04/02/2016 6:28PM

Oscar Nominated scores at 23-1 in Spiral Stakes

Coady Photography
Owner Ken Ramsey says he will pay $200,000 to supplement Oscar Nominated to the Kentucky Derby after the colt, ridden by late replacement Brian Hernandez Jr., upset the Spiral Stakes.

FLORENCE, Ky. – The winds of fortune blew in favor of Ken Ramsey once again when Oscar Nominated carried his red and white silks to a 23-1 upset Saturday in an eventful 45th running of the Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes, the annual showcase event at Turfway Park.

Oscar Nominated and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. won the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race in a scramble, as less than a length separated the top five finishers in a field of 12 3-year-olds. Azar was second by a neck, followed in very quick order by Surgical Strike, Two Step Time, and Ralis.

Ramsey said he “absolutely” will pay a $200,000 supplementary fee to run Oscar Nominated in the May 7 Kentucky Derby, as he has not yet been nominated to the Triple Crown. The colt earned 50 Kentucky Derby eligibility points with his victory and therefore is virtually assured a spot in the starting gate.

“We nominated eight horses to the Triple Crown but not this one,” said Ramsey, whose horses compete jointly for him and his wife, Sarah. “This gets you in. Anyone who wants to split the $100,000 to supplement him, I’ll split whatever he earns [in the Triple Crown events].”

Hernandez, meanwhile, only got the mount because Robby Albarado, who was originally named, was taken off all his mounts after checking in overweight for all seven of his scheduled mounts, including the 123-pound impost for the Spiral.

None of that had anything to do with the actual running of the race, which came on a chilly and cloudy day made most memorable by inordinately strong winds. Gusts that blew down the homestretch were reported to reach 40 to 50 miles per hour during much of the card.

Ralis took the early lead in the Spiral before being overtaken down the backstretch by Azar. Leaving the half-mile pole, perhaps only about six lengths separated the entire field, as Oscar Nominated began an outside rally that had him in a prime spot turning for home.

“It set up good for us,” said Hernandez. “You had to be halfway close today, I thought, and on the second turn I thought I was on the best horse. He took me there the rest of the way.”

Oscar Nominated returned $49.20 to win after finishing in 1:51.12. It was the third Spiral win for both the Ramseys and trainer Mike Maker, including their 2010 triumph together with Dean’s Kitten. Maker won in 2006 with longshot With a City, and the Ramseys won in 2014 with We Miss Artie.

Oscar Nominated was sired by Ramsey’s highly accomplished stallion, Kitten’s Joy, but was bred by his original owners, Amerman Racing. Ramsey claimed the colt from Amerman for $75,000 last October at Belmont Park off a winning turf race for maidens. Overall, Oscar Nominated entered the Spiral with two wins from six prior starts, with his other victory coming in the $50,000 Black Gold on the Fair Grounds turf on Feb. 27. He earned $282,000 with his Saturday upset.

As for Albarado, chief steward Barbara Borden cited Kentucky racing regulations that require a jockey being removed from a mount if he is more than five pounds overweight. If a jockey is overweight one to five pounds, the trainer is permitted to replace him without repercussion, an option that Maker chose for Oscar Nominated and several other of his horses Saturday.

Albarado, a winner of more than 4,850 races, has lost bigger mounts in his 26-year career, most notably prior to the 2011 Kentucky Derby. He was named on the program on the eventual winner, Animal Kingdom, only to be replaced by John Velazquez partly because of a facial injury he sustained just days beforehand.

After the top five, the Spiral order was Don’t Be So Salty, Kasseopia, Airoforce, Strike Up the Band, Jensen, Swagger Jagger, and That Makes Sense. The two also-eligibles, Crescent Drive and Diplodocus, were early scratches.

The $2 exacta (5-12) paid $359, the $1 trifecta (5-12-2) returned $1,252.70, and the 10-cent superfecta (5-12-2-6) was worth $1,380.25.

The Spiral ended a pick four wager that returned a whopping $59,053 on a 50-cent ticket; the previous winners were sent away at odds of 42-1, 12-1, and 4-1. Handle was $137,343; meaning only two winning tickets were sold.

Seven of the last nine Spiral winners have run back in the Derby, although two of the last three, Black Onyx (2013) and Dubai Sky (2015) were sidelined beforehand by injury. Two Spiral winners have gone on to capture the Derby: Lil E. Tee (1992) and Animal Kingdom (2011).

The wind caused perilous conditions Saturday, to the extent that the VIP tent was ordered evacuated midway through the 12-race card. Lighter unsecured objects became airborne with regularity, and one Port-a-Potty was seen blowing over on its side on the track apron. Nonetheless, the program unfolded without delay.