All eyes will be on the showdown in Florida on Saturday, but don’t sleep on the Kentucky Derby prep race at Turfway Park in Florence.
Airoforce, a member of the Herald-Leader’s original 2016 Derby Dozen, was installed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in an overflow field of 12 for Saturday’s 45th running of the Grade 3, $500,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes.
The 1 1/8 -mile race over Turfway’s Polytrack surface is worth 50 points to the winner in the Road to the Derby series for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds
The Spiral Stakes is Turfway’s signature event and highlights a 12-race card Saturday with three stakes. First post is 1:10 p.m. Post time for the Spiral, Race 10, is 5:43 p.m.
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The race has been overshadowed by the duel of undefeated contenders Mohaymen and Nyquist set for the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream on Saturday.
However, the arrival of Airoforce, who was supplemented to the Spiral Stakes after not originally being nominated, supplies the Turfway prep with a curiosity.
Airoforce displayed potential in winning the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill last fall but opened his sophomore season with a disappointing 10th-place finish as the favorite in last month’s Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. Trainer Mark Casse was unable to find any obvious explanation for the John Oxley-owned colt’s lack of effort that day and remains hopeful that a return to form could earn him a spot in the Derby. Albin Jimenez, the Turfway meet’s leading jockey with 71 wins, will ride Airoforce for the first time and break from post position 10.
Three-time Spiral-winning trainer Todd Pletcher has the 5-1 second choice in Alto Racing’s Azar, winner of the Grade 2 With Anticipation on turf at Saratoga Race Course last summer and winner of his main track debut in a Gulfstream Park allowance last month.
Three horses are co-third choices at 6-1: Jensen, Kasseopia and Ralis.
Surgical Strike, winner of the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway, a prep for the Spiral, is 12-1.
What: Kentucky Derby prep race
Where: Turfway Park in Florence
When: 5:43 p.m.
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Purse: $500,000 (Grade 3)
Spiral Stakes field
1. That Makes Sense 30-1
2. Surgical Strike 12-1
3. Jensen 6-1
4. Don’t Be So Salty 8-1
5. Oscar Nominated 10-1
6. Two Step Time 15-1
7. Strike Up the Band 20-1
8. Kasseopia 6-1
9. Swagger Jagger 20-1
10. Airoforce 3-1
11. Ralis 6-1
12. Azar 5-1
13. Crescent Drive (also eligible)
14. Diplodocus (also eligible)