Happy New Year! Let’s start it off right with the first (of many) daily specials in 2022. The Saturday Special. Enjoy.
By the Numbers
104,000: Dollars donated to the Kevin J. McKenna Scholarship and The Jimmy Fund by friends of our friend, Keven J. McKenna, who we lost eight years ago.
Read Sean’s 2013 column about Kevin’s father, Bob and his annual trip to Saratoga.
For more on the scholarship, click here.
1: New York-bred entered at Plumpton Sunday. Point Him Out, a 4-year-old son of Point Of Entry, makes his hurdle debut for Dan Donoghue and Hilary Pridham.
21: Horses nominated to the Smarty Jones by Steve Asmussen. The Hall of Fame trainer runs three in Saturday’s feature at Oaklawn Park.
105: Pounds lost by NYRA TV host Anthony Stabile in 2021. Keep it rolling.
“It’s exciting, first of all, to be part of some Kentucky Derby point races, with a live shot, too. The horse, he’s 4-1, but he’s live. We’re just happy to be part of this process so far.”
Trainer John Ortiz, trainer of Smarty Jones hopeful Barber Road
“I never looked back, though. You were faced with important decisions in life. You took the time to make your decision, you weighed up all the factors, you spoke to the people you thought you should speak to who could help in your decision, and then, with the information that you had available to you at the time, you made your decision. Decision made, you don’t look back.”
Champion jockey Pat Smullen in his memoir, Champion, about opting to ride second call for trainer John Oxx instead of Aidan O’Brien
Name of the Day
Nietzsche. Musselburgh, fifth race. The 8-year-old, making his 59th start, is by Poet’s Voice.
Resolutions from around The Special
“Without a doubt The Power Grid handicapping title, which would mean slaying the giant that is Shapazian, is at the top of the list of goals/resolutions for 2022. From a personal standpoint, 100 running miles a month is the goal with the backup being 1,000 miles for the year if and when things go south in July and August when we're working on The Saratoga Special.”
“This is a thought/message I guess, not a resolution. For racing, do right by the horses. They trust us to make the right decisions for them, to protect them, to have their interests at heart – whether we own, train, ride, breed, groom, treat, bet, run a racetrack or just watch races at racetracks. We've let them down way too many times and every time we let them down, we damage the sport.”
“Well, last year I made audacious goals. Read 52 books, write 365 days, run 1,000 miles…and if you’re keeping score, I was 0-for-3. So, perhaps, I’ll be vaguer this year. Read more. Write more. Run more. Throw in, win more and we’re good. Oh yeah, one more, be kind.”
The Thoroughbred Racing Calendar Play of the Day
Play a double in the second and third races at Cheltenham. Honest Vic and Oscar Elite.
Don’t miss out on the calendar, order here.
Cheltenham. Race 1. 7:15 a.m. The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle kicks off the day at Cheltenham’s annual New Year’s Day event. Don’t go anywhere, the action starts with a clash between I Am Maximus, Hillcrest and Get A Tonic. The latter is co-owned by Cherry Knoll Farm (of Jive With Five, Gelatti and others, fame).
HRRN. Equine Forum. 8:00. Mike Penna talks to Javier Castellano, Jeremiah O’Dwyer, Flavien Prat and other Saturday stars on the action-packed show. http://horseracingradio.net
Cheltenham. Race. 3. 8:25. Nobody’s hotter than Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch. The trainer/jockey duo team up with L’Homme Presse in the Grade 2 Paddy Power Novices’ Chase. Take a flyer with Oscar Elite, second at 40-1, at the Festival in March.
Tramore. Race 5. 9:20. Well, hello again. In his annual return, two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo gets back to work in the Grade 3 Savills New Year’s Day Chase. The French-bred has won the 2 3/4-mile chase three years in a row. In a top-heavy game, Willie Mullins sends out five of the six starters.
Fairyhouse. Race 6. 9:40. Whoa, here’s a New Year’s highlight. Queen Mother winner Put The Kettle On tries to snap a two-race losing streak in the Grade 3 John & Chich Fowler EBF Mares Chase. If anybody can right a ship, Rachael Blackmore can. The star of 2021 rides Put The Kettle On for the first time since July, 2019.
Cheltenham. Race 6. 10:10. Guard Your Dreams, 2-for-2 at Cheltenham this season, returns in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle. Tough race.
Southwell. Race 7. 11:00. Nothing like longevity. Sir Chauvelin, on his ninth birthday, seeks his 13th career victory. The son of Authorized takes on 11 rivals in the Betway Handicap.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50 p.m. Start the Derby clock here. The Jerome highlights a nine-race card at the Big A. Maryland shipper Cooke Creek goes on the road for Cheyenne Stable and Jeremiah O’Dwyer. The son of Uncle Mo won his first two before finishing second in the Grade 3 Nashua Nov. 1.
Gulfstream Park. Race 10. 4:42. Three-year-olds, including Belmont maiden winner Graphic Detail, rumble in the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man, one of five stakes on the card. Is he boiling to stardom for Bill Mott?
Turfway Park. Race 9. 4:59. Sprinter Sir Alfred James looks strong in the Holiday Cheer. Got any left?
Sunland Park. Race 7. 5:04. Raagheb, a 10-year-old son of Street Cry bred by Shadwell, aims at his 12th career win. He takes on six rivals in the Klaq Handicap.
Oaklawn Park. Race 9. 5:13. The aforementioned Smarty Jones. Throw them in a hat and shake.
Turfway. Race 10. 5:26. Wow, what a maiden race to finish off the card.
Camarero. Race 7. 5:30. Surf Spa, claimed for $50,000 at Churchill Downs Nov. 13, winds up in Puerto Rico for Sonata Stable. The daughter of Creative Cause breaks from the rail in the Versets Jet Stakes. Navit and Media Luna return after finishing 1-2 in a Grade 3 in November.
Santa Anita Park. Race 6. 5:35. Down the hill. French-bred Bran makes his American debut for John Sadler and Hronis Racaing.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:36. Our old friend, New York-bred Time Limit breaks from the rail in the Nelson J. Menard Memorial, a turf sprint for fillies and mares.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:05. Newgrange and Rockefeller square off in the Grade 3 stakes for 3-year-olds. John Velazquez, who rides Newgrange, is poised for a winter of abundance.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:35. The Robert J. Frankel. Oh, how we miss him.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:05. The La Canada continues a stakes smorgasbord at the Great Race Place.