The Brock Talk

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spiral Stakes History Dotted With Popular Stars

Although the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes took a hit from the North American Graded Stakes Committee this year by being dropped a class down to grade 3, the marquee event for Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky has featured some significant stars preparing for the first Saturday in May.

Although the race had attracted several good horses since the first running in 1972, it wasn’t until D. Wayne Lukas brought Marfa to Turfway Park to win the 1983 Jim Beam Spiral Stakes when the race began to garner national attention. Marfa went on to finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) that year behind winner Sunny’s Halo and fourth in the Preakness behind Deputed Testamony. A year later the race was given grade 3 status and was quickly becoming the new race on the block for those preparing for the Kentucky Derby.

Three years later Broad Brush was shipped to Turfway from his home base in Maryland to win the Jim Beam Spiral Stakes before finishing third in both the 1986 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

The Spiral Stakes then hit it’s golden years in the 1990s starting with 1990 winner Summer Squall and 1991 winner Hansel, both of which would go on to win the Preakness. Hansel also set the track record for a 1-1/8 miles, stopping the clock in 1:46.60. A year later the Spiral Stakes was won by Lil E. Tee and few weeks later the race had produced its first Kentucky Derby winner as Lil E. Tee won also won the 1992 Run for the Roses. The roll through the decade continued as 1993 winner Prairie Bayou would become the third future Preakness winner in four years to have gone through the Turfway Park winner’s circle.

In 1995, Serena’s Song (photo above) became the first filly to win the Jim Beam Spiral Stakes, and while she had little impact on the Triple Crown, the D. Wayne Lukas-trainee would defeat colts in the Haskell Invitational (gr. 1). The future Hall of Fame filly also won the grade 1 Beldame Stakes over older mares in New York that year and was eventually named the Champion 3-Year-Old Filly of 1995.

Jockey Pat Day has the record for the most Spiral Stakes victories with five, but trainer William E. Adams has the most impressive streak in the races history. From 1977-80, Adams trained seven consecutive winners of the Spiral Stakes as the race was split into two divisions in three of those four years.

The Spiral Stakes may have lost a bit of its luster over the last few years, but it has still produced some popular Derby contenders in Hard Spun and Perfect Drift.

Hard Spun won the 2007 Spiral (Then named the Lane’s End Stakes), before finishing in the money in all three Triple Crown races. He finished second in the Kentucky Derby behind Street Sense then finished third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont.

Perfect Drift was third in the Kentucky Derby behind winner War Emblem, but his 3-year-old year was just the start of a long career. He would go on to run at age seven and appeared in five consecutive Breeders’ Cup Classics (gr. ) from 2002-2006, finishing third in 2005 and fourth in 2004. Perhaps his best year was 2003 when Perfect Drift won the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. 1), the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. 2), the Kentucky Jockey Club Handicap (gr. 2), and the Washington Park Handicap (gr. 3). Two years later, he would win his second Washington Park Handicap in track record time and finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

While this year’s Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes does not an Uncle Mo, Dialed In or any of the other leading 3-year-olds this year, the field is again solid. And if history tells us anything, there’s probably a star somewhere in the field.

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