Jensen aims to emulate broodmare sire Hard Spun in Spiral
Edited press release from Turfway Park
The fields for the Spiral Stakes (G3), Bourbonette Oaks (G3) and Rushaway Stakes are taking shape in advance of race day this Saturday. The Spiral Stakes and the Bourbonette Oaks offer 85 points toward berths in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1), respectively, with 50 to the winner.
Larry and Cindy Jones’ homebred Fair Grounds allowance winner Jensen is coming to the $500,000 Spiral Stakes with hopes of emulating his broodmare sire, Hard Spun, who won this race in 2007.
“Hard Spun loved the synthetic up there,” said Larry Jones, who trained Hard Spun to four graded stakes wins and runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). “I’m just going to try to make Jensen look as much like his old granddaddy as I can. This is probably the first grandson that’s out there running from Hard Spun.”
Jensen, by Haynesfield, is not nominated to the Triple Crown and would require a $200,000 supplemental payment to be eligible for the Kentucky Derby. This was no oversight, though, as Jones does not have many positive memories from his three past Derby experiences. After Hard Spun’s second in 2007, his filly Eight Belles suffered a fatal injury after the finish in 2008, and in 2009 Friesan Fire came in 18th as the post-time favorite. He imagines a different path for Jensen.
“I have always said I’ve wanted a horse good enough to dodge all the good horses. A hero I had many years ago was a horse called Lost Code. He was the same crop as Alysheba and Bet Twice. He didn’t even run against those guys until he was nearly done making almost $2 million,” Jones said, referring to the top horses of Lost Code’s crop.
Jones chose that strategy for Jensen when he passed on the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds. The colt already had two impressive wins and two seconds at the New Orleans oval, but he had yet to go past a mile and 70 yards and would have had to face Kentucky Derby contenders such as Gun Runner and Mo Tom who came in with Derby points. Although Jones was already leaning toward the Spiral, the decision was made that much easier when he learned he could retain Jensen’s regular jockey, Florent Geroux, for the Turfway race.
The Polytrack at Turfway appears to be a natural fit for Jensen and not only because of Hard Spun’s success over it. Jensen’s sire, Haynesfield, is by Speightstown, who is annually among leading sires in categories related to all-weather runners.
“All of my mares are at Airdrie Stud so we try to breed to their stallions,” Jones said of the Midway, Kentucky, farm owned by former Kentucky governor Brereton C. Jones. “He had Haynesfield coming in and he was a hot property. It just worked out.”
Trainer Mike Maker will have the advantage of numbers when the gate opens on the Spiral Stakes. He expects to enter four in the 1 1/8-mile race, including Strike Up the Band and Oscar Nominated for top owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Both were claimed by the Ramseys early in their 2-year-old campaigns.
The Ramseys took Strike Up the Band for $30,000 at Keeneland last fall out of his second start, which he won. The gelding didn’t fare well in his next start, a 7-furlong turf race at Gulfstream in December, but then clicked off two wins in a row there on the dirt, including a starter stakes in his second start this year. In his most recent start, his first at two turns, he was fourth in Turfway’s Battaglia Memorial after eating up ground with a huge closing kick. Maker sees much room for improvement from that effort.
“He didn’t like the Polytrack in his face (in the Battaglia), and for the first half of the race he was climbing,” Maker said. “When he got to the outside, he came flying home. The distance was never an issue for him so I expect he will run a big race.”
Maker has not named a rider for Strike Up the Band, who trains at Turfway in the care of Maker’s assistant, John Lynde. He breezed five furlongs in 1:01 last Saturday, ninth of 31 that day.
The Ramseys claimed Oscar Nominated for $75,000 out of his third start, a 1 1/16-mile race at Belmont Park in October that he won going away. He comes to the Spiral off a win over 7 1/2 furlongs in the Black Gold S. at Fair Grounds. In between he posted two runner-up finishes, one beaten a head and the other, the Keith Gee Memorial S., beaten a neck. All six of his starts have come on turf, a nod to his sire, the Ramseys’ prolific Kitten’s Joy.
“I think he deserves a chance,” said Maker. “In that first stake at Fair Grounds (the Keith Gee), he almost got up. He was caught inside and I think he was a little intimidated.”
Oscar Nominated will ship to Turfway Thursday or Friday from Trackside in Louisville. Robby Albarado was aboard for the Black Gold win and has the call for Saturday.
Maker also expects to enter Swagger Jagger and Two Step Time. Others under consideration for the Spiral Stakes are Airoforce (trainer Mark Casse); Azar (Todd Pletcher); Crescent Drive (Tom Amoss); Don’t Be So Salty (Gary Contessa); Kasseopia (Graham Motion); Ralis (Doug O’Neill); Surgical Strike (Ben Colebrook); and That Makes Sense (D. Wayne Lukas). Backtogetheragain (Howard Wallace), Gimlet (Pletcher), Zapperini (Greg Foley), and Whatawonderflworld (Casse) are possible but may opt instead for the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway Stakes on the undercard.
Jensen photo courtesy of Fair Grounds' Michael Adolphson via Twitter.