Staff Picks: 2012 Spiral Stakes

This week marks the beginning of a new feature here at And Down The Stretch They Come – “Staff Picks”. Each week we’ll pick a race for JP Fanshawe, Jared Christopher and TFTribe* to analyze. This week’s race is Saturday’s Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.

*TFTribe is unavailable this month, so JP and Jared will hold down the fort until he’s back in business. Additionally, I'm heading to Vegas on Saturday morning, so I'll be chekcing in via Twitter and mobile commenting.

Below is the analysis from Jared and JP for the Spiral Stakes.

JARED L. CHRISTOPHER:

2012 Spiral Stakes Picks and Analysis

1. Russian Greek

2. Heavy Breathing

3. Handsome Mike

4. Went the Day Well

Analysis

Russian Greek looks to rebound after a disappointing 5th in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby 4 weeks ago. The Giant's Causeway colt whose Beyer figures have improved with each race, has 2 wins at the 2 turn distance under his belt and will find his stride once again with the addition of blinkers and new rider, Corey Nakatani.

Heavy Breathing, another Giant's Causeway colt, has been perfect for trainer Todd Pletcher but the step up in class and the switch from dirt to poly will take some adjustments.

Handsome Mike has already finished ahead of Russian Greek earlier this year. Interestingly, Handsome Mike's regular rider was Nakatani, who jumped at the chance for the Russian Greek mount. His outside post position will give away too much ground to his old friend "The Greek".

Went the Day Well will be in the discussion down the stretch. His owner, Team Valor found the winner's circle in the 2011 Spiral with a little know colt, Animal Kingdom.

The Pick

I like Russian Greek on class, trip and expected improvement, and we’ll use Heavy Breathing and Handsome Mike to round out the exacta. Went the Day Well could actually sit just off the leaders and get first run into the stretch and make a strong push.

JP FANSHAWE:

One thing that jumped out at me in looking at this race is just how unimpressive most of the entrants are. The odds reflect that, as Todd Pletcher-trainee Heavy Breathing is a tepid morning-line favorite of 3-1 off two wins in two races.

My thoughts:

1-Russian Greek - What I Like: Hollendorfer is 30 percent wins when shipping, and 23 percent with first-time blinkers. The horse has the best works pattern in this field, with five middling works since his last out. Colt is second in earnings per start. He's won twice on synthetics. What Worries Me: Russian Greek isn't in the top five of early, middle or late fractions in this field. He has run out of the money twice on synthetics.

2-Red Jack - What I Like: The horse's name. What Worries Me: Colt is nowhere in any of the numbers I do. D Wayne Lukas is 2 percent in Graded Stakes, and has a single maudlin work since his third-place showing in a 50000 claimer. In that race, by the way, he received a BRIS Speed figure of 79, so that field wasn't much, and two back he was 30 and half lengths worse than Castaway in the Southwest. If he beats me, I deserve to be beaten.

3-Heavy Breathing - What I Like: Fits on the strength of a substantial hold on the top spot in earnings-per-start, and his two wins were substantive, by 4 1/4 and 7 3/4, respectively. Pletcher is hitting at 19 percent in stakes, and 39 percent when coupled with Castellano. What Worries Me: Horse has faced very little class, and his BRIS SFA (speed figure average) only merits him fourth place in this field, and is fifth in my early speed metric, but is worse than fifth in middle, and late pace.

4-Went The Day Well - What I Like: Horse boasts the highest speed figure at the distance, comes from a barn that hits the board better than 50 percent of the time when shipping and when coming 3rd of the layoff. Horse is tops in late pace and closed against slow fractions in his last race. Also, he has run this distance, even if he didn't get in the money in that race. What Worries Me: Castellano had the mount last, but one wonders if he was offered it this time and chose the three even though the morning line has the horses as comparable. Velazquez is certainly no slouch, winning 38 percent of the time for Motion. Colt has had no published works since his maiden-breaking win.

5-Holiday Promise - What I Like: that he his also from Pletcher's barn. How many times have we seen it happen that a trainer puts two horses in a stakes and the one with all the light on him runs poorly, while the other goes out and wins? The horse has never been worse than fourth. What Worries Me: It isn't that you see a Pletcher horse in a stakes at 12-1, but they may be deserved as he has never faced this kind of class and has won only his maiden. Still two recent works, one of which was a sharp 6th of 64. Nowhere in the speed numbers.

6-All Squared Away - What I Like: Four-of-six in-the-money on synthetics, including a win. Miller is 23 percent going dirt-to-plastic. He ran just nine days ago and improved position against soft fractions, and Miller brings him back in a stakes. May be rounding into form. What Worries Me: Like many in this field, class is an issue. He was 10 lengths off the winner in that stakes two back, and the winner ran just a BRIS SF of 90. Probably not enough in here even if he runs to that.

7-Ill Conceived - What I Like: Numbers. Horse is 3rd in early and middle pace metric, and 2nd in late. His last three BRIS Speed Figs are higher than any in this field save the 11 and 12. He has a second over the distance and on the surface. Fifth in earnings-per start. Worked a bullet in his only work. What Worries Me: John Servis is 0-for-6 in stakes and on plastic thus far, as is jockey Elliott.

8-Coach Royal - What I Like: Good work pattern, and was rated as sharp in his last. Sallusto looks to be shaking things up for this colt, going first time blinkers and moving him off turn for the first time in four races. Too bad he is under 10 percent with both those moves. What Worries Me: am I wrong but this horse could still be running in the maiden ranks since he has yet to win. Mott couldn't get this horse into the winner's circle. Class is a serious issue as well. Nowhere in the math.

9-Tizanexpense - What I Like: Mike Maker is The Man. 20 percent shipping, 25 percent dirt-to-synthetic. The only horse in here with back-to-back works that were both top ten, the last being a bullet. Lebron picks up the mount for Maker and together those two hit at a 26 percent clip. What Worries Me: Maker is only 12 percent in graded stakes. Colt has never run over an 88 BRIS speed fig. The par for this race is 100, and he was 9th beaten 24 in his only start on plastic (perhaps could be forgiven since it was his first race).

10-Mr. Prankster - What I Like: Mike Maker is The Man. 29 percent beaten favorite. 28 percent on synthetic. Colt has two wins over the track, and is 3-of-4 win or place on synthetics. Third in earnings-per-start, and second in both early and middle pace. If no one is going to close, he might be a good bet. What Worries Me: Maker is still 12 percent in graded stakes. Only one work, and it was slow. Won't have a shot if he is more than three back at the second call, unless the race is very, very slow.

11-Stealcase - What I Like: Last two races drew nice BRIS Speed figs, and there was plenty of class in the Gotham, where he was beaten by 10 3/4 but, clearly, this ain't that field. He worked a bullet on St. Paddy's Day. Colt is fourth in early and middle pace, and third in late. What Worries Me: Mark Casse is just 9 percent in graded stakes, and only 11 percent when shipping.

12-Handsome Mike - What I Like: Has some backspeed, judging by the 98 BRIS SF he ran in the Sham, and comes into this race as a beaten favorite. O'Neill hits at 20 percent with beaten faves and he picks up Joel Rosario. His best speed number is the highest in this field and that is reflected in the averages, as he is third in average, and tops in early and middle pace. What Worries Me: He will have to win from the front end, which somehow I think will be hard to do in this field. O'Neill is only 8 percent in graded stakes.

Whew....after all that, I am less certain of a strong candidate in this race than before, which means I proactively look for a surprise.

Top Selection: 10-Stealcase Alternates: 7-Ill-Conceived and 1-Russian Greek. Good Luck!

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