by Brian Nadeau of Horseplayer Now and Capital OTB TV.
Turfway Park: The GIII, $500,000 Spiral at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points 50-20-10-5)
While the Spiral has lost a lot of luster in recent years as synthetic racing has fallen out of favor, it still ranks as essentially a “Win and You’re In” race for the Kentucky Derby, since 50 points go to the winner, not to mention that the 20 points for second could get you in, too. Whether or not there are any legitimate Derby horses in here is highly debatable, but #6 JENSEN could vault into consideration for Larry Jones, if he can handle the Poly after a romping win in a Fair Grounds optional claimer last time, and while dad Haynesfield was all dirt, you’ve got Hard Spun on the bottom of his pedigree and do-no-wrong Florent Geroux riding, so he could get brave on the lead; come catch the pick.
The wide draw did #12 AZAR no favors, but there’s a long enough run to the first turn that he should be able to get position, and with plenty of turf form showing in his PPs, you have to think he’ll handle the surface switch, so if the pick goes too fast early, or gets pressed by a few others, this Pletcher-trained son of Scat Daddy could be the main beneficiary; seems the one to beat.
Graham Motion made waves a few years back when he pulled the Spiral-Derby double with Animal Kingdom, and while #8 KASSEOPIA has a long way to go to equal that potential Hall of Famer’s resume, he does have some talent, ran well when third in his comeback over the Tapeta in the GIII El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in February and was a big second over the Poly in Woodbine’s GIII Grey in October; clearly the one to fear in the lane.
Today’s $64,000 question comes in the form of #10 AIROFORCE, a son of Colonel John who was a Derby hotshot at the start of the year but didn’t run an inch when he was 10th in the GII Risen Star at Fair Grounds in his only start this year in February, and while he is undoubtedly a much better turf horse, he has no Poly form and this smells as much of desperation from Casse, as it does of something that was the plan all along; no reason to back at false odds.