©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to Florence, Kentucky, Saturday, where Airoforce will go to the starting gate as the 3-1 morning line favorite in the 45h running of the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park.
Airoforce comes into this race with a 3-1-0 record in five starts for trainer Mark Casse, including a disastrous tenth-place finish in the Veterans Ford Risen Star Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds on February 20. Here’s a look at the video and chart call of that race:
AIROFORCE dropped back between horses nearing the first turn, bumped with GUN RUNNER at the seven-eighths pole, went four then three wide on the first turn, settled off the pace, came up empty while urged along in the two path on the far turn and faltered.
Airoforce wasn’t even a factor in this race and afterwards, it was reported that he likely would be taken off the Kentucky Derby Trail. Since then, Airoforce has been training well and his connections have decided to run him in the Spiral.
“Honestly, if he wasn’t training this well, I wouldn’t run him,” said Casse in a Lexington Herold Leader news story. “But he’s trained well enough that he deserves another chance.”
Colonel John, the sire of Airoforce, was a very competitive colt that compiled a 2-2-0 record in four starts as a two year old including a first-place finish in the Real Quiet Stakes and a second-place finish in the CashCall Futurity Stakes (G1), both at 8½ furlongs.
As a three year old, Colonel John won the Sham Stakes (G3) and Santa Anita Derby (G1), both at nine furlongs, in route to a sixth-place finish in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. He later went on to win the 10 furlong Travers Stakes and closed his three-year-old season with a 3-0-1 record in seven starts.
Maybe Airoforce can redeem himself in his second start of the season. But, he has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and it remains to be seen if he will be a factor in this race.
Kasseopia (6-1) comes into this race for the connections of Team Valor International and Gary Barber with a 1-2-1 record in five starts. As a two year old, Kasseopia began his racing career in England and late in the season he was shipped to Canada where he finished second to Riker in the Grey Stakes (G3).
After a three month layoff, Kasseopia made his debut as a three year old in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) where he finished third to Frank Conversation. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
KASSEOPIA (GB) broke slow and had no speed, was fanned out four then five wide to the stretch and closed ground steadily late.
Kasseopia only lost by three lengths and the finish time of 1:50.64 for nine furlongs is slower that what I like to see young colts run on the trail. However, with a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Kasseopia is one of the best-bred colts in this race and his Behavior Index indicates that he should be competitive.
Showcasing, the sire of Kasseopia, raced only in sprints in England. However, he’s a sire-line descendant of the Green Desert, Danzing Ancestral Herd which has got the classic champions Golden Horn and Sea the Stars.
Kasseopia has been training well at Santa Anita Park and a recent bullet work out on March 20 could have ready to run a good race.
A long shot I like in this race is Surgical Strike (12-1) who comes into this race with a 2-1-1 record in eight starts for trainer Ben Colebrook, including a win by 2½ lengths in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
SURGICAL STRIKE was unhurried early, began his surge approaching the quarter pole, circled the field in front of him entering the lane from the eight path, continued the bid in the stretch, blew past the leaders and drew away in the final stages.
Since finishing fourth in his debut as a three year old in January, Surgical Strike has improved in each race and his extra-wide trip in the Battaglia shows me that he had the determination to get up for the win. In addition, his Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® score is the same as Kasseopia’s and his B grade rating makes competitive in this race.
Red Giant, the sire of Surgical Strike, was a multiple graded stakes winner who ran his best at 8½ furlongs and further. During his career he compiled a 6-3-1 record in 12 starts with $1,092,410 in earnings.
His most notable stakes wins as a three year old were the one mile Restoration Stakes and the 10 furlong Virginia Derby (G2). As a four year old, Red Giant won the 8½ furlong Fourstardave Handicap (G2) and 10 furlong Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship Stakes (G1).
A recent bullet work out on March 6 could have Surgical Strike ready and I look for him to run a good race.
In seven starts, Azar (5-1) has compiled a 2-3-0 record for trainer Todd Pletcher and he comes into this race off of a three-quarter length win in an Allowance Optional Claiming race at Gulfstream Park on February 28. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
AZAR was reserved just off the leaders early, moved four-wide through the second turn, reached a striking position approaching the stretch, gained command with a sixteenth to run and edged away late.
All of Azar’s previous races had been on the turf and this race was a good debut for his first start on the dirt.
Azar also has a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and he showed promise last fall winning the With Anticipation Stakes (G2). Since then, in stakes competition he finished second in the Pilgrim Stakes (G3), 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), and third in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes.
Scat Daddy, the sire of Azar, was a multiple graded stakes winner who compiled a 5-1-1 record in nine starts with $1,334,300 in career earnings.
As a two year old, Scat Daddy was 3-0-1 in five starts with wins in the Sanford Stakes (G2) and Champagne Stakes (G1), and he finished second in the Hopeful Stakes (G1).
In his season debut as a 3-year-old, Scat Daddy finished third in the one mile Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and followed up with wins in the 9 furlong Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) in route to a eighteenth-place finish in the Derby.
Azar appears to be an improving colt and another move forward will make him competitive in this race.
In four starts, Jensen (6-1) has never finished worse than second and he comes into this race with a 2-2-0 record for trainer Larry Jones, including a 6¾ length win in an Allowance Optional Claiming race at the Fair Grounds on February 25. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
JENSEN broke a bit awkwardly, went to the front, raced in the two path early on the first turn then dropped to the inside, was well rated while setting the pace, controlled the action while inside on the far turn, was asked outside the quarter-pole, came under a right-handed whip in upper stretch, drew off under the whip into the final sixteenth then was placed under a hand ride to the wire while much the best.
Jensen has a D Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® but his Behavior Index potentially makes him competitive in the Spiral.
Haynesfield, the sire of Jensen, was a multiple graded stakes winner who compiled a 10-2-1 record in 19 starts with $1,319,481 in career earnings.
As a two year old, Haynesfield was 2-0-1 in three starts with a win in the Damon Runyon Stakes. As a three year old, Haynesfield did not compete in the Kentucky Derby but he was 4-1-0 in six starts with wins in the Discovery Handicap (G3), Whirlaway Stakes, Empire Classic Stakes and Count Fleet Stakes.
At the age of four, Haynesfield won the Suburban Handicap (G2) and Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1). And, as a five year old, he won the McMahon Adena Empire Classic Stakes.
Jensen has been training well at the Fair Grounds and another move forward could make him competitive in the Spiral Stakes (G3).
Honorable mention goes to Oscar Nominated (10-1), Two Step Time (15-1) and the also eligible, Crescent Drive (12-1).
The Spiral Stakes (G3) winner will receive 100 points, second-place finishers will receive 40 points, third-place finishers will get 20 points and fourth-place finishers will get 10 points. Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2016 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Rank, Horse, Points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Gun Runner, 51, Steve Asmussen, $849,200
2. Lani, 100, Mikio Matsunaga, $1,300,119
3. Mohaymen, 70, Kiaran McLaughlin, $760,350
4. Destin, 51, Todd Pletcher, $338,000
5. Cupid, 50, Bob Baffert, $540,000
6. Danzing Candy, 50, Cliff Sise, Jr., $240,000
7. Shagaf, 50, Chad Brown, $240,000
8. Mor Spirit, 44, Bob Baffert, $416,800
9. Tom’s Ready, 44, Dallas Stewart, $270,670
10. f-Polar River, 40, Doug Watson, $700,000
11. Mo Tom, 32, Tom Amoss $328,326
12. Nyquist, 30, Doug O’Neill, $1,700,000
13. Exaggerator, 26, Keith Desormeaux, $1,028,000
14. Whitmore, 24, Ron Moquett, $300,000
15. Sunny Ridge, 23, Jason Servis, $505,600
16. Laoban, 22, Eric Guillot, $92,000
17. Forevamo, 20, All Stall, Jr., $210,000
18. Dazzling Gem, 20, Brad Cox, $100,000
19. Zulu, 20, Todd Pletcher, $79,200
20. Outwork, 20, Todd Pletcher, $70,000