Turfway Park: The Grade III, $500,000 Spiral at 1 1/18 miles
#1 Russian Greek: Hollendorfer charge disappointed in a highly rated renewal of the GIII El Camino Real at Golden Gate in his last start and now adds blinkers as he ships out of town looking for some graded money. The hood should put some more tactical speed in him, and from this rail-saving draw, that should help, as will his affinity for synthetic surfaces (although GG is Tapeta and TP is Polytrack), so expecting him to be setting up shop from midpack today. This is a comparable field to the one he met at GG, but there are a few up-and-comers that rate a bit higher than he does, so he’ll have to move forward to factor; using on the bottom rung of the exotics, if at all.
#2 Red Jack: Lukas runner seems out of his element, as he’s won just a MSW last fall at CD, though it was on the turf, so he’s eligible to move up a bit on this surface. Of course, his lone run on Poly was a dismal performance at Keeneland last fall, so that’s not going to scare anyone today. We saw the Coach shock them all (including this handicapper) with a big second from Optimizer at boxcar odds in last weekend’s GII Rebel at Oaklawn Park, but on paper that colt looked like Secretariat compared to this dude; longshot.
#3 Heavy Breathing: Well-bred son of Giant’s Causeway seems like one of about 30 Pletcher runners this winter who make their stakes debut with a 2-for-2 mark, and he’ll try a synthetic surface for the first time today off two main track romps at Gulfstream Park. He’s bred to like this surface, already owns a win at today’s distance, and is certainly the “now” horse, so while the waters get deeper, he still looks like a major player; should be a handful if he takes to the track.
#4 Went The Day Well: Motion colt steps up off a MSW win on the main track at GP in his last start, though he ran second on turf twice in Europe last year, so that bodes well for his chances. Like the Pletcher runner next door, he’s lightly raced and on the improve and seems to have a lot more upside than the proven runners here, so you’ve got to respect his chances. The issue is price, as he figures to be an underlay as we all know the barn’s Animal Kingdom won this race last year and then went on to win the Kentucky Derby, so you better demand value if looking this way; in the mix.
#5 Holiday Promise: The second from Pletcher tries a synthetic surface for the first time and enters off a modest second place run in a weak optional claimer at Aqueduct at odds-on, so it’s debatable if he can handle the class rise. He does go second-time blinkers, so there could be a forward move, and as a son of Harlan’s Holiday out of a Miswaki mare, he may move up on the surface switch, but that’s a lot of things that he needs to break his way to factor; playing against.
#6 All Squared Away: Enters off an inspiring second in a Santa Anita starter allowance, but he was a soundly beaten eighth in the El Camino after dueling on the lead early. At just 1-for-7 with a slow win in a MSW at GG, he’s got a lot of work to do to run with a crew like this; view as a pace factor only.
#7 Ill Conceived: Beaten a nose in the John Battaglia, the local prep, and that was his first start on a synthetic surface, so it’s always nice to see a lifetime best run come over some new footing. Drew well, as there’s some speed to his inside, which should allow for a stalking trip just off the leaders and allow first run on the closers, and it’s always nice to have a big run over a track that a lot of your rivals are trying for the first time; price players have their guy.
#8 Coach Royal: The lone maiden in the field actually has some decent turf form and a bigtime pedigree (Lemon Drop Kid out of an A.P. Indy mare), as he makes his synthetic debut in a dicey spot. There appears to be some talent here and he does add blinkers, but at 0-for-8, he’s tough to tout in a solid GIII stakes; midpack finish seems likely.
#9 Tizanexpense: Finished a disappointing seventh in the GII Risen Star at Fair Grounds behind the highly touted El Padrino after two straight wins there, so it’s back to the drawing board as he tries a synthetic surface for the first time today. Versatile runner has won on the lead and from off the pace, and he has trained very impressively since the Risen Star, so there’s a chance that he can build off that trial run in the graded stakes and move forward in a big way. Maker shocked the GI Blue Grass at KEE a few years back with Stately Victor, so he knows how to negotiate this type of surface switch with aplomb, so with that in mind, we’ll tab this colt to bounce back and pull the surprise; upset special. [Note from Teresa: Brian tabbed Stately Victor second in that race, with Paddy O’Prado first. If you boxed that exacta, you cashed for $572.60.)
#10 Mr. Prankster: Romped in the local WEBN but then came back to run a bad fourth at odds-on in the Battaglia, so you wonder where his form is right now. He endured a 5-wide trip in the Battaglia, but after winning the WEBN going away by 7, it’s hard to think running wide was the reason he got drubbed by more than 11 lengths. Figures to offer a much better price today, but off such a poor performance, it’s tough to think he can bounce back in a much tougher spot like this; playing against.
#11 Stealcase: Casse charge looked good winning a two-turn MSW at GP two starts back, but then was soundly beaten by 10 ¾ lengths by 2yo champ Hansen in the GIII Gotham and now adds blinkers for his synthetic debut. Sure, the Gotham was no great shakes, but that was fresh off a maiden win and it was his stakes debut, so he’s allowed a mulligan, especially since it was run over a good main track that was sealed and muddy for most of the card. And don’t forget, Casse added blinkers to Perspective for the Tampa Bay Derby and that colt moved forward and posted the win, so the move is hardly unprecedented; got a feeling he jumps up and runs a biggie.
#12 Handsome Mike: O’Neill colt ships in from California and has some big races and big names in his PP’s, so he’s got to be respected against a group like this. Enters off a dueling third in the El Camino when blinkers were added, though he doesn’t really seem like a need-the-lead type. The issue is the draw, as he figures to be extremely wide into the first turn, unless Rosario goes on a send mission and tries to clear them. On paper he’s a few lengths faster than his rivals, but he seems to have peaked while more than a few of his opponents are hinting at major improvement today; respect his talent and connections, but trying to beat from this draw.
#3 Heavy Breathing