Airoforce is 3-1 Spiral Stakes Favorite

December 10, 2019


FLORENCE, Ky. (March 30, 2016) – John Oxley’s Airoforce, winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last fall, is the 3-1 morning line favorite in an overflow field of 12 for Saturday’s 45th running of the Grade 3, $500,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. Not originally nominated, Airoforce was supplemented to the Spiral Stakes.

The 1 1/8-mile event over Turfway’s all-weather Polytrack surface is worth 85 points, including 50 to the winner, in the “Road to the Derby” series for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds aiming to earn a spot in the world’s most famous horse race, the May 7 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

The Spiral Stakes is Turfway’s signature event and highlights a 12-race card with three stakes. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern. Post time for the Spiral, Race 10, is 5:43 p.m.

Airoforce opened his sophomore season with a disappointing 10th as the favorite in last month’s Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. Trainer Mark Casse was unable to find any obvious explanation for the Colonel John colt’s lack of effort that day and remains hopeful that a return to form could earn him a spot in the Derby. Albin Jimenez, the Turfway meet’s leading jockey with 71 wins and a 24-percent strike rate, will ride Airoforce for the first time and break from post position 10.

Three-time Spiral-winning trainer Todd Pletcher is represented by Alto Racing’s Azar, winner of the Grade 2 With Anticipation on turf at Saratoga Race Course last summer and winner of his main track debut in a Gulfstream Park allowance last month. The Scat Daddy colt was installed as the 5-1 second choice and was assigned the outside post 12. Manny Franco has the mount.

Three horses are co-third choices at 6-1 on the morning line by oddsmaker Bret Battaglia: Larry and Cindy Jones’ Jensen (trained by Larry Jones, ridden by Florent Geroux), a dominant allowance winner at Fair Grounds last month, breaking from post 3; Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s Kasseopia (Graham Motion, Alan Garcia), already twice graded stakes-placed on turf, leaving from post 8; and J. Paul Reddam’s Ralis (Doug O’Neill, Corey Nakatani), winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga as a 2-year-old, breaking from post 11.

Platinum Seven, Dan Guarino and Julia Boutelle’s Don’t Be So Salty, winner of the Display Stakes over Woodbine’s all-weather surface, is 8-1 on the morning line and breaks from post 4. New York-based Cornelio Velasquez will ride the Tiz Wonderful gelding for trainer Gary Contessa.

Trainer Mike Maker, winner of two Spirals, has a quartet of hopefuls entered for this year’s renewal: Ken & Sarah Ramsey’s Fair Grounds overnight stakes winner Oscar Nominated (jockey Robby Albarado, 10-1 on the morning line, post 5); Get Away Farm’s Sam Houston turf stakes winner Two Step Time (Mitchell Murrill, 15-1, post 6); Warner Thoroughbreds et al’s multiple Gulfstream Park West stakes winner Swagger Jagger (Francisco Torres, 20-1, post 9); and Ken & Sarah Ramsey’s Gulfstream Park stakes winner Strike Up the Band (Corey Lanerie, 20-1, post 7).

Edward Seltzer and Beverly Anderson’s Surgical Strike, hero of Turfway’s prep for the Spiral, the John Battaglia Memorial, is 12-1 on the morning line. Orlando Mojica will be aboard from post 2.

At 30-1 the longest shot in the race, Robert Baker and William Mack’s That Makes Sense drew the rail. Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas, who saddled Spiral legends Serena’s Song to win in 1995 and Marfa to win in 1983, has given the mount to Colby Hernandez.

Excluded entrants Crescent Drive and Diplodocus were assigned program numbers 13 and 14, respectively, should they draw into the race due to early scratches.

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