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For the second year in a row, trainer Graham Motion and owner Team Valor International—this year with co-owner Mark Ford—punched their ticket to the Kentucky Derby (G1) by winning the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park. Went the Day Well took Saturday’s Derby prep by 3 1/2 lengths over runner-up Holiday Promise and another length over third-place Heavy Breathing. Final time for the 1 1/8-mile Spiral Stakes was 1:51.33.
Motion and Team Valor won the Spiral Stakes and the Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom last year and expect to be in the Derby gate again this year with Went the Day Well.
“I was very impressed with him,” said Motion. “Apart from a little greenness (in the stretch) he couldn’t have been better. When Animal Kingdom won this race last year, he was very explosive, but this horse was a little explosive, too. I hate to compare the two because they are such different horses.
“The beauty of (the timing of) this race is you have the option to run him one more time or not run more time. Probably the only option (if he does run) is the Lexington Stakes (at Keeneland April 21).
“I feel confident telling you this horse will run in the Kentucky Derby,” Motion continued.
Heavy Breathing set a strong pace, setting the first quarter in :23.10, the half-mile in :46.98 and the three-quarter mark in 1:11.86 as Ill Conceived pushed him from just a length or less to his outside. Went the Day Well was an aggressive fourth and fifth inside, about two lengths off the leaders, with jockey John Velazquez orchestrating a smart trip.
“I thought he was going to be a little bit farther back, but the track is playing pretty fast so I didn’t want to be too far back. He got a good position going into the first turn and I took advantage of that—saved all the ground and then pulled him out at the quarter pole.”
Went the Day Well was making just his third start in the United States after two starts in England and is still learning how to race. After Went the Day Well took a short lead coming into the stretch, Velazquez worked diligently to keep the colt’s mind on his business.
“When he got to the lead he started waiting (on other horses) and lugging in, and then (he switched leads and) just went on,” said Velazquez. “He still doesn’t know very much. You can tell; as soon as he pulled out at the quarter pole and he found himself on the lead, he didn’t know what to do. So I just encouraged him to keep going forward. He did everything great today.”
The Spiral Stakes was Velazquez’s first time aboard Went the Day Well.
Holiday Promise, a 25-1 long shot, and Heavy Breathing, the 2-1 post time favorite, are both trained by Todd Pletcher.
“I thought (Heavy Breathing) held on very well considering the quick fractions, and I was pleased with his performance,” said Pletcher, who said the colt’s next step is undecided at this point. “I was very happy with how Holiday Promise ran. I think he handled the (Polytrack) real well. Elliott Walden (president, CEO, and racing manager of owner WinStar Farm) and I are discussing shipping him to Keeneland and possibly running him in the Blue Grass Stakes (on April 14).”
The final order of finish in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes was Went the Day Well, Holiday Promise, Heavy Breathing, Handsome Mike, Stealcase, All Squared Away, Ill Conceived, Russian Greek, Tizanexpense, Red Jack, Mr. Prankster, and Coach Royal.
Went the Day Well was the bettors’ third choice at 5-1 and paid $12.40, $6, and $4.40. Holiday Promise paid $21.80 to place and $10.80 to show. Heavy Breathing paid $3.60 to show.
As it was for Animal Kingdom last year, the Grade 3 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes was Went the Day Well’s first attempt at stakes competition. The winner’s share of the $500,000 purse—$282,000—will virtually assure him a spot in the Kentucky Derby gate, where the 20 starters are determined by graded stakes earnings. Altogether Went the Day Well has two wins and two seconds in five career starts for earnings of $315,344.
Bred in New York by James Patrick Delaney, Went the Day Well is by Proud Citizen out of the Tiznow mare Tiz Maie’s Day.
From Turfway Park