04/03/2016 1:42PM

Road to the Derby: Spiral Stakes

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Spiral Stakes winner Oscar Nominated has yet to run on dirt, but will be supplemented to the Kentucky Derby.

Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes, Turfway Park, April 2, 2016

 (50 Derby qualifying points for a win, 20 for second, 10 for third, 5 for fourth)

 Winner: Oscar Nominated, by Kitten’s Joy

 Trainer: Mike Maker

 Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

 Owner: Ken and Sarah Ramsey

 Beyer Speed Figure: 82

 OSCAR NOMINATED was not nominated to the Triple Crown for $600 in January nor $6,000 in March, which shows how much Kentucky Derby-loving owner Ken Ramsey must have thought of him at those points. But after his victory in this race Ramsey is going to the Derby on May 7, because Oscar Nominated earned 50 points, and the first-prize money of $282,000 will cover the $200,000 supplement Ramsey will have to put up at entry time May 4 to run. That supplement will make Oscar Nominated eligible to the Preakness and Belmont, too.

 When Churchill Downs first switched over to a points system from graded earnings for the Derby, horses not nominated to the Triple Crown went to the back of the line for the Derby if more than the maximum 20 entered, even if they had more points than those in the top 20 who were original nominees. Under that system, if, say, 24 horses entered the Derby and the other 23 were original nominees, Oscar Nominated would have been considered ranked 24th.

 

The rules were subsequently tweaked, so now a horse can be supplemented and not lose his position. Oscar Nominated’s 50 points will easily secure him a place in the race, and even though it’s an expensive proposition to supplement, Ramsey has said he will do it with a horse he claimed last October for $75,000.

It’s tough to make a serious case for Oscar Nominated, though. He has yet to run on dirt, has a turf pedigree top and bottom (he’s out of a Theatrical mare), and his figure in this race was soft, inferior even to the 90 earned by He’ll Pay when winning the less-prestigious Rushaway earlier on the card.

 In the Spiral, Oscar Nominated raced mid-pack while just off the rail around the first turn, was angled wide down the backstretch, advanced while four paths wide on the far turn, battled bravely through the lane while appearing to want to lug in, and got the best of AZAR in the closing yards, with three additional rivals all within a length of him at the finish.

 Azar, who finished second, was able to get over from his outside draw to vie for the lead around the first turn while outside RALIS. He was quite keen entering the backstretch and pulled his way to the lead, became more manageable while still leading nearing the far turn, was challenged from all sides entering the lane, went with Oscar Nominated until deep stretch but could not keep up late.

 SURGICAL STRIKE, who was third, had no early speed and was near the back while saving ground early, was taken wide entering the far turn, made a bold brush while about five or six paths wide, closed down the center of the track but couldn’t quite get there in time.

 TWO STEP TIME, who was fourth, went into the first turn in the second flight of horses, just behind the leaders, was a bit rank into the backstretch while racing between AIROFORCE and JENSEN, settled down while heading down the backstretch, had to bide his time in traffic on the turn while following Azar, gradually angled out for room through the lane and kept to his task.

 Ralis, who finished fifth, was asked leaving the gate from his outside stall and made the top into the first turn with Azar right alongside. He volleyed for the lead with Azar through the far turn and into the lane, looked like he was going to be outrun in upper stretch, but hung in there best he could and only lost by about a length.

DON’T BE SO SALTY, who was sixth, broke awkwardly to his right, saved ground while towards the rear into the first turn while appearing to lug out, did not appear to enjoy being behind horses down the backstretch, was gradually angled off the rail on the far turn and came into the lane about four paths wide, right behind Oscar Nominated, but was outrun through the final furlong.

 KASSEOPIA, who was seventh, broke a step slow, had no early speed, and raced toward the rear into the first turn. He raced between rivals down the backstretch, got room to roll entering the far turn and made a nice rally while wide, was on Oscar Nominated’s hip entering the lane, but failed to continue his rally in upper stretch, then had to check late while between rivals, though he had lost his punch by then.

 Airoforce, who was eighth, got over from his outside draw and was third into the first turn, on the rail behind Azar and Ralis while appearing a bit keen. He moved up inside Ralis five furlongs out but had to check out of a tight spot, followed Ralis around the far turn, but had no acceleration in the lane. He has had two subpar efforts this year after a very strong 2-year-old campaign that included a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

 STRIKE UP THE BAND, who was ninth, veered out slightly at the start, appeared to have his heels clipped by SWAGGER JAGGER about 100 yards into the race, raced about four paths wide while in the second half of the field around the first turn, was outrun heading into the far turn, and was wide while in the clear entering the lane while continuing to be outrun.

 Jensen, who was 10th, saved ground in fifth, just behind Airoforce, around the first turn, was angled outside into the backstretch and moved up to third, outside Azar and Ralis, tried to go with Azar and Oscar Nominated nearing the quarter pole, but could not keep up and faded.

 Swagger Jagger, who was 11th, appeared to clip the heels of Strike Up the Band soon after the start, nearly dislodging jockey Cisco Torres. He wound up about five paths wide into the first turn, outside of Strike Up the Band, remained extremely wide down the backstretch and into the far turn, saw Surgical Strike blow by him to his inside on the far turn but had no response.

 THAT MAKES SENSE, who finished last of 12, dropped far back going into the first turn and trailed badly throughout.