A quarter of the year in the books, a trio of key Kentucky Derby preps and the third jump meeting of 2019 feels like an opportune time to take stock of where we are and re-set the table for what figures to be a very busy spring.

We admit to being a bit lax on our weekly recaps of late but we hope the following installment serves as the first of many leading up to the Saratoga Race Course meeting and the 19th season publishing The Saratoga Special. If you’re scoring at home it’s now less than 100 days until Opening Day and less than four weeks until the Kentucky Derby. Wow, time to dig in.

So, the weekly recap will be just that, part recap, part Here & There, part preview and more. Looking for the latest Triple Crown news? How about first winners, milestones or retirements? Results from the jump meets? Maybe even some handicapping? We’ll put it all in the recap and probably a lot more.

The April 8 edition will start with all things Kentucky Derby, since a significant portion of the field added their names to the all-but-official list of starters in the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass and Santa Anita Derby. We tossed in mini Worth Repeating section from last week’s New York Thoroughbred Breeders Annual Awards Dinner – did you see the program? – and recap the action from Camden’s second day of racing this spring. Check it all out below and see you next week.

 

Derby, Derby, Derby

If racing folks aren’t talking about Santa Anita they’re certainly talking about the Kentucky Derby. Less than four weeks now until the big day at Churchill Downs and more than a few major players emerged from the weekend’s trio of preps.

The $1 million Santa Anita Derby figured to produce the probable favorite if the race followed form and for the most part it did, with Bob Baffert’s duo of Roadster and Game Winner finishing 1-2.

Roadster figures to go to Louisville now as the early favorite – he’s already attracted attention from Kentucky Derby Future Wager players and closed Sunday night as the 6-1 favorite – after defeating Game Winner by a half-length. Game Winner didn’t lose much in defeat, enduring a wide trip throughout and coming up just short. He’s lost two straight now, along with a nose loss in the Grade 2 Rebel last time, after starting his career 4-for-4.

Game Winner closed the final Derby Future Wager as the 7-1 co-second choice with Florida Derby winner Maximum Security and just below Wood Memorial winner Tacitus and the top two contenders for the Arkansas Derby in Improbable and Omaha Beach.

The makeup of the prospective Derby field underwent a significant shakeup with the weekend’s events. Roadster, without a single point heading into the weekend, now sits in a three-way tie for fourth (with By My Standards and Maximum Security), at 100 points. The top three on the list are Tacitus (150), Blue Grass winner Vekoma (110) and UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait (104).

Game Winner, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and last year’s Eclipse Award winner, is seventh with 85. He’s followed by Code Of Honor (74), Haikal (70) and War Of Will (60) to round out the top 10.

The Arkansas Derby offers another 100-60-40-20 point superfecta this weekend, which figures to further change the list. Rounding out the top 10 are Long Range Toddy (53.5), Tax (52), Cutting Humor (50), Win Win Win (50), Gray Magician (41), Spinoff (40), Bodexpress (40), Signalman (38), Omaha Beach (37.5) and Bourbon War (31).

To steal one from the college basketball prognosticators out there, the first four out as of April 8 are Somelikeithotbrown (30), Instagrand (30), Anothertwistafate (30) and Country House (30).

 

By the Numbers

1: Starter and winner for freshman sire Wicked Strong after Secretly Wicked won her debut in 4 1/2-furlong maiden Sunday at Keeneland. Wicked Strong stands at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.

1: U.S. victories for apprentice jockey Kennyel Suarez after he rode Trinni Juice to a 33-1 upset in the second race Sunday at Gulfstream Park.

9: Santa Anita Derby victories for Bob Baffert after Roadster’s win Saturday.

10: Victories from 13 starts since being claimed for $40,000 in February 2018 for Vasilika, winner of Saturday’s Grade 2 Royal Heroine at Santa Anita.

$106.20: Win payoff for Out For A Spin in Saturday’s Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland.

1:34.13: Inspector Lynley’s course-record setting time for 1 mile on turf in Sunday’s $100,000 Danger’s Hour at Aqueduct

30,713: On-track crowd for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby and Santa Anita Handicap.

34,775: Attendance for Blue Grass Stakes Day at Keeneland, a record opening Saturday crowd for the spring meeting.

$25,809,200: Record all-sources handle for Keeneland’s 11-race card Saturday.

$944,833,669: Total handle on U.S. races in March, a drop of nearly 3 percent compared to March 2018.

 

Worth Repeating

“All I was thinking about was Eclipse Award.”
Harvey Diamond, owner of New York-bred champion 2-year-old male Somelikeithotbrown, on his thoughts turning for home in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (where the son of Big Brown finished second).
“Well, you’ll have to settle for the New York Breeders Award.”
NYTB Annual Awards Dinner emcee Richard Migliore

“I wasn’t that optimistic to begin with.”
Trainer Linda Rice on early impressions of eventual graded stakes winner and New York-bred champion Midnight Disguise

“Raising them is like raising children, you hope they grow up to be something like this one.”
Stonewall Farm’s Peter Moore on the New York-bred champion turf male Voodoo Song

“She’s in Friday.”
Rice when asked by Migliore what’s next for New York-bred champion female sprinter Midnight Disguise
“I guess I should have checked the overnight.”
Migliore

“I really believe this is all about Rick tonight.”
Fred Hertrich III, co-breeder of eventual New York-bred Horse of the Year and champion older dirt male Diversify, echoing sentiments of many thinking of the late Rick Violette during last week’s NYTB Awards Dinner

“When I found I won … the dinner was April 1. I thought, is Linda going to be there? April Fool’s?”
Jeremiah Englehart, leading trainer of New York-breds by a narrow margin over multiple champion Linda Rice

“Jimmy Riccio, one of my owners, asked me if I’d like to win an Eclipse Award one day. I said, ‘I’d love to but I’d also like to be an Eclipse Award-winning dad.’ ”
Englehart

“The kid is the best in the business … I still have his trophy from last year in my house here in Saratoga. We told him he can’t win it again if he doesn’t pick this one up.”
Owner Sol Kumin, accepting on behalf of leading rider of New York-breds Irad Ortiz Jr.

“At the quarter pole, I thought I was going to the Preakness.”
Mike Trombetta on Win Win Win’s runner-up effort in the Blue Grass, earning 40 points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby field; third-place points (20) might not have been enough to secure a spot

 

Steeplechase Report

The National Steeplechase Association and Carolina Cup’s joint venture brought a second day of jump racing to Springdale Race Course Saturday and the
“Cup Runneth Over” card proved popular with big fields for the five races.

Orchestra Leader, making his 42nd start over jumps for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, took the featured $25,000 handicap hurdle going 2 3/8 miles under Keri Brion. Owned by Team Ollie, Orchestra Leader improved to 11-for-58 in his career with a three-quarter-length win over Pik Em. Ack Feisty finished third in the 14-horse field.

Bon Nouvel Chasers’ Repeat Repeat, last seen finishing seventh of nine in an optional claimer on the grass for trainer Michael Stidham in early August at Delaware Park, won his jumps debut in the $30,000 maiden hurdle. Ridden by Kieran Norris for trainer Julie Gomena, Repeat Repeat won by a neck from Jump Ship with Gaye Breeze third in the field of 10.

Gil Johnston’s Amnicalola won the in the $20,000 filly and mare maiden hurdle for trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Michael Mitchell. The 6-year-old daughter of Arch hadn’t been out since leaving the course after her rider lost the irons in the 2017 edition of the $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes.

The other winners on the card were Stephany W.S. Harper’s Change Maker in the $15,000 maiden claimer for trainer Alicia Murphy and jockey Sean McDermott and Mark Buyck Jr.’s Two To Go in the 1 1/4-mile training flat for trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. and jockey Michael Mitchell.

The TIHR handicappers didn’t fare too well for a second straight week at Camden.

Joe and Sean continue to lead the way on the season after each picking one winner, while Tom took the donut (again). Joe picked Change Maker and Sean picked Repeat Repeat and they each stand at four wins on the season. Tom is third with just a pair.

The timber season opens later this week in Monkton, Md., with My Lady’s Manor, perhaps that will wake up our trio.