Grade 2 winner Uncaptured will make his long-awaited return to competition on Saturday, but the Lion Heart colt has picked a tough spot to make his three-year-old bow in Turfway Park's Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral.
Trained by Mark Casse, Uncaptured was last seen taking the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs by a neck on November 24. That followed a 5 1/2-length romp in the Grade 3 Iroquois over the same surface in his first try on a conventional dirt surface.
In his absence, the second and third-place runners in the Kentucky Jockey Club have already returned to the track. Runner-up Frac Daddy ran second in a pair of maiden events before finally breaking through with a first victory, all at Santa Anita. Dewey Square, on the other hand, has been unable to factor in two starts against graded competition thus far this year.
Uncaptured opened his career at Woodbine, capturing his first four starts on that Canadian track's synthetic Polytrack, so the switch to Turfway's version of that all-weather surface shouldn't be too much of a shock for the dark bay. Miguel Mena, aboard for both the Kentucky Jockey Club and Iroquois, retains the mount on the 3-1 morning-line favorite.
Mac the Man is taking the Animal Kingdom route, trying to parlay a win in the 1 1/8-mile Spiral to a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby. The Jeffrey Greenhill pupil has shown a definite preference for Turfway's Polytrack, scoring in an allowance at the Florence, Kentucky, venue by 8 1/2 lengths to close out his juvenile campaign. The bay son of El Corredor returned on January 5 to take the Turfway Park Prevue by five lengths, then wired the 96ROCK going a mile by two lengths last out in his final prep for this one.
Mac the Man will be facing a different class of horses in the Spiral, but his homefield advantage could come in handy under jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr., especially at 10-1 on the morning-line.
Capo Bastone currently has zero points on the new Road to the Kentucky Derby point system, but would rectify that on Saturday with a top four finish. Of course, trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping for much more than that, namely a visit to the winner's circle for the Street Boss chestnut. Capo Bastone enters the Spiral off just one race this year, taking an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park on February 16 by a head, but last season ran fourth, third and third, respectively, in the Del Mar Futurity, FrontRunner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, all Grade 1 contests.
John Velazquez was in the saddle for the first time in the three-year-old's last race and will have piloting duties from the far outside 12 post aboard the 9-2 third morning-line favorite.
The Spiral's eclectic field also includes the Chad Brown-conditioned Balance the Books, who will be making both his seasonal and main track debuts under regular rider Julien Leparoux. The Lemon Drop Kid bay has previously only ever competed on turf, breaking his maiden with a head win in the Grade 2 With Anticipation at Saratoga last August before a nose victory in the Grade 3 Bourbon on Keeneland's green in October.
Balance the Books closed out his two-year-old season with a rallying third, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths while closing from the rear, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Despite the layoff and surface switch, he's been listed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning-line.
The last local prep for the Spiral, the John Battaglia Memorial on March 2, will see its top three finishers go in the Spiral. General Election captured his stakes bow in that race by a half-length over Giant Finish, with For Greater Glory the third-place runner by 1 1/4 lengths.
The Grade 3 Southwest also has a couple of its participants in the field. Fear the Kitten finished second and Channel Isle crossed under the wire in fourth that day, and are each looking for a first stakes win in the Spiral.
The rest of the field is comprised of Black Onyx and Taken by Storm, a pair of last-out optional claiming winners, as well as My Name is Michael, who was third in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis most recently on February 2.
While the Spiral is the featured event on the day, sophomores fillies will get their turn in the spotlight as a field of 12 line up in the Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks. Like its companion one race later, the one-mile event is worth 50 points to the winner for a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks starting gate.
Pure Fun is the heavy 8-5 morning-line favorite in her return to competition for trainer Kenny McPeek in the race. The Pure Prize filly scored in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet to close out her juvenile campaign on December 8 and was a 9 1/4-length winner prior to that going a mile at Churchill Downs, something that can only help her on May 3.
"I normally stop on all my two-year-olds turning three and give them a four- to six-week break," McPeek explained. "It's a really good program to give them a little time. Pure Fun had really traveled all around and run a lot of races. She has come back really well and fired a couple of bullets in the morning working with Frac Daddy. All systems are go for Saturday."
McPeek added he may consider giving Pure Fun one more start after the Bourbonette in preparation for the Kentucky Oaks.
"It depends on the Kentucky Oaks points standings," he said. "If needed, I could bring her back in the Ashland [at Keeneland on April 6] or the Fantasy [at Oaklawn Park on April 10]."
Garrett Gomez, who rode Pure Fun in the Hollywood Starlet, will be back in the saddle for the Bourbonette Oaks.
Returning off a two-week break in Saturday's contest will be Broken Spell, who was last seen finishing a subpar sixth in the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn on March 9. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, the Broken Vow miss is seeking her first win since breaking her maiden last August at Saratoga, but has a close runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Alcibiades to her credit on Keeneland's Polytrack. Jon Court has the call on the 8-1 morning line chance.
Awesome Mama will be trying stakes company for the first time in the Bourbonette Oaks after scoring in her initial two starts at Turfway and Oaklawn, both at six furlongs. Also in with a chance is Street Gold, who scored by 5 3/4 lengths over track and distance on March 2.
Kicking off the stakes action at Turfway Park on Saturday will be the $75,000 Rushaway sending nine sophomores 1 1/16 miles. Honorable Guest will try to begin his three-year-old season the same way he ended his juvenile -- on a winning note. The Old Forester chestnut added the Frost King to his resume in his last appearance on November 7, but will be facing the likes of J. J. Got Even and Crop Report this time around.