Airoforce stamped himself as a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender when capturing the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs in late November, but the Mark Casse-trained colt disappointed when opening the year with a well-beaten 10th as the favorite in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds. He’ll attempt to rebound while switching to a synthetic track in Saturday’s $500,000 Spiral (G3) at Turfway Park, a Road to the Kentucky Derby series race that awards points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers.
Twelve horses will contest the 1 1/8-mile Spiral, which produced 2011 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another.
Airoforce figures to make a nice transition to Polytrack given his outstanding juvenile turf form, recording a Grade 3 win prior to a fast-closing neck second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The gray son of Colonel John will pick up the services of leading Turfway rider Albin Jimenez and has been installed as the 3-1 favorite on the morning line.
Azar, a Grade 2 turf winner for Todd Pletcher, is listed as the 5-1 second choice following a confidence-building victory over allowance foes on the main track at Gulfstream. The Scat Daddy colt will break the far outside post with new jockey Manny Franco.
Other Spiral contenders include Jensen, a son of 2007 Spiral winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun who will make his stakes debut for Larry Jones; Surgical Strike, a late nominee to the Triple Crown following a 2 ½-length victory in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway; last-out turf stakes winners Oscar Nominated and Two Step Time; and Kasseopia, who invades from California following a third in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) on synthetic for Graham Motion, who trained Animal Kingdom.
Airoforce photo courtesy of Reed Palmer Photography