By Mike Curry, @currymj19, America’s Best Racing
Black Onyx launched his winning bid in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes with a sweeping rally into the stretch, and his powerful closing charge to win Turfway Park’s signature Kentucky Derby prep race punched his ticket to Louisville in six weeks.
Black Onyx earned 50 points under the new points system that determines the field for the first jewel of the Triple Crown to cement a spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs. Trainer Kelly Breen said the 1 ½-length Spiral win showed Black Onyx’s versatility and confirmed his class.
“His next start will be the Derby,” Breen said. “He’s proven he’s a multi-talented horse. He’s won on dirt, on turf, and now on Polytrack.
“The plan was - if he won - that we wouldn’t run again until the Derby.”
The next three weeks on the U.S. Thoroughbred racing calendar feature six Grade 1 races that serve as major steppingstones to the Kentucky Derby: the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby on March 30, the Wood Memorial Stakes and Santa Anita Derby on April 6, and the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby on April 13.
Breen and Black Onyx’s owner Sterling Racing do not need to worry about qualifying points, however, after the Spiral. Instead, they immediately supplemented him to the Triple Crown races via a $6,000 late nomination fee. Now Black Onyx’s connections can focus on making reservations, booking flights and, most importantly, making sure their colt is in ideal condition for the Kentucky Derby.
A dark bay or brown son of Rock Hard Ten, Black Onyx entered the Spiral off a convincing win on Feb. 23 on the turf a Gulfstream Park. The third-place finisher in that race, Crop Report, came back on Saturday at Turfway and won the Rushaway Stakes two races before the Spiral.
Sent off at 15.70-1 odds, Black Onyx did not get off to an ideal start but he settled into a nice early rhythm under jockey Joe Bravo while racing in fifth then sixth behind a moderate pace.
“The gates opened and he was sluggish. I was saying, ‘Don’t tell me he’s not taking the track,’ ” Bravo said. “After an eighth of a mile he took hold of the bit and started pulling me along. I was watching Miguel Mena [jockey of multiple graded stakes winner Uncaptured], because I respect that horse, but it didn’t look like that horse was handling as well as mine. After that, my horse settled down and it was all over.”
Bravo asked Black Onyx to pick up the tempo with about three-eighths of a mile left in the 1 1/8-mile race and his mount responded eagerly. He took command early in the stretch and held off Uncaptured to prevail by a comfortable margin in 1:51.98 on the synthetic Polytrack surface.
Uncaptured, winner of a pair of graded stakes at Churchill, finished a length clear of third-place finisher Giant Finish. Uncaptured also appears to be in a pretty strong position with 30 points, good for eighth on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” leaderboard.
The Spiral was Uncaptured’s first start since he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 24. Trainer Mark Casse was pleased with his performance after the long break.
“I was extremely happy. It's been a really long road getting there. For him to run farther than he ever has in his first start in four months, he performed very well,” Casse said. “If all goes well, we'll go from here to the Blue Grass Stakes and then into the Derby.”
For an Equibase chart, click here.
BLACK ONYX WINNING SPIRAL
Black Onyx prevails in the Spiral Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park. (Photo courtesy of Pat Lang/Turfway Park)