Sunday, March 25, 2001

Cold couldn't keep them away

18,700 watch Balto Star win Stakes

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — Maybe it was that brisk breeze out of the west, which kept many race fans at Turfway Park inside most of the day, that helped push Balto Star to the winner's circle in the $600,000 Spiral Stakes Saturday.

        The crowd on the rail for the 1-mile Grade II race, a Kentucky Derby prep event for the field of nine horses, was noticeably light, in large part because of a wind that made the 38-degree temperature feel 18.

[photo] Angela Conley, of Dry Ridge, cheers during the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        “We were ecstatic with the crowd (estimated at 18,700), given the weather forecast that called for rain and maybe even snow,” said track communications/marketing director Robert Forbeck.

        That Balto Star won the race was a surprise, even in a field that was not up to recent standards for the race known for several years as the Jim Beam Stakes.

        But the gelding ran away from the competition, finishing almost 13 lengths ahead of second-place Halo's Stride, while covering the distance in just three-fifths of a second off the Spiral record of 1:47 4/5, set by Hansel in 1991.

        Most of the crowd Saturday wasn't fooled by the bright sunshine and remained in the enclosed grandstand areas through most of the 12 races.

        Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton and U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning were on hand, as was U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas and a number of local and state officials.

        Ted Bushelman, the veteran communications director at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport who helped put together many of the events during Spiral Stakes week, said he enjoyed the day despite the pair of cell phones at his table.

        “I have to keep up with what's happening with the Comair situation,” he said.

        Turfway once again was on television's center stage with the race carried live by ESPN as part of that network's coverage of races leading up to the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

        Mr. Forbeck said the Spiral Stakes was transmitted to some 2,000 closed-circuit wagering outlets around the U.S., the most ever for the race.

        “The handle here at the track will be down a little from last year because of the smaller crowd, but our overall handle should be very good when the final numbers are in next week,” he said.

        Last year's Spiral Stakes attracted a record crowd of 22,480.

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