Full fields await in Turfway Park’s graded stakes double

March 18th, 2015

Turfway Park has the distinction of ending the Blue Grass state’s 112-day graded stakes drought when it plays host to the $550,000 Horsehoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes and $125,000 Bourbonette Oaks on Saturday, March 21.

The races are the only graded stakes conducted at the Florence, Kentucky, oval, and represent the last chance for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks hopefuls to earn points on a synthetic surface. Each race is both on Polytrack and one furlong shorter than the races for which they’re preps: the Spiral is 1 1/8 miles and the Bourbonette is one mile.

And Turfway welcomes back graded stakes action with full fields, as both attracted 12 horses (though morning line second choice Imperia is expected to scratch from the Spiral.

Still, even with 121 possible double combinations, the wagering opportunities should be juicy. The average win payoff at the current winter meeting is $14.36, and the average $2 double payoff is $128.92. I.e., if you’re right then chances are good you’ll be well compensated!

Local prep winner Royal Son is the 7-to-2 morning line favorite for the Spiral. That price would go down if Imperia scratches. As winner of the El Camino Real Derby, Metaboss is the only graded stakes winner in the field, and he is the 4-to-1 co-second choice on the morning line, though longtime Kentucky Derby oddsmaker (and Turfway announcer) Mike Battaglia said that he would have made Metaboss the favorite but his son overruled him!

Between draws for the two graded stakes races, Battaglia regaled the Cincinnati crowd with tales of Spiral Stakes gone by, including the inaugural race for $10,000. It was the only Spiral he did not call, and he said the only person who thought the race would amount to anything was his father.

Forty-three years later, the Spiral has featured two Kentucky Derby winners, two Preakness winners, and two Belmont Stakes winners. Those two Derby winners (Lil E Tee in 1992 and Animal Kingdom in 2011) represent the yin and yang of handicapping Battaglia, who said that he exorcised the demons of not having bet Lil E. Tee by giving out live on NBC (and betting) Animal Kingdom ahead of the 2011 Derby.

Last year’s winner, We Miss Artie, did not fare well in the Kentucky Derby, but he was favored to win another classic: Canada’s $1-million The Queen’s Plate. Other notable recent winners include 2007 Derby runner-up Hard Spun and five-time Breeders’ Cup Classic starter Perfect Drift.

As for this year, the winner will receive 50 qualifying points for the Derby, which will guarantee his connections a spot in the starting gate if they want it. The 20 points for second should be enough and certainly would be for a horse like Metaboss who already has points.

The TwinSpires.com & Brisnet.com handicapping teams will provide insight throughout the week on this contentious race, including ON POINT video preview Thursday, the Predicteform preview podcast on Friday, and live coverage from Turfway Park on Saturday (follow us on Twitter & Instagram)