03/23/2017 1:40PM

Blueridge Traveler makes stakes debut in Spiral

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Blueridge Traveler (9) makes his stakes debut Saturday after breaking his maiden last time out.

Blueridge Traveler might be one of the most aptly named horses running Saturday at Turfway Park.

It’s already been a bit of a journey for the colt, who after a series of troubled trips finally won his maiden last time out at Oaklawn Park. Now, his travels are taking him to his stakes debut. He shipped this week from Arkansas to Keeneland and will take the short van ride up the highway to Florence, Ky., on Saturday morning for the Spiral Stakes.

His connections are racking up the frequent-flier miles, too.

“Blueridge Traveler is coming up to the race really well,” trainer Ken McPeek said this week from Dubai, where he will saddle the Brazilian-born Vettori Kin in the Group 2 United Arab Emirates Derby on Saturday. That race is worth 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner; however, Vettori Kin, as a Southern Hemisphere 3-year-old, is considered 4 by Northern Hemisphere timekeeping and is thus ineligible for the American Triple Crown.

But McPeek has plenty of activity to keep an eye on in the Kentucky Derby preps stateside. In addition to the Spiral, the barn will send out Oxford Lane in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby on Sunday. It’s Your Nickel won the John Battaglia Memorial last month at Turfway Park and likely would have been among the favorites in the Spiral. Instead, he opts for the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes in two weeks at Keeneland.

That leaves Blueridge Traveler as the stable’s representative in the Spiral. This goal was far from mind when the colt had a nearly disastrous racing debut Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs, going postward in a maiden race in which only seven of the 12 starters finished. He finished fifth after avoiding fallen horses.

Blueridge Traveler returned to the races Dec. 3 at Fair Grounds, where he was badly bumped at the break but recovered to finish second. He again found traffic trouble late in a race in January, but by then, runaway winner Local Hero was long gone. Local Hero subsequently finished third in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes.

Blueridge Traveler finally put it all together last month in a maiden special weight race at Oaklawn, where, despite breaking slowly, he rallied furiously between horses in the lane to get up by a head and punch his ticket into tougher company.

Blueridge Traveler has made all of his starts at distances longer than a mile.

“He wants more distance, [and] I think he’ll like the Polytrack,” McPeek said. “Should be an exciting weekend.”