08/30/2017 10:12AM

Spiral gets purse, Derby points cut

Barbara D. Livingston
Animal Kingdom won the Spiral and then the Kentucky Derby in 2011.

The annual showcase event at Turfway Park, the Spiral Stakes, has undergone a reduction in its point value toward Kentucky Derby eligibility and a major purse cut.

Officials at Turfway in northern Kentucky announced Tuesday that the Grade 3 Spiral, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack, will be worth just 20 Derby points to the winner (and 34 overall) when it is renewed March 17, one week earlier than the 2017 edition. Since Churchill instituted its points system in 2013, the Spiral had been worth 50 points to the winner (and 85 overall). In addition, the Spiral purse has been slashed from $500,000 to just $200,000.

Churchill was expected to release its full points-race schedule for the 2018 Kentucky Derby and Oaks on Thursday.

The Spiral, one of the few Derby preps still run on a synthetic surface, has produced no serious Derby contenders since Animal Kingdom won both the Spiral and the Derby in 2011. Turfway has used Polytrack since September 2005.

The 2017 Spiral winner, Fast and Accurate, finished 17th at 41-1 in the Derby. With 50 points to the winner, the Spiral essentially had been a Win and You’re In toward the Derby. In most years, 20 points has been near the cutoff for horses to make the 20-horse Derby field.

The downgrading of the Spiral comes with two new races on its undercard: the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Classic, a 1 1/8-mile race for older horses, and the $75,000 Latonia Cup, a six-furlong race for older fillies and mares. The Kentucky Cup Classic was last run in 2011 at a September meet that no longer exists.

Two mainstays of Spiral Day, the Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks and the $75,000 Rushaway, remain intact.

In another change to the stakes program, Turfway announced all stakes will be run on Friday nights instead of Saturday, with the exception of Spiral Day and the March 31 WEBN Stakes. Two stakes will be run at the holiday meet, which runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 31 and will be followed without interruption by the winter spring meet (Jan. 1 to March 31).