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Mar 30, 2012

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-SPIRAL-SUNLAND

By: JOE GIRARDI


On the weekend of March 24-25th there were two prep races for the Kentucky Derby at two different tracks over two different surfaces. The Vinery Spiral at Turfway Park over the Polytrack and the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park over a conventional dirt surface.

               A field of 12 went postward for the Grade 3 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes, run over the polytrack at 1 1/8th miles for a purse of $500,000. The favorite in the race was the undefeated HEAVY BREATHING from the Todd Pletcher barn. He had won his first two starts at Gulfstream by a combined 12 lengths going off the favorite in both starts. As the gates opened, HEAVY BREATHING was sent right to the lead while being tracked by ILL CONCEIVED and the longshot RED JACK tracking from third. As they went down the backstretch through solid fractions of 23, 46:4, 1:11:4 HEAVY BREATHING and jockey Javier Castellano continued to lead as ILL CONCEIVED started to back up, in the mean time the third choice in the race WENT THE DAY WELL had gotten a cozy spot down on the rail in behind the speed with some great race riding from John Velazquez. Moving into the middle of the turn HEAVY BREATHING held the lead while under pressure as WENT THE DAY WELL angled off the rail to challenge as well as HOLIDAY PROMISE, the other Pletcher trainee in the race, sent off at 25-1, had moved up to challenge the leaders. Into the lane, WENT THE DAY WELL took over the lead but was still racing greenly as HOLIDAY PROMISE was challenging, HEAVY BREATHING was digging in down on the rail. As they got inside the 1/8th pole, WENT THE DAY WELL straightened out and took off to the wire to score going away in impressive fashion by more than three lengths. HOLIDAY PROMISE, in a very solid effort finished second by a length over HEAVY BREATHING who was third. HANDSOME MIKE, the second choice in the race at 7-2 had a very tough post 12 and was forced to try and close from last, a horse that usually is up on the pace. He fast closing fourth was a solid effort and should be given another shot on this Road to the Derby.

               WENT THE DAY WELL, a New York Bred owned by Team Valor and trained by Graham Motion, there was some déjà vu for the fans as they remembered back to last year’s Spiral winner, ANIMAL KINGDOM, who was also owned by Team Valor and trained by Graham Motion. ANIMAL KINGDOM went on to the win the Kentucky Derby and WENT THE DAY WELL, who is very much on the improve and moved near the top of many experts Derby lists.

               On Sunday March 25th at Sunland Park they hosted the Grade III Sunland Park Derby run over 1 1/8th miles with a purse of $800,000, very tempting to those horses trying to garner some graded earnings. Eight horses went postward with Bob Baffert trainee CASTAWAY going off as the 8-5 favorite. As the gates opened CASTAWAY and Todd Pletcher trainee, ENDER KNIEVEL both came out of the gate running, battling head to head for the lead through fractions of 22:2, 46:1, 1:10:4 while being tracked by ISN’T HE CLEVER who was laying in third. ISN’T HE CLEVER moved to take over the lead in the middle of the turn as the leaders started to back up. The third choice in the race and the winner of the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate was DADDY NOSE BEST who was closing strongly on the outside to get up to score over ISN’T HE CLEVER in a solid final time of 1:48:2. A few things to take away from this race, DADDY NOSE BEST has gotten two very good trips in his last two wins and would really have to improve to be a factor on Derby Day. The second thing to take is that ISN’T HE CLEVER, is a very talented horse he was moved too soon in the Sunland Park Derby but he will probably be best at the middle distances. The third thing to take from the race is that CASTAWAY who won the slower half of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn is not a top Derby contender regardless of the early speed duel.

               The Florida Derby and the UAE Derby are next week and will start to clear up the Kentucky Derby picture.



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