Black Onyx ran his rivals off their feet and ran himself into the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate with an upset victory in Saturday’s $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park.
Ridden by Joe Bravo, Black Onyx defeated Uncaptured by 1 ½ lengths while covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.98 over Turfway’s all weather track. The horse was bred in Kentucky by Cloverleaf Farms II and is owned by Sterling Racing.
“He’s proven he’s a multi-talented horse,” trainer Kelly Breen told Turfway Park publicity. “He’s won on dirt, on turf, and now on Polytrack. The plan was—if he won—that we wouldn’t run again until the Derby. His next start will be the Derby.”
Bravo traveled from his winter base at Gulfstream Park for the mount.
“We planned the trip out and then the gates opened and he was sluggish,” Bravo said. “I was saying, ‘Don’t tell me he’s not taking to the track.’ After an eighth of a mile, he took hold of the bit and started pulling me along. I was watching Miguel Mena (jockey of Uncaptured) because I respect that horse, but it didn’t look like he was handling the track as well as mine. After that, my horse settled down and it was all over. I’ve known the owners for seven or eight years. 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.”
John Oxley’s Uncaptured finished second. The Mark Casse trainee prepared for his seasonal bow in Florida at Ocala Training Center.
“My horse was trying really hard,” said Miguel Mena, who rode Uncaptured. “He was just getting a little tired. He really needed the race. He was getting tired from the eighth pole. He’s such a good horse and has such a deep heart. He just keeps on trying. He just never gives up. He broke really well for me today and we had a great trip. No problems at all. We were trying to save some horse, and I thought I was going to have it.”
Casse was encouraged his charge’s first start of the year.
“I was extremely happy,” said trainer Mark 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. Yes, (the Kentucky Derby is still in mind). If all goes well, we’ll go from here to the Blue Grass Stakes and then into the Derby. You never know (about getting the distance). But we do know one thing: he’s two-for-two at Churchill Downs. And judging by the way he ran and by the way he rated, I don’t see how distance would be an issue.”
Black Onyx/Lang photo