03/23/2017 11:50AM

Kitten's Cat can give Ramseys fourth Spiral Stakes win

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Kitten’s Cat (left), shown winning the Kitten’s Joy Stakes, seeks his third stakes victory in the Spiral.

FLORENCE, Ky. – Many Cincinnati-area sports fans think of the Reds’ annual home opener in early April as the unofficial start of spring, but the folks at Turfway Park beg to differ.

“We think it starts with our big day,” Turfway general manager Chip Bach said this week when entries for the Spiral Stakes were drawn before a crowd of local civic leaders.

Indeed, with temperatures expected to be in the low 70s and everyone all gussied up in the big party tent along the homestretch, Saturday will mark a major turning point on the Kentucky racing calendar. The Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral offers 85 qualifying points for the May 6 Kentucky Derby, and that’s enough for everyone to look eagerly ahead while kissing winter goodbye.

Kitten’s Cat is a lukewarm morning-line favorite to give his owners and breeders, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, their fourth victory in the Spiral, which will be run at 1 1/8 miles over Polytrack as the 10th of 12 Saturday races. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern, with the Spiral set for 5:55.

Luis Saez, the leading jockey at the current Gulfstream Park meet, will be in to ride Kitten’s Cat, a two-time stakes winner assigned post 8 in the full gate of 12 3-year-olds.

“He’s gotten more mature and more confident with every race, so I think he would run well from anywhere, but we think he’s a little better drawing outside,” trainer Joe Sharp told Turfway publicity. “If I had been able to pick a post, I’d have picked the 8, so we’re very happy with it. And being the favorite in a $500,000 race never feels bad.”

As rich as the Spiral is, the winner is very unlikely to be considered a serious threat for the Derby, even with the 50 qualifying points being more than enough to assure a spot in the starting gate. None of the 12 starters has won a graded stakes, and moreover, the top contenders all have done their best work so far on turf or synthetics.

Soglio, Parlor, and King and His Court all fit that profile, as their respective connections look to further their options as 2017 unfolds.

“The race has some points, but we’ll see how he goes in this spot,” said Eddie Kenneally, the trainer of Parlor. “We know we have a very good grass horse. Hopefully, he runs a big race Saturday, and we’ll go from there.”

Three trainers with three Spiral wins apiece all are represented in this 46th running of the Turfway showcase. Graham Motion sends Soglio here from Southern California, Todd Pletcher sends Bronson north from Florida, and Mike Maker is represented by the longshot trio of Fast and Accurate, Shiraz, and En Hanse.

Soglio, second in the Eddie Logan Stakes in late December, most recently was third as an odds-on favorite in a first-level turf allowance Feb. 5.

“We were going to run him in an allowance race at Santa Anita, but he came up with a foot abscess, so we had to scratch,” Motion said. “Since then, he’s been doing very well and working well. [The Spiral] is one that I’ve had in the back of my mind with him for a while. I think that the mile and an eighth will help him, so we’re giving it a shot.”

Maker’s three prior Spiral triumphs all came at prices: With a City (48-1 in 2006), Dean’s Kitten (6-1 in 2010), and Oscar Nominated (23-1 in 2016). Once again, Maker is the leading trainer at the Turfway winter-spring meet, even with his best horses stabled elsewhere.

The Spiral, known under a variety of labels since its 1972 inception, is sponsored this year by JACK Cincinnati Casino. It will be preceded by two other stakes, the $100,000 Rushaway (race 8) and the Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (race 9) when packaged in a pick-four wager that has a 14 percent takeout rate and ends with a competitive maiden special weight event (race 11). A pick five (races 8-12) also starts with the Rushaway.

General admission Saturday is $5, with the first 1,200 fans receiving Spiral ballcaps. Gates open at 9 a.m. to allow wagering on and viewing of the Dubai World Cup from Meydan.

Two Spiral winners have gone on to win the Derby: Lil E. Tee in 1992 and Animal Kingdom in 2011.

KEY CONTENDERS

Kitten’s Cat, by Kitten’s Joy
Last 3 Beyers: 85-87-76

◗ He was defeated only a length in his last start by Ticonderoga, widely regarded as one of the leaders in North America’s 3-year-old turf division.

Soglio, by Scat Daddy
Last 3 Beyers: 77-79-80

◗ This Flaxman Holdings homebred comes well drawn in post 2 with one of Motion’s go-to riders, Trevor McCarthy, picking up the mount.

Parlor, by Lonhro
Last 3 Beyers: 79-74-50

◗ His allowance victory last out at Tampa Bay Downs was visually impressive and is likely to garner him plenty of wagering support here.

King and His Court, by Court Vision
Last 3 Beyers: 60-72-74

◗ His November triumph in a restricted stakes over the Woodbine synthetic surface in his first start for Mark Casse points him out as a viable threat.