Can Graham Motion and Team Valor go back to back year’s and win the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes and Kentucky Derby? They now have the opportunity as their colt Went the Day Well comfortably won the Vinery Racing Spiral Staes (G3) at Turfway Park on Sunday afternoon by 3 1/2 lengths. Last year, the same duo won these two races with Animal Kingdom.
VINERY RACING SPIRAL STAKES
A field of 12 horses took to the all weather Turfway Park track Saturday afternoon for the $500,000 race. The favorite, Todd Pletcher trained Heavy Breathing took the early lead. He was closely followed by 10/1 Ill Conceived and 26/1 Coach Royal. Went the Day Well was perfectly positioned back in 4th by jockey John Velasquez. The first quarter went in 23.10. Not much changed after a half mile that went in 46.98. Enough speed to allow the off speed horses to compete later in the race.
As they hit the far turn, Heavy Breathing still held the lead, the other two fell off and Went the Day Well started to make his move. You could also see the other Pletcher horse, Holiday Promise start to move from further back. As they turned for home, Went the Day Well had taken over the lead and started to put distance between himself and the field. Holiday Promise had passed Heavy Breathing as well. It would remain that way at the finish line. The Team Valor owned colt finished the 1 1/8 miles race in 1:51:33. He was 3 1/2 lengths in front of Holiday Promise, and another length in front of Heavy Breathing. Handsome Mike, who trailed the entire field early after a bad start got up for 4th.
Last year, not many gave Animal Kingdom respect for winning this race because he didn’t win one of the usual prep races such as the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Arkansas Derby and Santa Anita Derby, as well as, the Wood Memorial. Yet, he went on to easily win the Kentucky Derby. So, what do we take away from this year’s version of the Spiral Stakes? Simply put, Went the Day Well is a legitimate threat come Derby day. He has the perfect running style for the 1 1/4 miles race, and showed on Saturday that he is a force to be reckoned with this easy win.
GRADED STAKES EARNINGS
Click here to view the upgraded stakes earnings and who currently qualifies for the Kentucky Derby.
The other prep race over the weekend was held on Sunday afternoon at Sunland Park as the $800,000 Sunland Derby featured 8 three year old colts and geldings going 1 1/8 miles on the dirt.
The Sunland Derby has produced just one Derby winner, and that came in 2009 when Mine That Bird shocked the World when he won at odds of 50/1. He ran 4th in the Sunland Debry that year.
The fields each year, since the Sunland Derby was upgraded to Grade 3 status, has produced better horses and brought in top trainers and horses from across the country. This year’s field attracted horses from the top 3 barns in the country; Todd Pletcher, Steven Asmussen and Bob Baffert. In the end, Asmussen and his El Camino Real Derby (G3) winner Daddy Nose Best would get the upper hand on his rivals.
Baffert’s colt and Southwest Stakes (G3) winner Castaway would head out and take the early lead, but he was quickly joined by Pletcher’s colt Ender Knieval. The two would eventually sabotage each other’s chances with early fraction of 22.48, 46.24 and 1:10.83 for the first six furlongs. The local stakes winning favorite Isn’t He Clever made his move early at the far turn and took over the lead as the front runners were already fading. Daddy Nose Best was sitting patiently by jockey Julien Leparoux. Isn’t He Clever held a 2 1/2 lengths lead at the top of the stretch, but that early move would go against him as he lost steam and they continued down the stretch. Leparoux with a perfect ride drove down the middle of the stretch and caught up to his rival with a few jumps left. He would take the race by 3/4 length and finish in a very quick time of 1:48.59. Just 1/5 of a second off the track record. A record that has stood since January 8, 1961 by Winsham Lad. Getting up for 3rd was another Baffert horse Stirred Up, with one of the long shots on the board No Spin completing the board.
Now we add Went the Day Well and Daddy Nose Best to the list of Kentucky Derby contenders. A list that already includes Union Rags, Hansen, Creative Cause, Secret Circle and Alpha. Speaking of Union Rags, it’s worth noting that Leaproux will ride the Michael Matz colt in the Florida and Kentucky Derby’s opening the door for another jockey to take over the reigns for Daddy Nose Best. Asmussen regularly uses the service of Corey Nakatani, so expect to see him named the new rider soon. At this point, Nakatani does not have a Derby ride.
As for Went the Day Well, jockey John Velasquez finally found his Derby ride. Up to this point, he did not have a Derby contender. Shocking when you think he rides for Todd Pletcher and is one of the top 3 jockeys in the country year after year.
Also, be sure to view the updated Graded Stakes Rankings by wins for Horses, Trainers and Jockeys.