03/19/2013 1:35PM

Turfway Park: Balance the Books taking Spiral shot

Tom Keyser
In the Spiral, Balance the Books will be making his first start since finishing third in the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Chad Brown long ago circled the Palm Beach Stakes as the starting point for Balance the Books this year. But when the colt came down with a temperature a couple of weeks before that March 3 grass race at Gulfstream Park, “we had to go to Plan B,” Brown said this week from his winter headquarters at the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida.

Nearly three weeks delayed, Balance the Books will be making his first start since finishing third in the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – and his first on a surface other than turf – when he is part of a full field of 3-year-olds Saturday in the annual showcase at Turfway Park, the $550,000 Spiral Stakes.

“It’s all fine by me,” Brown said. “This may work out anyway. There’s more money and Derby points involved, and if the horse runs well and comes out of it good, we can go to Keeneland for a second prep before the Derby.”

The Spiral, run at 1 1/8 miles over Polytrack, is worth 50 points to the winner in the new system being used for eligibility into the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Balance the Books, a bay colt by Lemon Drop Kid, has had nine works over the dirt surface at Palm Meadows since getting a brief rest following the Breeders’ Cup, which was his fourth start as a 2-year-old. He is owned by the Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence.

“He’s doing great,” said Brown, who has two other Derby hopefuls in his Palm Meadows barn in Normandy Invasion and Noble Tune. “We’ll take a shot on the Poly and see how he does. He had a lot of training and racing at 2, so the break did him real well. We’re eager to get his year started.”

The Spiral will be limited to 12 starters, with two more on an also-eligible list. Entries were to be drawn Wednesday at the brand-new Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cincinnati, which is sponsoring the race. As of Tuesday, Turfway had a list of 16 horses wanting into the race.

Daylong television coverage of the Saturday card will be provided by TVG, while a crew from the NBC Sports Network will be on hand to gather footage for a March 30 broadcast. Also, the Horse Racing Radio Network will have extensive raceday coverage.

Turfway officials announced the new casino sponsorship last month. Their signature race has been known by a variety of names since its 1972 inaugural, most recently as the Vinery Racing Spiral for the last two years.

Pure Fun heads Bourbonette

Pure Fun, winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet, looms a solid favorite in one of the two supporting stakes on the Spiral undercard, the $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks. Trained by Ken McPeek, Pure Fun will be making her first start since the Dec. 8 Starlet after having five workouts at Gulfstream Park.

Despite the presence of Pure Fun, Turfway officials were expecting a sizable field of 3-year-old fillies for the one-mile Bourbonette, which is worth 50 points toward Kentucky Oaks eligibility to the winner.

The Spiral undercard also will feature the $75,000 Team Valor Rushaway Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Several of the Rushaway prospects would run instead in the Spiral if they can make the field, including Cerro and Crop Report, both owned by Team Valor.

International challenge on tap

Turfway announced earlier this week the respective teams for the “BCTC International Catch a Riding Star” challenge race, a riding competition to be held as the sixth race Spiral Day.

The “Team World” riders hail from Germany, France, India, Puerto Rico, Sweden, and Panama. Most are graduates of racing schools in their home countries. “Team USA” includes riders from across the country, most of whom attended the North American Racing Academy program overseen by Chris McCarron in Lexington, Ky.

Awards will be given both to the winning rider and the team with the most points as determined by finish positions. There will be parimutuel wagering, with Turfway and horsemen donating their share of the handle to help support the racing academy.

Leparoux headed to Kentucky

Julien Leparoux, the leading rider at the last five meets and nine times overall at Keeneland, said over the weekend that he will leave Southern California for about a month to ride the Keeneland spring meet (April 5-26) and through Kentucky Derby week at Churchill Downs.

Joe Ferrer will remain working as agent for Leparoux, who moved to California last spring after years or riding primarily in Kentucky, New York, and Florida.

◗ With just five days to go at the Turfway winter-spring meet, there is a logjam atop the trainer standings. Three men were tied with nine wins each – Kellyn Gorder, Jeff Greenhill, and Burton Sipp – while Kim Hammond and the perennial leading trainer, Mike Maker, were right behind them with eight. The meet runs through March 30.

The race for leading jockey was sewn up weeks ago by Norberto Arroyo Jr., who entered this week with 40 wins at the meet.

◗ The third and final pool in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager opens Friday at noon Eastern. The committee that assembles lineups tentatively has six new horses for Pool 3, which closes at 6 p.m. Sunday. Bettors can account for the Spiral results from Saturday, but post time (5:40 p.m. Mountain) for the Sunland Derby is well past when the pool closes.

◗ As part of Spiral week, Turfway is expanding what has been the customary two-day race week to three with a 10-race Thursday card. First post is 5:30 p.m. Eastern.