Pokerfuse Handicapper Mike McCormick Goes for 4 in a Row in the Spiral Stakes

After nailing the Gotham Stakes, Tampa Bay Derby, and Rebel Stakes, we will try to give you a winner for a fourth consecutive week as the derby trail takes us…

After nailing the Gotham Stakes, Tampa Bay Derby, and Rebel Stakes, we will try to give you a winner for a fourth consecutive week as the derby trail takes us to Turfway Park for the Spiral Stakes. Twelve 3-yr olds will compete in the 1-1/8 mile G3 affair around two turns on the Turfway Park all-weather surface. Formerly known as the Jim Beam, the Spiral offers a purse of $550,000 and 50 Derby points which should be enough to get to the Kentucky Derby.

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Turfway’s synthetic surface offers some challenges in handicapping, and brings into questions it’s usefulness as a Kentucky Derby prep. Turfway Park is one of only a few tracks that use the all-weather surface and some horses just don’t take to it. Several horses are trying the all-weather here after being unimpressive on both dirt and turf. The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is run over a traditional dirt course, so even after an impressive outing at Turfway, there would still be a question of a horse’s abilities on a traditional dirt surface.

From a handicapping perspective, this field is slow. Not a single runner has posted a Brisnet speed rating of 90 or better in their last outing. I don’t think we are going to get any derby contenders from this group.

Turfway does not card many 1-1/8 mile races, so I looked at the track bias for all 2-turn races and found a fair 21% are won wire to wire with an even distribution across post positions. For 1-1/8 mile affairs, there is a long run before entering the first turn, so the field will have every opportunity to gain position before the turn arrives.

We have several entries who have shown the desire to be forwardly placed early, but none of the have posted impressive pace figures in doing so. This race can be stolen on or near the front end.

Fast and Accurate and morning line favorite Kittens Cat, et al have some speed, but nothing that is going to get away easily. 5-1 M/L King and His Court finished 9th , 22 lengths back in the Sam F. Davis so I will toss him. Many other are trying the all-weather for the first time, so without dominant speed figures, I can’t back them either.

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This week we will shoot for a big price from the outside with En Hanse With Robby Albarado aboard, En Hanse has shown an affinity for the Turfway Park surface. In his 3 races here, En Hanse has 2 wins and a 2nd, and has posted the highest speed rating in the field. In his last, a non graded stake, En Hanse ran a little wide in both turns, made a move to take the lead in the 2nd turn, but was easily bested by the 2-1 favorite. En Hanse was only in that race after being scratched out of the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fairgrounds in Louisiana. Having drawn the unfavorable post 13 and a short run to the first turn, trainer Ken McPeek decided to look for a better spot.

While En Hanse looked sluggish in the lane while easily holding for 2nd in his last, he was too close and outside to a speed duel with a couple of longshots. I think he has the speed to get early position, will sit tight to a slow pace and be there at the wire.

With a morning line of 15-1, I will play En Hanse for the win. Let’s make this 4 weeks in a row!

March 24, 2017