Wins for the good guys provide warmth on a chilly day at Turfway
FLORENCE, Ky. -- A blustery, cold wind, which had patrons squeezing together for warmth inside the grandstand, corporate tents evacuated, and a Port-a-Potty flying over the track apron, had not let up at all by the time the final two races were run Saturday at Turfway Park.
On the plus side, the sun, missing for much of the afternoon, had finally come back after two of racing's good guys, Larry Jones and Ken Ramsey, enjoyed significant wins on the $500,000 Spiral (G3) card.
Jones, who's trained outstanding fillies like Havre de Grace, Eight Belles, Proud Spell, Believe You Can, and Lovely Maria, as well as Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Hard Spun, earned his 1000th career victory when He'll Pay overcame post 12 to take the $99,250 Rushaway for three-year-olds at one mile.
"It's been a long 32 years," Jones said. "It's been an overnight 32-year success."
About an hour later, Ramsey won the Spiral for a third time when 23-1 longshot Oscar Nominated prevailed by a neck in the nine-furlong Polytrack test. The finish was so tight, the first five across the wire were separated by a less than a length.
Grinning from ear to ear, as has often been the case since the days of Kitten's Joy, the sire of Oscar Nominated, in 2004, Ramsey now has another prospect for a race, the Kentucky Derby (G1), he so much wants to win, especially with a colt whose sire he owned and stands at stud.
Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker claimed Oscar Nominated for $75,000 out of a maiden win at Belmont Park in October, and he's hardly disappointed. Though he missed in his first two starts for Ramsey in photo finishes, he's made up for it in his last two starts taking the $50,000 Black Gold at Fair Grounds on the turf, and now the Spiral.
Oscar Nominated is not currently Triple Crown nominated, but Ramsey, being the sportsman he is, will change that. Whether that is the correct move going forward, especially in light of juvenile champion Nyquist's awesome performance in Saturday's Florida Derby (G1), is something to ponder.
However, anything can happen in racing, and there was ample evidence of that at Gulfstream when heavy favorite Mohaymen finished a well-beaten fourth in the Florida Derby. It was hard to predict either of these colts could finish worse than second, much less out of the money
I liked Mohaymen going into this epic pre-Derby battle with Nyquist and am disappointed at the effort, though obviously not as much as his connections. Mohaymen did have to endure a wide trip most of the way while Nyquist, favorably drawn closer to the inside, enjoyed a near-perfect trip.
All that said, Nyquist is most deserving of the Derby favoritism that will come his way, and certainly looked capable of going much farther than 1 1/8 miles. Mohaymen, if all is well with him, is likely to join him at Churchill Downs, but he now has even more to prove.
I can't end this wrap-up without acknowledging the presence of the "gutsy gelding" Funny Cide at Turfway Park on Saturday. The folks at the Kentucky Horse Park shipped the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) up to Florence for the day, parading him in the paddock late in the morning and then bringing him back out to lead the Spiral post parade.
I can't say the 16-year-old fan favorite showed any urges of wanting to join his younger brethren in a little race over the Turfway oval, but he certainly hasn't lost his ability to strike a pose.