FLORENCE, Ky., Feb. 28, 2013 – A dozen 3-year-olds signed up for the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday, the final local step on the road to the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (G3) on March 23.
Only a few of the Battaglia's contenders took one or both of the first two local steps as well, notably Bye Bye Bernie. Trained by Kelly Breen, Bye Bye Bernie was fourth in the Turfway Prevue Jan. 5 after running into traffic and second, beaten two lengths, in the 96ROCK Stakes Feb. 2. The improvement going two turns bodes well for the Bernstein colt, whose bullet works at Turfway indicate he is training exceptionally well over the Polytrack surface. Rodney Prescott was aboard for the 96ROCK and will be back up on Saturday.
Saturday's race will be Admiral Kitten's first start at Turfway but he already owns a win over Polytrack; he broke his maiden at first asking as a $50,000 claimer at Keeneland in October at the Battaglia's 1 1/16-mile distance. That was followed in November by a mile win in the El Joven Stakes on the turf at Retama. The Battaglia will be his first start since that win for the closer. Francisco Torres, who owns a riding title at Turfway, returns to the track to ride for trainer Mike Maker.
Another Turfway newcomer is For Greater Glory, who will try an all-weather surface for the first time Saturday. Trained by Steve Hobby and ridden Saturday by Turfway title holder Marcelino Pedroza, For Greater Glory has never been worse than third in four starts. He broke his maiden last out at Oaklawn in a maiden special weight at the Battaglia distance.
Trainer Mark Casse is shipping Star Contender to Turfway for the Battaglia after an off-the board finish on the dirt the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day. Before that outing the colt posted a win, a second, and a third on Woodbine's Polytrack as well as a turf win at Woodbine. Turfway's current leading rider, Norberto Arroyo Jr., has the call.
Maker also entered Let's Run, who will be making his third career start and his second this year. After a fifth place debut at Churchill Downs in November, he returned in January to win a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight at Turfway, closing to get up by a head. Ben Creed has the mount Saturday.
Admiral Kitten, Star Contender, Eddie Logan Stakes winner Avare, and Thistledown's Juvenile Stakes winner Silver Tongued have been assigned 124 lbs. All others carry 118.
The field from the rail out: Stormin Monarcho (jockey Florent Geroux); Silver Tongued (Roberto Morales); Mellow Fellow (Perry Ouzts); Let's Run; Admiral Kitten; For Greater Glory; General Election (Albin Jimenez); Takin the Sloroad (Thomas Pompell); Bye Bye Bernie; Star Contender; Avare (Shane Sellers); and Giant Finish (Gabriel Saez).
The 31st running of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes is the ninth race on Saturday's 10-race card.
Saturday's eighth race is a prep for the Bourbonette Oaks (G3), also set for March 23. Highlighting the field are Allanah, whose late run obliterated the field in the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Feb. 2; stakes winners Julmae and Always Kitten; Valanis, who wired a maiden special at Turfway at 72-1 after stumbling out of the gate; and Chicago shipper Bethany Belle.
First post Saturday is 1:10 p.m.