03/21/2012 2:28PM

Turfway Park: Motion, Team Valor follow familiar path with Went the Day Well in Spiral

Bob Coglianese
Went the Day Well is going from a maiden win on March 3 at Gulfstream Park to the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.

There are no marquee names scheduled to run in the Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday, kind of like how it looked on the eve of the race last year. But, it turned out, that look was an illusion.

The Spiral was won by Animal Kingdom, who was making his stakes debut and had yet to run on dirt. But six weeks later, Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby and followed that with a second-place finish in the Preakness Stakes, performances that helped him secure the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male for 2011.

Can lightning strike anew? The same owner, trainer, and jockey who combined to win the Derby with Animal Kingdom are joining forces for the Spiral with Went the Day Well. Like Animal Kingdom, the Spiral will be Went the Day Well’s stakes debut. But unlike Animal Kingdom, Went the Day Well already has proven form on dirt, having defeated maidens in his last start at Gulfstream Park.

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Asked how Went the Day Well measures up to Animal Kingdom at this point in his career, trainer Graham Motion said, “They’re very comparable, actually.”

“I think he has benefited from his races in this country, without a doubt,” Motion said on a national teleconference earlier this week. “He showed significant improvement in his maiden win. We are in a similar situation to where we were with Animal Kingdom last year. Animal Kingdom was green, laid-back, this time last year. I never imagined he was going to be my first Derby winner. This horse is comparable, if not ahead.”

Went the Day Well – who is by Proud Citizen and out of a Tiznow mare – ran twice on turf last year in Great Britain, finishing second both times in maiden races. Brought to this country by the Team Valor International partnership headed by Barry Irwin, Went the Day Well finished fourth against maidens at Gulfstream on Feb. 4 after a horrible trip, then beat maidens March 3.

“Barry bought the horse with the idea of running him on the dirt, because he has a dirt pedigree,” Motion said. “He’s a very attractive horse, and he’s very talented.”

Motion said Went the Day Well was “held up in quarantine when he arrived in Miami,” so he’s been “playing catch-up ever since.” Irwin said the quarantine delay likely cost Went the Day Well an additional start earlier this year. Regardless, his recent progress makes the Spiral a tempting spot.

“We felt like we should give him a chance,” Motion said.

John Velazquez, who rode Animal Kingdom in last year’s Derby, will ride Went the Day Well for the first time Saturday.

In addition to Went the Day Well, Motion and Team Valor have several other promising 3-year-olds, all of whom have upcoming starts in stakes.

Howe Great, who has been a terror on turf this winter at Gulfstream Park, goes next in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 14 following his victory last time out in the Palm Beach Stakes.

Lucky Chappy arrived Wednesday in Dubai, where he will compete in the Grade 2, $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby on March 31 over a synthetic surface, which Irwin believes he prefers.

State of Play will remain on turf, for the Grade 3, $100,000 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland on April 6, after being considered for the Spiral.

None, though, will be asked to go to the Derby just to go to the Derby. Even last year with Animal Kingdom, the decision to run in the race was not made until Animal Kingdom had a brilliant workout on dirt at Churchill Downs the weekend before the Derby. Only then was it all systems go.

Motion, 47, said the Derby win has not changed his approach to training.

“It certainly gives you more confidence,” he said. “And people perhaps feel that you are a more capable trainer. But I still feel I have the same principles. And perhaps there’s not as much pressure to win the Derby, having had an Animal Kingdom.”

Motion said the Derby win made him more recognized within racing, and he finds it amusing that he is now sought out for opinions on the Derby, being as before Animal Kingdom, his Triple Crown record was rather threadbare.

The Derby did, though, give Motion the understanding of, he said, “what it takes to win the Derby.”

About Went the Day Well, he will find out more Saturday.

◗ The second deadline for nominations to the Triple Crown closes Saturday night. Horses can be nominated for $6,000 this time, and this second nomination deadline usually yields about a dozen additional runners. Those names will be announced early next week. There were 398 nominations at an earlier deadline, in January, for $600.