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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Dick's Picks: Poker Player the Spiral Gamble

3/20/2014

By Dick Downey
@DowneyProfile


The decision to put Poker Player into the Spiral Stakes lends confidence in the motivations of his connections.

Until recently, the Wayne Catalano trainee was said to be pointed to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, but now we find him at Turfway Park on Saturday. The change in plans could be an indication he is doing really well at the right moment in time.

Poker Player is fun to watch because he runs from the clouds. His speed figures are not among the best in the group, and Solitary Ranger beat him almost five lengths in the John Battaglia Memorial. But Solitary Ranger had the benefit of an easy lead in the Battaglia, and that could change in the Spiral, setting things up for a late runner like Poker Player.

Tamarando is as honest as the day is long. This durable colt has raced 10 times without ever needing freshening, and he is a proven commodity on synthetic track. He looks like a must-use despite the long ship from California for Jerry Hollendorfer.

Todd Pletcher has two entered. We Miss Artie is the grade I winner, but All Tied Up is interesting because of his recent improvement. Despite the fact he was beaten by Big Bazinga last time out, Pletcher is a good judge of when and where a horse might step up to the challenge. We Miss Artie may very well prove me wrong, and he probably will, but his grade I win came on a virtually flooded synthetic track in the Dixiana Breeders Futurity, and I'm still wary of him as a result.

Coastline could upset my plans. This race is a destination for him after having been sent to Ocala to train on synthetic by Mark Casse. His best Brisnet speed figure, and the best in this field, came on the Keenland main track last October, albeit going one turn, and he comes in off of a speedy workout.

The rest of this field does not generate much excitement on paper.

Big Bazinga was beaten 33 lengths in the Holy Bull after coming down from Canada, and then he ran well in one of those 7 1/2-furlong turf races at Gulfstream Park. All Tied Up was a close, closing third in that race.

Asserting Bear could make some noise in his second start off the layoff, and he did run a great race last year in the Coronation Futurity at this distance on synthetic at Woodbine. But, in general, the 3-year-olds that migrated from Canada to Florida this past winter have not excelled.

Smart Cover showed nothing in the Palm Beach. He looks so overmatched, the decision to run him in this spot almost makes me want to put something on him. You have to wonder what's up.

Almost Famous spent 10 days between his last two workouts, and the most recent one was only three furlongs.

Harry's Holiday looks more like a good synthetic sprinter than he does a router.

Arctic Slope drew furthest outside and was hopelessly overmatched in his 2014 debut.

DICK'S PICKS

1. POKER PLAYER
2. TAMARANDO
3. ALL TIED UP
4. WE MISS ARTIE

Saturday, R11
Grade III Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes
Turfway Park
$550,000
1 1/8 Mile
Synthetic
Post Time: 6:28

Post   Horse  ML  Jockey Sx  Wt Trainer
1 Big Bazinga (KY) 30-1 L. Contreras  G 123 K. Vassilieva
2 Asserting Bear (ON) 12-1 J. Rocco, Jr.  C 123 R. Baker
3 Poker Player (KY) 5-1 C. Hill  C 123 W. Catalano
4 Tamarando (CA) 3-1 R. Baze  C 123 J. Hollendorfer
5 Coastline (KY) 8-1 S. Elliott  C 123 M. Casse
6 Smart Cover (KY) 20-1 C. Lanerie  C 123 D. Romans
7 All Tied Up (KY) 12-1 L. Saez  C 123 T. Pletcher
8 Solitary Ranger (KY) 6-1 F. Geroux  C 123 W. Catalano
9 Almost Famous.(KY) 6-1 C. Borel  C 123 P. Byrne
10 Harry's Holiday KY) 20-1 R. Napravnik  C 123 M. Maker
11 We Miss Artie (ON) 4-1 J. Velazquez  C 123 T. Pletcher
12 Arctic Slope (KY) 30-1 A. Jiminez  C 123 K. McPeek

All will run with Lasix

Owners: 1 - Derby Dreamers Racing Stable (Robert S. Bates) ; 2 - Bear Stables, Ltd. (Danny Dion) ; 3 - Gary and Mary West ; 4 - Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams ; 5 - John C. Oxley ; 6 - Donegal Racing (Jerry Crawford) ; 7 - Dogwood Stable (W. Cothran Campbell) ; 8 - Susan Moulton ; 9 - Chuck and Maribeth Sandford, LLC (Chuck and Maribeth Sandford) ; 10 - Skychai Racing, LLC (Harvey Diamond), Terry Raymond and Jana Wagner ; 11 - Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey ; 12 - Shortleaf Stable, Inc. (John Ed Anthony)

Breeders: 1 - Sheltowee Farm, Alfonso Mazzetti, Dr.Robert J Hunt & Rodney Winkle; 2 - John Carey; 3 - Nicholas M. Lotz, Rosemary K. Lotz &Harlan's Holiday Syndicate; 4 - Mr. & Mrs. Larry D. Williams; 5 - DATTT Farm, LLC; 6 - Keene Ridge Racing, LLC; 7 - Chris Cahill & Kirt Cahill; 8 - Richard Forbush & U S Ranger Syndicate; 9 - Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC; 10 - Brereton C. Jones and B. Ned Jones; 11 - Richard L. Lister; 12 - Shortleaf Stable

 

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