03/26/2017 11:14AM

Road to the Derby: Spiral Stakes analysis


Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, Turfway Park, March 25, 2017

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

Winner: Fast and Accurate, by Hansen

Trainer: Mike Maker

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Owner: Kendall Hansen

Beyer Speed Figure: 82

The Spiral is a “Win and You’re In” for the Kentucky Derby, since the winner gets 50 points, but other than Animal Kingdom – who proved his dirt aptitude with a strong workout the weekend before the 2011 Derby at Churchill Downs -- this race hasn’t had much of an impact since Turfway switched to a synthetic surface. That’s great for the racing the track does in harsh, winter weather, but as far as a Derby prep, not so much.

This year’s race seems similarly destined, as the victorious FAST AND ACCURATE got an anemic figure of 82, one that makes sense, since his previous best was a 77, and the first six runners were within three lengths of one another, usually indicative of a moderate fig at best.

Fast and Accurate has raced once on dirt, and got a Beyer figure of 27. Since then, though, he has added Lasix and has won three straight races on turf and synthetic. He was not nominated to the Triple Crown, not for $600 in January, nor even for $6,000 at a deadline just five days before the Spiral, but after the race Hansen, his owner, said he’d put up the $200,000 supplemental fee to make Fast and Accurate eligible to run in the Derby and the rest of the Triple Crown. He earned a first prize of $285,000 for the Spiral. Easy come, easy go.

In the Spiral, Fast and Accurate saved ground around the first turn while just behind his pacesetting stablemate, EN HANSE. He stayed in that spot for much of the backstretch before being smartly angled to the three path by jockey Tyler Gaffalione nearing the far turn to secure a clear spot to rally. He advanced on En Hanse on the far turn and took the lead just after passing the quarter pole, drifted out in upper stretch and weaved a bit through the lane but held off a phalanx of challengers to prevail.

BLUERIDGE TRAVELER, who was second, lacked speed and was ninth into the first turn while saving ground from his inside draw. He was ridden along aggressively down the backstretch and with increasing urgency into the far turn, was able to remain on the rail around the turn and through the lane but came up just a bit short despite a gorgeous trip in his first start on synthetic. There were times in the race when he was getting sprayed pretty good by the synthetic, and he didn’t seem to enjoy it.

CONVICT PIKE, who was third, was angled to the rail and saved ground while midpack around the first turn, advanced inside to the spot vacated by Fast and Accurate heading into the far turn, was shoved along aggressively passing the three-furlong pole, was angled around En Hanse and split horses in upper stretch, drifted out and then back in and appeared to run out of steam in the final 50 yards.

KITTEN’S CAT, who finished fourth, was squeezed back between rivals coming under the wire for the first time and appeared to clip heels, raced about three paths wide while midpack around the first turn, raced in the clear in the three path around the far turn, made a strong run to loom a bold threat a furlong out, but couldn’t quite finish off the race.

BRONSON, who was fifth, stumbled badly leaving the gate, took a bump from GIANT PAYDAY early on the first turn, raced four paths wide around the first turn, was three paths wide while in the clear on the far turn, cut back toward the two path near the quarter pole, then split horses while weaving through traffic through the lane. He carried his head high, as though he wasn’t comfortable over the surface. This was his first time on synthetic.

GIANT PAYDAY, who was sixth, bobbled slightly leaving the gate, gave Bronson a hip check early on the first turn, raced in the three path around that turn, lost ground late on the first turn, continued to drop back toward the rear of the pack nearing the far turn, raced three paths wide around the far turn, then made a belated run in the middle of the track through the lane. He ran in spots. Perhaps he needs blinkers?

SOGLIO, who was seventh, stumbled at the start, was in front of just one horse while in the two path entering the first turn, entered the far turn near the rear of the pack while in the four path, was a bit late to change leads in upper stretch and passed a few tired rivals through the lane.

PARLOR, who finished eighth, showed good speed to move into the first turn in a stalking position, just behind and outside of En Hanse. He raced lapped on En Hanse down the backstretch and into the far turn, was asked urgently when Fast and Accurate ranged up outside him, but began to weaken and then faded through the final furlong.

En Hanse, who was ninth, was sent from his outside draw and was able to get over to the rail and lead into the first turn. He continued to lead down the backstretch and around the far turn, put away Parlor, couldn’t go with Fast and Accurate in upper stretch and then emptied out badly with 150 yards to go, at which point Robby Albarado mercifully let him coast to the wire.

KING AND HIS COURT, who was 10th, broke a bit slow, lacked speed and trailed into the first turn while in the three path, never could get over down the backstretch and went into the far turn near the rear while about five paths wide, began to weaken badly in upper stretch and, like En Hanse, was pretty much eased in the late going.

COLONEL SAMSEN, who finished last of 11, had to check slightly off the heels of En Hanse coming under the wire the first time but went around the first turn in a terrific stalking position, in fourth, in about the two or three path. He raced in mid-pack nearing the far turn, but went in reverse beginning three furlongs out, was last entering the lane, and was being eased up as he crossed the wire, well behind his rivals.