Grade 2 winner Uncaptured will make his long-awaited return to competition on Saturday, but the Lion Heart colt has picked a tough spot to make his three-year-old bow in Turfway Park's Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral.
Trained by Mark Casse, Uncaptured was last seen taking the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs by a neck on November 24. That followed a 5 1/2-length romp in the Grade 3 Iroquois over the same surface in his first try on a conventional dirt surface.
In his absence, the second and third-place runners in the Kentucky Jockey Club have already returned to the track. Runner-up Frac Daddy ran second in a pair of maiden events before finally breaking through with a first victory, all at Santa Anita. Dewey Square, on the other hand, has been unable to factor in two starts against graded competition thus far this year.
Uncaptured opened his career at Woodbine, capturing his first four starts on that Canadian track's synthetic Polytrack, so the switch to Turfway's version of that all-weather surface shouldn't be too much of a shock for the dark bay. Miguel Mena, aboard for both the Kentucky Jockey Club and Iroquois, retains the mount on the 3-1 morning-line favorite.
Mac the Man is taking the Animal Kingdom route, trying to parlay a win in the 1 1/8-mile Spiral to a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby. The Jeffrey Greenhill pupil has shown a definite preference for Turfway's Polytrack, scoring in an allowance at the Florence, Kentucky, venue by 8 1/2 lengths to close out his juvenile campaign. The bay son of El Corredor returned on January 5 to take the Turfway Park Prevue by five lengths, then wired the 96ROCK going a mile by two lengths last out in his final prep for this one.
Mac the Man will be facing a different class of horses in the Spiral, but his homefield advantage could come in handy under jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr., especially at 10-1 on the morning-line.
Capo Bastone currently has only four points in the new Road to the Kentucky Derby point system, but he can move up the standings with a top four finish Saturday. Of course, trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping to visit the winner's circle with the Street Boss chestnut. Capo Bastone enters the Spiral off just one race this year, taking an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park on February 16 by a head, but last season ran fourth, third and third, respectively, in the Del Mar Futurity, FrontRunner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, all Grade 1 contests.
John Velazquez was in the saddle for the first time in the three-year-old's last race and will have piloting duties from the far outside 12 post aboard the 9-2 third morning-line favorite.
The Spiral's eclectic field also includes the Chad Brown-conditioned Balance the Books, who will be making both his seasonal and main track debuts under regular rider Julien Leparoux. The Lemon Drop Kid bay has previously only ever competed on turf, breaking his maiden with a head win in the Grade 2 With Anticipation at Saratoga last August before a nose victory in the Grade 3 Bourbon on Keeneland's green in October.
Balance the Books closed out his two-year-old season with a rallying third, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths while closing from the rear, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Despite the layoff and surface switch, he's been listed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning-line.
The last local prep for the Spiral, the John Battaglia Memorial on March 2, will see its top three finishers go in the Spiral. General Election captured his stakes bow in that race by a half-length over Giant Finish, with For Greater Glory the third-place runner by 1 1/4 lengths.
The Grade 3 Southwest also has a couple of its participants in the field. Fear the Kitten finished second and Channel Isle crossed under the wire in fourth that day, and are each looking for a first stakes win in the Spiral.
The rest of the field is comprised of Black Onyx and Taken by Storm, a pair of last-out optional claiming winners, as well as My Name is Michael, who was third in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis most recently on February 2.
Kicking off the stakes action at Turfway Park on Saturday will be the $75,000 Rushaway sending nine sophomores 1 1/16 miles. Honorable Guest will try to begin his three-year-old season the same way he ended his juvenile -- on a winning note. The Old Forester chestnut added the Frost King to his resume in his last appearance on November 7, but will be facing the likes of J. J. Got Even and Crop Report this time around.