Three weeks ago, trainer Gary Contessa was looking forward to running his New York-bred Pulpit colt Preachintothedevil in the March 5 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. But those plans were scrapped the day before that Grade 3 event when Contessa detected a pulse in one of the horse’s feet.
“It was a typical casualty of winter racing,” Contessa said. “He probably stepped on a frozen dirt clod. I pulled his shoe and tubbed him, but on the day of the race he was 90%, not 100%, so we scratched. After watching the way the Gotham unfolded, I absolutely believe he could have won. But we’ve always had the Spiral in the back of our mind, and I’m excited to be taking him there.”
Preachintothedevil arrived at Turfway Park Sunday, and Contessa will arrive Tuesday. On Wednesday Contessa will supervise an “easy half-mile” workout, and the New York-based trainer will stay in Florence through race day.
“He galloped over the Turfway strip this morning, and my exercise rider thought he went very well,” said Contessa. “I don’t consider myself ‘Poly-savvy.’ I’ve run horses at Keeneland that I thought would fit the bill and got only mixed results. But Junior Alvarado, who’ll ride Preachintothedevil again on Saturday, has had lots of experience at Arlington and he may be a ‘Poly-rider’ if there is such a thing. He said his work last Friday (a mile in 1:43.22 at Belmont) was phenomenal, and he thinks he’ll absolutely like it at Turfway. My horse lifts his knees very high when he runs, and some people believe that type of horse often excels on turf or synthetics. I guess we’ll find out on Saturday about two minutes after we load into the gate!”
Unproductive sale was “decisive moment” leading to Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes
The leading money earner in this year’s prospective Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes field is Decisive Moment with $432,330, much of it coming from his second-place finish in last year’s $1 million Delta Jackpot. The Florida-bred son of With Distinction is trained by Juan Arias and owned by his breeder, Just for Fun Stables. Had Decisive Moment commanded more than $70,000 at last year’s Ocala Breeders' Sales Company Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training, however, the horse might well be running for different connections.
“The owner took him to the OBS sale last year but didn’t like what he got for him in the sales ring so he bought him back,” said Arias. “According to the farm manager, he loved the synthetic surface at Ocala. All his works there were fast. So I think he’ll like the Turfway surface a lot.”
After a fifth-place finish behind Mucho Macho Man last time out in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, Arias detected a slight soft tissue injury in the horse’s left hind ankle. But Arias says the problem was minor and now a thing of the past.
“He’s doing great,” said Arias. “He just must have taken a bad step in Louisiana. We gave him a week of treatment, and we x-rayed and ultrasounded him and everything came back negative.”
Decisive Moment will be ridden in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes by his regular rider, Kerwin Clark, but Clark won’t get much instruction from Arias, a former jockey who rode the South Florida circuit during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“I tend not to give too many instructions,” said Arias. “Sometimes no instruction is better. As a former rider, I know you can set up all kinds of strategy, and once they leave the gate everything can change and it’s all up to the jockey to figure things out. Sometimes plan A doesn’t work out and you have to move quickly to plan B.”
Despite the colt’s on-or-near-the-lead style in all seven of his career races, Arias doesn’t see Decisive Moment as one-dimensional.
“I don’t think he needs to be on the lead,” he said. “We have to see the company first and see what kind of speed is going to be next to me. Right now, I’m not sure what our running style is going to be.”
Both horse and trainer will ship to Turfway Park via plane, arriving Thursday.
Maker hopes history repeats for Twinspired
Twinspired posted a 4 1/4-length victory in the WEBN Stakes, the second of Turfway’s three local preps for the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes, but stumbled—literally—in the third, the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, and finished fourth. While Positive Response’s seven-length win marked him clearly best in the Battaglia, Twinspired finished just two lengths behind the runner-up despite a rocky trip.
“He stumbled out of the gate, and he got himself straightened up, and then he stumbled again,” said trainer Mike Maker. “It put him in a bad position throughout the race. Did I think it cost us the race? No, I didn’t. But I think it probably cost us second.
“I had a horse not do well in the Battaglia and come back to win the Spiral in his next start,” Maker said, referring to With a City, who was eighth in the Battaglia before winning what was then the Lane’s End Stakes in 2006. “That’s why you race.”
Maker has two wins in Turfway’s Kentucky Derby prep, the second coming last year with Dean’s Kitten.
Twinspired trains at Trackside in Louisville and last worked on Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:03.20. “He’s had three races pretty close together, so he didn’t need much,” said Maker, who trains the colt for Alpha Stables, Skychai Racing LLC & Sand Dollar Stable LLC. He will ship Twinspired to Turfway on race day.
The top four finishers in the Battaglia Memorial—Positive Response, Taptowne, Son of Posse, and Twinspired—all are headed for the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes.
Sorgho to Rushaway
With several ahead of him on the Vinery Racing Spiral order of preference, trainer Don Bennett has elected to move Sorgho from that list to the Rushaway Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile test for three-year-olds also run on Saturday.
Entries for the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes will be drawn tomorrow at Bourbon, Bill and ‘Breds, a cocktail reception honoring the retiring president of Maker’s Mark, Bill Samuels Jr. The reception runs 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the Maker’s Mark VIP Tent at Turfway and is open to the public. Tickets are $25 and available by calling (859) 578-6384.
First post Saturday at Turfway is 1:10 p.m. Gates open at 9:30 a.m., half an hour earlier than previously announced, to accommodate races from Meydan Racecourse including the Dubai World Cup. Post time for the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes is 5:31 p.m. All times are Eastern.