VINERY RACING SPIRAL STAKES | PURSE: $500,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILES
FFLORENCE, Ky. -- Team Valor International president Barry Irwin was enjoying a heavy dose of déjà vu in the immediate aftermath of the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park.
"That wasn't horrible, was it?" a giddy Irwin asked rhetorically after watching Went the Day Well carry the Team Valor silks to a 3 1/2-length triumph in the Grade 3, $500,000 Turfway showcase.
Um, not horrible at all. In much the same fashion that Animal Kingdom glided to victory in the Vinery Spiral last year, Went the Day Well also was dominant, sparking high hopes that perhaps he, too, will be capable of following it up with a Kentucky Derby victory.
With John Velazquez aboard, Went the Day Well was fourth when he began gaining on the leaders from an inside position leaving the half-mile pole. Velazquez angled him out midway through the final turn, and then Went the Day Well did the rest, drawing away down the stretch while racing a bit greenly for his second victory in five career starts. He returned $12.40 as third choice in a field of 12 3-year-olds after finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:51.33 over Polytrack.
The uncoupled Todd Pletcher duo of Holiday Promise, a 25-1 shot, and Heavy Breathing, the 2-1 favorite, finished second and third, respectively, separated by a length. Handsome Mike, the 7-2 second choice, rallied from last to finish two lengths farther back in fourth.
"We'll have to evaluate how he comes out of the race," trainer Graham Motion said on a conference call from Maryland after the race. "He'll go back to Keeneland tonight and give him a week or so. The Lexington might be the only realistic option," referring to the Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland on April 21.
Motion said "the beauty of this race" in terms of the six weeks before the Derby, "is that you have the option of running one more time."
Motion said he has been reluctant to compare Went the Day Well with Animal Kingdom "because they're such different horses," but he said he was elated with how Went The Day Well left his opposition in the dust.
"Apart from the little greenness, I thought he hardly could have been more impressive," he said. "He's lightly raced, and I think it was definitely a good experience for him today. I think he'll learn from this race."
Went the Day Well, by Proud Citizen, was bred in New York by James P. Delaney. The colt raced twice on turf in England at 2 before being brought to the United States. Turned over to Motion, he ran fourth, then first, in back-to-back maiden races, both at 1 1/8 miles on the Gulfstream Park main track. Like Animal Kingdom, he trained at the Palm Meadows training center this winter but will remain in Kentucky following the Spiral.
The $2 exacta (4-5) paid $245.40, the $2 trifecta (4-5-3) paid $857.80, and the dime superfecta returned $253.52.