03/21/2013 3:58PM

Spiral Stakes: Velazquez has difficult assignment on Capo Bastone

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Tom Keyser
Capo Bastone must avoid getting fanned wide from post 12 in the Spiral Stakes.

FLORENCE, Ky. – The far outside post? Many horsemen will tell you they actually prefer it for a one-turn race. But going two turns? Um, no.

“It’s certainly not the post position we would’ve chosen,” trainer Todd Pletcher said in typical understatement regarding Capo Bastone and jockey John Velazquez being assigned post 12 for the 42nd running of the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park. “But there’s enough run into the first turn that hopefully he can maneuver over, maybe tuck in a little bit and save some ground. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Johnny. I’m sure he can figure it out.”

[SPIRAL STAKES: Get Turfway past performances, watch video previews]

Capo Bastone, owned by the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners group headed by Aron Wellman, comes off a narrow victory in a first-level, two-turn allowance over the Gulfstream Park slop. That was the colt’s first race for Pletcher after he ran four times last year in California for John Sadler, starting with a maiden win over Polytrack at Del Mar.

“We felt like the timing was good for this race,” Pletcher said. “The colt has had experience and success over this kind of track,” referring to the Polytrack at Turfway.

Pletcher already has won the Spiral twice, with Balto Star in 2001 and Flower Alley in 2005. Both wound up as also-rans in the Kentucky Derby.

Pletcher, well on his way to an unprecedented 10th straight training title at Gulfstream, said he soon will have about 18 horses stabled at Churchill Downs and will be active at the 16-day Keeneland spring meet that starts April 5. Assistant Whit Beckman will oversee the Kentucky string.

Horseshoe high rollers on hand

Kevin Kline, vice president and general manager of Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, spoke about Turfway in glowing terms when the Spiral post-position draw was held Wednesday at the shiny new $450 million casino in downtown Cincinnati.

Horseshoe and Turfway are both owned in part by Caesars Entertainment. Horseshoe upped the Spiral purse by $50,000, to $550,000, and Kline said when addressing the luncheon crowd that the company is “very committed to reinvesting in Turfway.”

Turfway general manager Chip Bach said some of the top casino customers will be in attendance Saturday in the traditional upscale tent, for which amenities have been improved from prior years so as to more closely replicate the deluxe accommodations of a casino.

* For those keeping score at home, here is the history of the names for the Turfway showcase race: Spiral Stakes (1972-81); Jim Beam Stakes (1982-98); Galleryfurniture.com Stakes (1999); Turfway Spiral Stakes (2000-01); Lane’s End Stakes (2002-10); Vinery Racing Spiral (2011-12); Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral (2013-?).

* After Saturday, just two more dates will be left at the Turfway winter-spring meet (March 29-30). After five dark days on the Kentucky circuit, Keeneland will kick off its meet April 5 with the biannual College Scholarship Day.