03/30/2016 1:16PM

Airoforce 3-1 favorite in full Spiral field

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Airoforce, who won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in the slop last year, runs on Polytrack in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway on Saturday.

Airoforce has been assigned post 10 as the 3-1 morning-line favorite Saturday in a full field for the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

Fourteen 3-year-olds are entered in the $500,000 Spiral, which is run at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack, although only 12 can start. Besides Airoforce, trained by Mark Casse, other notable Spiral entries include Jensen for Larry Jones, Kasseopia for Graham Motion, Ralis for Doug O’Neill, Azar for Todd Pletcher, and a foursome for Mike Maker, all as separate wagering interests.

Airoforce and Ralis each will be looking to rebound off a subpar effort. Airoforce was 10th in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 20, and Ralis was 10th in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 19.

Of Ralis’s race in the Rebel, O’Neill said, “We’re putting a line through that and seeing how he’s going to act on the synthetic.”

From the rail, this is the main body of the Spiral: That Makes Sense, Surgical Strike, Jensen, Don’t Be So Salty, Oscar Nominated, Two Step Time, Strike Up the Band, Kasseopia, Swagger Jagger, Airoforce, Ralis, and Azar. The two also-eligibles are Crescent Drive and Diplodocus.

The Spiral is worth 50 points to the winner under the Kentucky Derby eligibility system, essentially making it a Win and You’re In toward the Derby. Seven of the last nine Spiral winners have run back in the Derby, most notably Animal Kingdom, the winner of both races in 2011.

The Spiral is the last of just three Derby points races contested on a synthetic surface, and the only one of major consequence. The other two, the Grey Stakes at Woodbine and the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, were worth just 10 points to the winner.

The Spiral post-position draw was held Wednesday at the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, which is the title sponsor for the fourth straight year. This will be the 45th running of the Spiral, which has had a variety of names since it was first run in 1972 at what was then known as Latonia.

First post Saturday is 1:10 p.m. Eastern, with the Spiral set for 5:43 as the 10th of 12 races.

Two other stakes also are set for Turfway’s biggest day. The $100,000 Rushaway Stakes (race 8, post 4:33) drew 12 3-year-olds, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (race 9, 5:07) drew a full gate of 12 3-year-old fillies, plus two also-eligibles.

A pick four with a 14 percent takeout is on the wagering menu for Saturday. It runs from races 7-10 and includes all three stakes, ending with the Spiral.

◗ Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, will lead the post parade for the Spiral. A resident of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, the 16-year-old gelding will be available to visitors in the paddock starting at 11:15 a.m. and will be adjacent to the VIP tent on the track apron for much of the day before being returned to the paddock prior to the Bourbonette.

◗ General admission Saturday at Turfway Park is $5, down from the $10 charged by the track in recent years for the Spiral (admission is free on other days). Spiral ballcaps will be given away to the first 1,000 paid admissions.

◗ Saturday marks the Spiral debut for Jimmy McNerney, who has become the Turfway race-caller with the March 13 retirement of Mike Battaglia.