The Monday Special – Feb. 26

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The second month of 2018 is nearly complete and the combination of unseasonably warmer than normal temperatures over the weekend and the fact that February is the shortest one of the year has everyone thinking spring. It might be a tad early for that, with March on the way and lots of top racing at the world’s top wintertime venues still to come. But it was nice to dream, even for a bit.

A lighter than usual slate of races also served as a reminder that it is indeed still winter, with only a pair of graded stakes here in the U.S. and less-than-stellar cards elsewhere.

Let’s not dwell on what we didn’t have and instead look back in this week’s edition of The Monday Special. Here you go, enjoy.


Eyes Forward

No significant classic preps – with apologies to Sunday’s $100,000 Mine That Bird at Sunland Park – helped trigger a relatively light slate of action on the racetrack across the country. That will change significantly this coming weekend with the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park continuing the Kentucky Derby “Championship Series” with 50 points award to the winner toward a spot in the gate May 5.

The Risen Star Stakes was the first Championship Series event and that race and the Fountain of Youth are two of seven 50-point races along with the Gotham, San Felipe and Tampa Bay Derby (all March 10), Rebel (March 17) and Sunland Derby (March 25).

The Fountain of Youth, which is expected to draw 2017 champion 2-year-old male and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic, is not the only classic prep of the weekend that offers points toward a guaranteed spot in Louisville.

Two races late this week in Europe – the Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes at Kempton Park and Patton Stakes at Dundalk – offer 20 points to the winner. Each race is run at 1 mile on a synthetic surface and they are two of 11 races run outside the U.S. in the series. The others include the UAE Derby at Meydan and Hyacinth at Tokyo Racecourse.


Trip of the week (one to remember, one to forget edition)

If you have a few minutes and didn’t catch it the first time, check out Saturday’s 10th race from Gulfstream. Pay close attention to what happens to No. 1, the 3-2 favorite King Zachary. That’s the story of the race. We think he’ll be a good one down the road going two turns – being a $550,000 yearling buy and a son of Curlin out of a Giant’s Causeway mare already showing promise sprinting.

The winner, Penalty, is obviously one to watch being a first-timer by Blame and the first foal out of the stakes-placed Empire Maker mare Amazing Shoes.

We looked up the family and found the second foal is a 2-year-old filly by Flatter named Heels. Name of the day in The Saratoga Special if she runs upstate.

Brother Act

Cool moment Sunday at Gulfstream Park as brothers Javier Castellano and Abel Castellano Jr. teamed for a victory in the third race on the card.

Javier, the Hall of Fame jockey, rode Nothins Free for his brother and former jockey in the $12,500 maiden claimer for 3-year-old fillies. The win was the sixth for Abel, who took out his license last winter, and the first together for the brothers.

Javier, at age 40 to Abel’s 34, is the older of the two but still felt the heat.

“I feel a lot of pressure – don’t get me wrong – riding for him,” he told Gulfstream’s publicity staff. “It’s very special to ride for him. Thank God for this winner. Hopefully, there will be many more.”


Workout buzz

Speaking of Javier Castellano, he’s seemingly mentioned in Santa Anita Park’s comprehensive daily Stable Notes package. The reason, in case you missed it, is because he breezed two-time Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro Monday morning and return to ride the highly regarded son of Medaglia d’Oro in the Grade 2 San Felipe March 10.

Bolt d’Oro is widely considered the West Coast’s top classics contender. He finished third as the favorite following a wide trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a loss that cost him the Eclipse Award, and then suffered a pulled muscle late last year. That setback cost him some training and the chance to make his seasonal debut in the Feb. 10 San Vicente. Owner-trainer Mick Ruis is expected to give Bolt d’Oro two starts – the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby – if he makes it to the Kentucky Derby.

Bolt d’Oro and Castellano worked 6 furlongs out of the gate in a bullet 1:12.

First winner

Brittany Trimble, a familiar face on the Saratoga stable area and elsewhere on the East Coast that last few years working for Ron Moquett, Jimmy Jerkens and Brad Cox, saddled her first winner in the fourth race Sunday at Laurel Park.

Oh My, a filly named by owner Peter Blum in admiration of the late sportscaster Dick Enberg, was the 28-year-old Trimble’s first starter. The 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro made one prior start, finishing fifth in a similar maiden special weight in mid-January at Laurel for Blum and Graham Motion.


By the Numbers

3: Horses Peter Miller started in Saturday’s Grade 3 Daytona Stakes. He swept the trifecta in the 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint, winning the Conquest Tsumani in an upset over Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal and favored Calculator.

9: Months (and 15 days) between starts for Saturday’s Texas Glitter Stakes winner Salmanazar.

$48.20: Win payoff for Mongolian Shopper in the $73,435 Wishing Well Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita. Like 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday for the same connections, she’s by Any Given Saturday. And she could have been yours for $50,000 back in January.

75: Win percentage at Oaklawn Park for James Rogers’ Black Hawk Stable, which won its sixth race from eight starts Friday with Fort Fortitude.

$160,000: Appoximate amount raised by Florida-based owner and trainer Carlo Vaccarezza for the families of the victims of the Parkland shooting at Maryjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida Feb. 14. Vaccarezza’s sons Nick and Mike survived the school shooting. Vaccarezza, breeder and owner of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Little Mike with his wife Priscilla, hosted the event at his restaurant Frank and Dino’s in Boca Raton. Donations can still be made by calling 561-218-4636.


The Best of The Saratoga Special (double shot)

We wrote – Sam Houston. Race 7. 9:48. Tom Proctor ships Proud Reunion from Fair Grounds for $50,000 Jersey Lilly Turf.
Proud Reunion delivered, winning and returning $5.20 to her backers.

We wrote – Sam Houston. Race 8. 10:16. The evening’s feature is the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup. Blueridge Traveler, a winner last time at Oaklawn Park for Ken McPeek, is the heavy favorite on the morning line but don’t count out Net Gain, Social Misfit or even Franco.
Blueridge Traveler won at odds-on and Net Gain completed the seriously chalky $2 exacta that returned $7.60. Hey, winners are winners.


The worst of The Saratoga Special (double shot)

We wrote – Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:05. Pin Oak Stud homebred Missive finished third in Silverbulletday Stakes last time and skipped last weekend’s Rachel Alexandra. Daughter of Alternation tries the grass for the first time. Her mother, Bedanken, was lights out on the turf with three of her four graded wins on the green.
Missive didn’t fire in her turf debut, finishing seventh of eight as the 5-2 favorite.

We wrote – Sam Houston. Race 9. 10:44. The $50,000 Houston Turf going 1 1/16 miles puts cap on the day. It looks like Mav Master vs. Moojab Jr.
We liked Sam Houston and gave out two of the stakes winners. Missed the mark on this one as it was Mav Master vs. Moojab Jr for seventh and fifth, respectively.


Stable Tour Archives

Saturday we wrote “Arklow, winner of last year’s Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs, makes first start since the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga in early August. Brad Cox talked about son of Arch in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer.

Arklow ran on well in the stretch to run down his stablemate Dot Matrix to win by a nose. Cox said the Grade 2 Mervin H. Muniz Memorial, a race he won in 2015 with Chocolate Ride, would be next for Arklow.