FLORENCE — The first Saturday in May hasn't been a priority where Dubai Sky is concerned. His connections let the early nomination period for the Triple Crown pass without throwing his name and the $600 fee into the mix.
They have until 11:59 p.m. EDT Monday to make him a late nominee. The $6,000 late fee and why such a route should be considered was taken care of Saturday when the bay colt surged to a 21/4-length victory in the Grade III, $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, earning 50 qualifying points toward a start in the Kentucky Derby.
Owned by Three Chimneys Farm and Ben Leon's Besilu Stables, Dubai Sky came into the Spiral slightly under the radar, trying both a synthetic track and graded stakes company for the first time. His potential class spoke for itself, however, as he came into the 11⁄8-mile test having won three of his four prior career starts, all on turf, including a head victory in the Kitten's Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24.
The decision to go to the Spiral was largely made on the fact Turfway's Polytrack surface plays favorably to turf horses. Though non-committal about a possible Kentucky Derby venture, his connections suggested that a late nomination was at the very least a worthy consideration.
"He paid his way (for the late nomination) so we'll see," said Chris Baker, chief operating officer for Three Chimneys. "It would be hard at this time of year with 50 points not to at least think about it.
"The horse has shown talent so we felt good. It was just a matter of did he like the surface, could he get the trip he needed from the No. 12 hole. All those things. He showed up and did what we wanted and more."
Running on the anti-bleeder medication Lasix for the first time, the Bill Mott trainee had the disadvantage of breaking from the outside post No. 12 in the Spiral field.
Jockey Jose Lezcano was able to hustle the bay colt into fourth position before they hit the first turn and had Dubai Sky tracking four wide just alongside stakes winner Royal Son as the opening half-mile went in :47.57 after Watchyourownbobber took the 11-horse field through the first quarter in :22.99.
Royal Son was able to poke his head in front from between horses on the final turn, but Dubai Sky was rolling three wide at that juncture and put that one away, opening up by 2 lengths in midstretch en route to rewarding backers that sent him off at 7-1 odds.
"I thought the outside would be better today. He took me to the quarter pole and I saw Mike Smith (on eventual runner-up Conquest Typhoon) behind me, and I said, 'It's time to go,'" Lezcano said. "My horse really took off when I asked him."
Final time for the 11⁄8 miles was 1:50.26.
Multiple graded stakes winner Conquest Typhoon made a game run to get second by a neck over Firespike, prompting trainer Mark Casse to consider a trip to Churchill Downs for the newly named Pat Day Mile, formerly the Derby Trial, on Derby Day.
"Our goal is the Queen's Plate (at Woodbine on July 5) with him," Casse said of Conquest Typhoon. "Obviously we'd love to win the Kentucky Derby but we want to be realistic."
The connections of Dubai Sky now have a happy dilemma of their own.
"We just thought this race would fit his style and we thought he might be ready to step up," said Case Clay of Three Chimneys. "Bill (Mott) has done such a nice job training him that we'll want to talk to him before making any (Derby) decisions."
One week after Gold Medal Dancer defeated champion Untapable in the Grade II Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn, fellow Pin Oak Stud homebred Don't Leave Me gave the operation more graded stakes glory when she won the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks by three-quarters of a length over Sweet Success.
Don't Leave Me was making her first start since finishing sixth in the Grade II Natalma on the turf at Woodbine last Sept. 13. After tracking in ninth early on in the 12-horse field, she made a wide bid and edged clear late.
"At this point, I think we'd probably stick to turf or synthetic with her," said Pin Oak's Clifford Berry when asked about possibly going on to the Kentucky Oaks.