Black Onyx stormed home to win the Grade 3 $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. and grabbed 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system.
When Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx crossed the finish line Saturday, he was not Triple Crown nominated, but his connections confirmed after the race that they would nominate and pay the late nomination fee of $6,000.
Owner Sam Herzberg of Sterling Racing, who met trainer Kelly Breen in Louisiana the day Breen won the Louisiana Derby with Pants on Fire, was confident in this son of Rock Hard Ten and victory in the Spiral.
“Herzberg had Joe Bravo convinced this morning that he was going to win,” said Breen. “We were nominated [for the Spiral Stakes], thinking about it and it was all Sammy. He thought if he ever had a shot to go to a big race with this horse…He talked me into it.”
Herzberg’s words must have rung true for jockey Joe Bravo as well. “I’ve known the owners for seven or eight years,” said Bravo. “We used to play poker together. We hang out a few nights a week and go to Heat games together. I never handicapped a race as much as this one, ever. I knew every horse inside and out before we left the gate.”
Mac the Man, the local favorite with a three-for-three record at Turfway, led the field through the first half of the race, but faded around the far turn as Taken by the Storm and Giant Finish moved up. As the field headed for home, Black Onyx and Uncaptured joined the leaders, but it would be Black Onyx who would capture victory, 1 ½ lengths in front of Uncaptured. Uncaptured was another 1 ½ lengths in front of Giant Finish.
Mark Casse’s Uncaptured, who won the Kentucky Jockey Cup and Iroquois at Churchill Downs, finished second in his three-year-old debut, beaten 1 ½ lengths.
“I was extremely happy,” said Casse. “It’s been a really long road getting there. For him to run farther than he ever has in his first start in four months, he performed very well. If all goes well, we’ll go from here to the Blue Grass Stakes, and then to the Derby.”
Mac the Man was eased and did not finish the race. Trainer Jeff Greenhill said after the race that the horse was not visually injured and scoped clean. A more thorough evaluation would be done later, but Greenhill suspected the colt was suffering another foot issue.
The win gives Black Onyx 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system and moves him into the number three slot on the leaderboard, behind Will Take Charge and Vyjack. Uncaptured added 20 points to bring his total to 30 and place him eighth on the leaderboard. Giant Finish earned 10 points, but is not Triple Crown nominated (connections say it’s highly likely they will nominate him), so he’s not on the leaderboard. Taken by the Storm earned five points for his fourth place finish.
Black Onyx returned $33.40, $14.20, and $10.80. Uncaptured paid $5.80 and $4.80 and completed the $2 exacta for $220.80. Giant Finish paid $14.40 and completed the $.50 trifecta for $1,166.30. Taken by the Storm completed the $.10 superfecta for $2,363.70. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile race over the fast Polytrack was 1:51:98.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby/Pat Lang Photos