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Uncaptured won the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill DOwns in 2012 and is a top contender in the Spiral Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park. (Images courtesy of Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs)

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The 42nd running of the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes, usually an important prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, takes on added importance this year in the new points scheme as the 50 points awarded to the winner should guarantee him a spot in the Derby starting gate. Leading the full field of 12 on the basis of having the highest level graded stakes win in the field is Uncaptured, last seen in November when victorious in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Whether Uncaptured picks up where he left off four months earlier is an entirely different matter. Balance the Books also was seen last fall and makes his first start as a 3-year-old, having won the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes on the grass last October. Then there are four horses with good efforts in stakes at Turfway, which certainly offers an edge not only in recency but also experience on the synthetic Polytrack surface. Mac the Man won the 96 Rocks Stakes in February in his first two-turn try, while General Election, Giant Finish and For Greater Glory finished 1-2-3 recently in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes last month. A trio of horses - Black Onyx, Taken by the Storm and Capo Bastone - all enter the Spiral off wins in allowance races, with Capo Bastone the only one of the three with prior stakes experience, having finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. Channel Isle won an allowance race one before last when fourth in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, while Fear the Kitten rallied from ninth of 10 to be the runner-up behind 11-length winner Super Ninety Nine in the Southwest. Rounding out the field is My Name Is Michael, who has been competitive in both stakes tries to date in his career, most recently when third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Main Contenders:

For Greater Glory has been no worse than third in five career starts, by far his best effort coming in his first stakes try last month in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes. For Greater Glory earned his first career win prior to that when racing around two turns for the very first time. Then, in the Battaglia, he had a number of traffic issues that make his third-place effort a lot better than it appears on paper. In the Battaglia, a horse inside of him in the gate veered out and bumped other horses, which caused the rider of For Greater Glory to steady and pull back to avoid the incident. After rallying from 10th of 11 to get into striking position in the stretch, For Greater Glory was bumped hard when looking for a place to run, then blocked, before his rider angled sharply to the inside rail to continue his rally. With a jockey change to veteran Robby Albarado and with a competitive 91 Equibase Speed Figure to improve upon, For Greater Glory may just need a trouble-free trip to post the upset win in the Spiral Stakes.

Mac the Man skipped the Battaglia Stakes after winning the 96 Rocks Stakes at Turfway Park in February, his third straight victory on the track and second stakes win in a row. Having improved from a 91 Equibase Speed Figure to 99 when winning the Turfway Park Prevue Stakes in early January, Mac the Man earned a field-high 107 Equibase Speed Figure while controlling the tempo in front from start to finish in the 96 Rocks. Proven to be versatile, as his previous three wins were from off-the-pace, Mac the Man might be very tough to beat in this year’s Spiral with a repeat of his last effort and, as such, deserves a good deal of respect.


Macthe Man -Lang

Image courtesy of Pat Lang/Pat Lang Photos

Giant Finish drew the disadvantageous 11 post for the Battaglia last month but still nearly won the race, earning a career-best 92 Equibase Speed Figure in the process. After winning his first two-turn race in January, Giant Finish was up close throughout in the Battaglia, making the lead with a little more than an eighth of a mile to go and fighting hard to the finish line, in fact outfinishing For Greater Glory in a fierce battle for second down the stretch. Although he had been racing in New York prior to the Battaglia, Giant Finish has remained in Kentucky and has been working steadily on a similar Polytrack surface at Keeneland Race Course. If Giant Finish improves in his second start on the track, it could be good enough to make up the half-length he was beaten last month.

General Election won the Battaglia, earning a career-best 93 Equibase Speed Figure with a big effort as he rallied from seventh and more than 10 lengths back in the early stages. In the Battaglia, General Election raced very wide into the stretch but that did not stop his momentum as he fought off numerous challenges in the last eighth of a mile. Likely to run even better in his second start over the often tiring Polytrack surface, General Election has more than a decent chance to continue improving and earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate with a win in the Spiral Stakes.

Notes: Although Uncaptured and Balance the Books are both stakes winners, the fact they are returning from four months off means they are giving away a lot of physical form (recency) to the rest of the field, each of whom has raced in the past seven weeks. As such, it would take tremendous efforts to win in this quality field.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Balance the Books (100), Black Onyx (101), Capo Bastone (92), Channel Isle (88), Fear the Kitten (87), My Name is Michael (101), Taken by the Storm(92), and Uncaptured (100).


My Selections:

For Greater Glory

Mac the Man

Giant Finish

General Election 

$550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes

March 23, Turfway Park, Race 10, 5:50 p.m. ET

1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds







Balance the Books

J. Leparoux

C. Brown



Channel Isle

J. Court

D. Lukas




M. Mena

M. Casse



Fear the Kitten

R. Napravnik

M. Maker



My Name Is Michael

J. Rosario

W. Mott



For Greater Glory

R. Albarado

S. Hobby



Mac the Man

N. Arroyo Jr.

J. Greenhill



General Election

A. Jimenez

K. Gorder



Black Onyx

J. Bravo

K. Breen



Giant Finish

V. Espinoza

A. Dutrow



Taken by the Storm

A. Garcia

K. McPeek



Capo Bastone

J. Velazquez

T. Pletcher


All runners carry 123 pounds

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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