothedevil (NY), J Alvarado, G C Contessa, 15/1
2. Positive Response (FL), J Couton, W E Morey, 3/1
3. Thirtyfirststreet (CA), K Carmouche, D F O'Neill, 12/1
4. Animal Kingdom (KY), A Garcia, H G Motion, 5/1
5. Son of Posse (KY), R Mojica Jr., R Vitiello, 50/1
6. Rescind the Trade (FL), J Valdivia Jr., R A Violette Jr., 12/1
7. Beachcombing (KY), L R Goncalves, C C Brown, 12/1
8. King Congie (KY), J Castellano, T Albertrani, 4/1
9. Taptowne (KY), R A Prescott, W D Mogge, 20/1
10. Decisive Moment (FL), K D Clark, J D Arias, 5/1
11. Twinspired (KY), V Lebron, M J Maker, 10/1
12. Glint (KY), G Saez, K Gorder, 10/1
All carry 121 pounds.
$100,000 Rushaway Stakes (Race 9, 5:02 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Grandpa Gibby (KY), J Lopez, 116, C W Rosin
2. Crimson China (KY), A Garcia, 118, H G Motion
3. St. Ivan (KY), V Lebron, 118, M J Maker
4. Disfraz (KY), K Carmouche, 116, E Kenneally
5. Ocasta (KY), F Lenclud, 116, D Miller
6. Swift Warrior (KY), J Castellano, 116, J P Terranova, II
7. The Ole Gen (KY), G Saez, 118, J L Jones
8. Sorgho (KY), E Martin Jr., 116, W D Bennett
9. Swagger Jack (VA), L R Goncalves, 116, D Miller
Blinkers On: Grandpa Gibby