The Road to the Kentucky Derby & Oaks will make a brief stop at Turfway Park this Friday, February 26th for two stakes races.
They are Turfway's $100K John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, which is for three-year-old colts going one mile and one-sixteenth over the synthetic surface. This race is held in honor of John Battaglia, who was the former general manager of Turfway in the 1970s. The winner will be awarded 10 qualifying points for the KY Derby. The Post time is 8:16 PM ET.
And Turfway'S $75K Cincinnati Trophy Stakes for three-year-old fillies going six and a half furlongs over the synthetic surface. They are awarded 10 qualifying points for the Oaks all the same. Post time is 9:16 PM ET.
Note that a victory in either of these synthetic-surface races doesn't automatically hint how they'll fare in the Oaks or Derby, which is run on dirt. We'd still want to see how they transfer their winning form to any given surface in question. It's worth following where they run next and adjusting your handicapping accordingly!
Let's have a look at the competitors.
There's a full field of 13 horses for the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes. Topping the field by virtue of race ratings is GRETZKY THE GREAT from the Gerardo Corrales stable. GRETZKY THE GREAT was last seen running the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Turf last fall, where he was the 4th favorite in a large field of 14. He had the perfect trip but could do no better than sixth, though he did earn his highest speed figure. To his credit, he has a win over the synthetic surface back in August.
There are a few horses entering the race off of allowance victories: TWIRLING MAMBA for trainer Albin Jimenez, LIKE THE KING for trainer Wesley Ward, HUSH OF A STORM for trainer Santiago Gonzalez. All three colts scored on the synthetic surface.
An interesting competitor is WARRIOR IN CHIEF for trainer Kenny McPeek. He broke his maiden at Churchill Downs back in November at odds of 32-1 in impressive style — pressing the pace, striking the front at the top of the stretch, and then fighting off challengers. It was just his third career start and he earned an 85 Equibase Figure for the effort. It took a 95 Equibase Figure to win last year's edition. If he improves, which he's liable to, he can win this and at a decent price.
If you're looking for value, try FORT MOULTRIE for trainer J. Reeve McGaughey. At 20-1, FORT MOULTRIE has two wins over this surface. He broke his maiden at 31-1 while passing the two-turn test. Keep in mind, however, he will be making his first start without Lasix.
The rest of the field are: THE PREDICAMENT, KINETIC SKY, PICO D'ORO, HARD RYE GUY, FORT MOULTRIE, NOTABLE EXCEPTION, CATMAN, and BAKWENA.
In the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes, we welcome the return of DIRTY DANGLE for trainer Mark E. Casse. Here is a filly who took on the boys in the BC Juvenile Turf Sprint, and was made the fourth favorite in a field of 15.
She owns a smart $126K maiden special weight win over the synthetic surface at Woodbine. If we scratch the BC Juvenile Turf Sprint loss where she finished 9th, (afterall, the turf that day was less than Firm, which she likes), it's possible we could see a breakout performance. There's a reason she was claimed and immediately regimented for the Breeder's Cup.
There's also an interesting filly in PARADISE SONG for trainer Michael Trombetta. She broke her maiden earlier this year at Laurel Park, then came back for an allowance race to finish second while still improving her speed figures. She's got plenty of early speed but she will be making her first start on synthetic.
ROCKET RELOAD for trainer Brad Cox is worth a look. She comes off a smart victory at the Fair Grounds at the allowance level. It was on a sloppy track, she pressed the pace, took the lead and held off her rival. She will likely take in quite a bit of money since she's from the hot Cox-barn, plus her last speed figure is on the high side of this group. However, it's yet to be seen if she cares for Synthetic. She's finished fifth on it, twice. Demand value for this pick!
The rest of the field are: SPEEDING, JUST READ IT, SHEISTHEHERO, DELTA GAMMA CATS, IGLOO, PHANTOM VISION, ROCKET RELOAD, PLEDGE, WAIT FOR NAIROBI, LICHITA, and DEVIL'S ADVOCATE.