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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Spiral Matches Shippers, Locals


Stealcase and the rest of Mark Casse’s Spiral Stakes day contingent shipped from Florida to Churchill Downs on Monday and will ship to Turfway on Saturday for what looks like a big card of racing. In addition to his Grade III Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes hopeful, Casse also plans to send Dynamical and Bluedacious to the Rushaway and Lockout to the Hansel.

The field for the Spiral is expected to be at or near capacity as trainers solidify plans for their Kentucky Derby hopefuls. The race’s $500,000 purse virtually assures the winner a spot in the Derby gate, as proved true for the 2011 Spiral Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom.

Mr. Prankster won the first two local preps for this year’s Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes, racing first at 6 1/2 furlongs and then at a mile, but he finished fourth under John McKee in the third prep, the 1 1/16-mile John Battaglia Memorial on March 3. Trainer Mike Maker looks for him to rebound this Saturday.

“He broke well, but the pace wasn’t quick, and John should have taken control of the race,” said Maker. “He spent half the race trying to talk him out of running and the other half trying to talk him into it. So I’m throwing that one out.”

Putting his money where his mouth is, Maker has tapped Rosie Napravnik, leading rider at Fair Grounds, to ride Mr. Prankster. It will be her first race aboard the colt and her first day at Turfway.

“She’s been riding for us in New Orleans this winter and doing well,” said Maker.

Maker’s other probable for the Spiral Stakes is Tizanexpense, who debuted on Keeneland’s Polytrack but has since run on grass and on dirt. After finishing ninth at Keeneland, he was fourth on the Churchill Downs turf in his second start, won two straight at Fair Grounds in races taken off the turf, and then was seventh under Miguel Mena in his most recent start, the Grade II Risen Star.

“His post position in the Risen Star didn’t help him, and he was really wide around the first turn,” said Maker. “He also almost dropped Miguel. He’s run well on the turf and dirt, and now we’re anxious to get him back on Polytrack.”

Garrett Gomez, who's been off with an injured heel, will be aboard Tizanexpense on Saturday.

Tizanexpense and Mr. Prankster both worked five furlongs at the Churchill Downs Training Center on Saturday. Tizanexpense had the bullet of five at that distance, breezing in :58.80. Mr. Prankster was fourth-fastest at 1:02.60.

Maker’s entire contingent will ship to Turfway on race day. In addition to his two in the feature, the trainer intends to send Original Kitten to the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks, Gung Ho to the Rushaway, and Magical Season to the Hansel.

Having trained Smarty Jones in 2004, John Servis knows a good 3-year-old when he sees one. And he thinks he has a good one in Ill Conceived, who ran a game second in the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway, losing by only a head. Stewart Elliott had the mount.

“I was very happy with the race,” said Servis. “He was getting out a little bit on the turn, lost the lead through the stretch and battled back very gamely to just miss. It was so close. I actually thought he won the race until I saw the photo. For a young horse to do that, I was very happy.”

In the Battaglia, Ill Conceived made all the early pace, engaging in a veritable match race with eventual winner State of Play. Servis, however, envisions different tactics come Saturday.

“He’s better coming from off the pace,” Servis said. “However, he was very sharp coming into that last race, and there wasn’t a lot of pace. That’s one of the reasons he started getting out because Stew cranked him down so much. I don’t expect him to be in front in this race.”

Elliott will be back aboard Ill Conceived on Saturday. The 47-year-old nearly won a Triple Crown for Servis as the regular rider of Smarty Jones.

Ill Conceived will travel by van from Philadelphia to Turfway Park and is expected to arrive in Florence sometime Thursday morning. Servis also will arrive at Turfway on Thursday.

Casse says he's tossing out the Stealcase’s sixth place finish in the Grade III Gotham Stakes March 3.

“The chart caller’s notes say he broke awkwardly in the Gotham,” said Casse. “It was more than awkward; he nearly fell down. You can see it on the head-on. Aqueduct was really speed-biased that day, and our plan was to be very close to the lead, but after that break he lost all chance. I’m not saying I think he would have beaten Hansen that day, but I think we’d have given the second-place horse (My Adonis) a run for his money.

“So he had a serious excuse for that race, but he still has to step up. He still has to prove he can run with the big boys. He needs to be first or second in the Spiral. Then the next step would be the Blue Grass.”

Although the Spiral Stakes will be Stealcase’s first start on an all-weather surface, he trained on it in Ocala. In his most recent work, five furlongs over the dirt at Palm Meadows Training Center, Stealcase breezed a bullet-of-22 1:00.40. Rajiv Maragh will ride Stealcase Saturday for the first time.

Other horses will compete in the Spiral as well, and more will come as the week progresses.

--Edited Turfway Park release

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