A full field of 12 sophomores has been entered for the Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral on Saturday at Turfway Park.
The race will be worth points on a 50-20-10-5 basis as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
The Spiral has drawn a competitive group of three-year-olds headlined by 3-1 morning-line favorite Tamarando. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer shipped the dark bay son of Bertrando from the West Coast in search of a second straight graded victory. The colt captured the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby over Golden Gate Fields' synthetic Tapeta on February 15 but is no stranger to the all-weather Polytrack, having scored in the Grade 1 Del Mar Derby over that surface last season.
Tamarando currently boasts 12 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, thanks to his El Camino Real Derby win and a third in last year's Grade 1 FrontRunner, and sits in 19th on the leaderboard. A win in the 1 1/8-mile Spiral, which will be his first start outside of the Golden State, would ensure the California-bred a place in the Derby starting gate on May 3.
Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze has followed Tamarando from California for the mount.
While Tamarando is making his Turfway debut, the top three from the March 1 local prep, the John Battaglia Memorial, will all be lining back up on Saturday.
Solitary Ranger easily got the best of stablemate Poker Player in the 8 1/2-furlong Battaglia by 4 3/4 front-running lengths. It was another five lengths back to Harry's Holiday, who sprinted 6 1/2 furlongs for an eight-length score in the 96Rock Stakes one month prior.
Solitary Ranger actually broke his maiden last September in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity prior to a subpar ninth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in October. The well-traveled U S Ranger colt returned to competition at Fair Grounds for trainer Wayne Catalano on January 5, capturing a one-mile turf affair, and added the Battaglia to his resume last out under regular rider Florent Geroux, who stays in the saddle. The duo are listed at 6-1 on the morning-line.
Poker Player will be trying Polytrack for the third time on Saturday. The Catalano-trained son of Harlan's Holiday opened his career on turf and was scheduled to make his stakes bow in the grassy Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland last October. That race was moved to the main track, but Poker Player still pulled off the victory in the 1 1/16-mile contest. The gray colt shipped to the West Coast for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, where he finished eighth in his juvenile finale, and could improve in this spot in his second start of the year. Channing Hill retains the mount on Poker Player, who is 5-1 on the morning-line.
Harry's Holiday hasn't been given much chance in the Spiral, based on his 20-1 morning-line odds. However, the Mike Maker pupil did earn a career-best 95 BRIS Speed rating in the 96Rock and gets a jockey change on Saturday to Rosie Napravnik. That may not be enough to get him in the winner's circle, but the Harlan's Holiday colt could have a shot at hitting the board again.
There are two runners in the Spiral who are exiting subpar efforts in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on February 22.
First up is We Miss Artie, who captured last season's Breeders' Futurity and stalked the early pace in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile prior to fading to seventh on the wire. The Artie Schiller colt held the lead in the stretch of the grassy Kitten's Joy Stakes while making his sophomore debut at Gulfstream but was just caught to be second by a head on the line. We Miss Arite never factored in the Fountain of Youth, finishing eighth, and will need to move forward if he hopes to compete here for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez.
Almost Famous lived up to his name by being the "it" horse in the Street Sense Stakes last fall at Churchill Downs. The Pat Byrne trainee could only manage fourth behind Coastline on that day, but returned two weeks later to romp by six lengths under the Twin Spires. Thus far in two tries as a sophomore, the Unbridled's Song colt has been fourth in the Grade 2 Holy Bull after contesting the early pace and never factored after a steadying start to be 11th in the Fountain of Youth. Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel has been aboard Almost Famous for his two races this year and has the call on Saturday.
The Spiral field is completed by Grade 3 runner-up Big Bazinga, stakes winner Asserting Bear, last-out Grade 3 Southwest fourth-placer Coastline, Grade 3 second Smart Cover, All Tied Up and Arctic Slope.