In a race full of question marks, why not look for a little betting value? That’s exactly what I will be doing in today’s Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, and it just so happens that both of my value horses are sent out by the same very successful local trainer. Michael Maker has arguably been the top trainer at the Northern Kentucky oval for the past several years, and he knows how to win the Spiral. He did it with With a City in 2006, and Derby Kitten in 2010, and now with the pair of Tizanexpense and Mr. Prankster, I believe he has a big shot to win a third. While his big horse, Hansen waits for the Blue Grass, look for Maker to add another horse to his 2012 Kentucky Derby entries with a Spiral win today.
Tizanexpense is 15-1 on the morning line, but I see a lot to like. The bay son of Tiznow was getting better with every start, including two consecutive two-turn wins at Fair Grounds in December and January, before a disappointing effort last out in the Risen Star Stakes. Further investigation leads me to excuse that 7th place performance. Tizanexpense was hampered by a rough trip in which he was forced well wide. It seems that he never had a fair shot in a race that was likely tougher than what he will see today. Today’s trip of nine furlongs, a distance longer than anyone in the field has yet seen, should be right up his alley, and he signaled his readiness with a big five furlong work last Saturday.
You also need to be able to see past the last race to like the chances of Maker’s other entry, Mr. Prankster. 12-1 on the morning line, the son of It’s No Joke was a big 4-5 favorite in the prep for the Spiral last time but checked in a well beaten 4th. Much closer to the pace in the Battaglia Memorial than usual, Mr. Prankster should see an early pace much more to his liking today. A strong early pace will likely allow him to be farther back in the first part, and set up his preferred style of running. His late run carried him to a romping win in the WEBN Stakes over this strip two starts back. The jockey switch to Rosie Napravnik doesn’t hurt one bit either.
The Spiral Stakes looks wide open, but with a trainer that does very well here packing two live longshots, picking a winner in the Spiral may not be so hard after all. Good luck to all!