Florence, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Stablemates Solitary Ranger and Poker Player, both trained by Wayne Catalano, head a field of 12 3-year-olds for Saturday's $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
The 1 1/8-mile Spiral is an important race on the road to the Kentucky Derby. The winning horse receives 50 points for a start in the Run for the Roses on May 3. Three years ago Animal Kingdom won the race prior to claiming the Kentucky Derby.
Catalano's two colts completed the exacta three weeks ago in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway on the synthetic main track. Solitary Ranger won at 9-1 over 8-5 favorite Poker Player by 4 3/4 lengths.
"He's got speed," Catalano said about Solitary Ranger after the Battaglia, "we had an inside post, and we were going to take advantage of that. And we also had Poker Player in there, so he was going to keep the pace honest up front, and in the meantime we were going to try to win with both horses. I think Poker Player got a little bit too far out of it."
For the Spiral Stakes, Solitary Ranger will again be ridden by Florent Geroux and start from post 8. Poker Player has drawn post 3 with Channing Hill returning to ride. Solitary Ranger is 6-1 in the morning line with Poker Player at 5-1.
Solitary Ranger, owned by Susan Moulton, has three wins and two seconds in six starts for $194,243.
After finishing second in his first two career starts at Keeneland, the colt won the Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park last September. For his final 2013 start, Solitary Ranger set the pace but finished ninth in Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity on Oct. 5. Coming into the Battaglia, the 3- year-old won an allowance race on the turf at Fair Grounds on Jan. 5.
Poker Player, owned by Gary and Mary West, has two wins in five lifetime starts for $165,100. He won the Bourbon Stakes last year at Keeneland and was eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
The 3-1 morning line favorite is Tamarando off his El Camino Real Derby win at Golden Gate Fields last month. The colt will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze from post 4.
Tamarando, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams, will be making his eighth consecutive stakes start in the Spiral. He began the year with a second-place finish behind California Chrome in the California Cup Derby at Santa Anita.
"He's been very sound, and he was doing everything we asked him to do," said Hollendorfer, "so we ran him. He fits in this race. It looks like a good spot."
As a 2-year-old, Tamarando posted wins in the Del Mar Futurity and Real Quiet Stakes, and was third in the FrontRunner, Golden State Juvenile and CashCall Futurity. The colt has earned $625,120 with four wins, two seconds and three thirds in 10 starts.
Here is the field from the rail out for the Spiral: Big Bazinga, Luis Contreras, 30-1; Asserting Bear, Joe Rocco Jr., 12-1; Poker Player, Channing Hill, 5-1; Tamarando, Russell Baze, 3-1; Coastline, Stewart Elliott, 8-1; Smart Cover, Corey Lanerie, 20-1; All Tied Up, Luis Saez, 12-1; Solitary Ranger, Florent Geroux, 6-1; Almost Famous, Calvin Borel, 6-1; Harry's Holiday, Rosie Napravnik, 20-1; We Miss Artie, John Velazquez, 4-1 and Arctic Slope, Albin Jimenez, 30-1.
Post time will be approximately 6:28 p.m. ET for the Spiral.