SPIRAL STAKES | PURSE: $550,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILES
Charging hard down the center of the track at Turfway Park, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's We Miss Artie had his sights set on dueling Coastline and Harry's Holiday in the $518,950 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes.
A jump past the wire and no one knew who got it, but the Ramseys were well-represented railside at the Florence oval, and when the "official" sign put up his number, the gang went wild.
"Oh, 'he's not going to get up there for it,' that's what I was thinking," remarked Jeff Ramsey, son of the Kentucky couple. "And actually, I didn't think we had it. It was very, very close. It was exciting."
We Miss Artie, the 2013 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity winner, returned to his beloved Polytrack. He gave the Ramseys at least one guaranteed starter in the May 3 Kentucky Derby when edging his way to win the 1 ⅛-mile Spiral by a nose; Coastline was third, just a head farther back.
The couple also has Vicar's in Trouble pointing to the Louisiana Derby March 29 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, and Bobby's Kitten likely for the April 12 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
"I'd like to have three in the Derby; then you only have to beat 17," Ramsey said when reached via phone in at his winter home in Florida. "We have three potentials and now this one is in, of course if the horse stays healthy. We won't need any more prep races for him; I think [trainer] Todd [Pletcher] wants to bring him back to Florida within the next couple days."
Slightly wide going into the first turn from post 11 in a field of 12 sophomores, the son of Artie Schiller settled seventh in hand for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. John Battaglia Memorial winner Solitary Ranger went out for a quarter in :22.78 seconds, but Almost Famous contested the pace to get a half in :47.21 seconds before stopping. Longshot Harry's Holiday put in a prolonged drive to take over after three-quarters in 1:12.43, with Coastline drawing even for a ding-dong battle heading down the stretch through a mile in 1:38.59.
"I was a little wide going into the first turn, but I found a nice spot going down the backside," Velazquez said. "Right at the sixteenth pole I had to drift away from them so he didn't have to work so hard, then I was able to get up at the wire."
Flying on the outside under left-handed urging, We Miss Artie just got up in the final stride to give the Ramseys their second Spiral score; they won in 2010 with Dean's Kitten. The winning time was 1:52.26.
Under equal weights of 123 pounds, the winner returned $9.20, $5.80, and $4.20 as the second choice in the field of 12 sophomores. Harry's Holiday brought $13.40 and $8.60, with Coastline paying $7.40. Asserting Bear, Big Bazinga, All Tied Up, Arctic Slope, 2-1 favorite Tamarando, Solitary Ranger, Poker Player, Almost Famous, and Smart Cover completed the order of finish.
Russell Baze, rider of Tamarando, said the California shipper never fired. He was last at the start and circled six wide but soon weakened.
"He didn't get a lot of speed," Baze said. "When I asked him to go, he went for a bit at the eighth pole and then quit."
We Miss Artie came off a dismal eighth in the Feb. 22 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth on dirt at Gulfstream Park after running second by a head in the Jan. 19 Kitten's Joy Stakes going 1 1/16 miles on the Gulfstream lawn. He broke his maiden on turf at Saratoga Race Course last year before winning the Dixiana at Keeneland, then ran seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his first try on dirt at Santa Anita Park. The Spiral was his third win in eight starts; along with two seconds he has earned $609,000.
Bred in Ontario by Richard Lister out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Athena's Gift, We Miss Artie was a $90,000 purchase from the Cara Bloodstock consignment at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. Despite his lack of success on dirt, Pletcher said regarding a potential start in the Derby, "I don't think that will be much of a discussion, [given that the owner is] Mr. Ramsey. We were hoping he could get us there and he did."
"You know, the track at Churchill is different than Florida," Ramsey added. "Some horses like it, some don't. If he handles it, he handles it; if he can't, he can't. We won't worry about it. The whole game plan was to get enough points to get him in."
The winner earned 50 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby, placing him first on the leaderboard with 60 [including 10 points earned for his Breeders' Futurity win] over undefeated New York-bred Samraat.
"It's good to be on the way back to the Derby," Ramsey said. "One of these days I'm gonna win that thing."