The Saturday Special – April 1

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Champion Forte takes a spin around the paddock this week at Gulfstream Park, where he runs in Saturday’s Grade 1 Florida Derby. Gulfstream Park Photo.

Happy April Fool’s Day. Or as we prefer to say, Happy Birthday Joe. Our man Joe Clancy turns, well, we’ll leave that for another day or let him tell you. Either way, it’s April 1 and the start of the second quarter of 2023.

With the start of April comes crunch time on the Derby trail and this weekend’s prep slate features two heavyweight tests in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Big points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate loom, and would-be upsetters of champion Forte dot the entries for the Florida Derby.

We roll through the races, starting overseas with the beginning of the European flat season and continue through late heats here in the U.S. at Santa Anita and Turfway.

Here’s the primer for Saturday, April 1. Good luck.

Worth Repeating

“He sees the competition and he goes for it.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. about champion and Florida Derby favorite Forte

“I know him a little better. I know what he wants to do and how he likes to run. I have a lot of confidence in him. I trust him. I trust him,” Ortiz said. “His mind is for sure changing. He’s doing things a little better. He doesn’t hesitate. He’s not like a 2-year-old anymore. He’s figured out what he needs to do, which makes it good for me.”
Ortiz on Forte

Names of the Day

Prenup. Chelmsford City. Race 1. The 4-year-old filly is by Profitable out of Intimacy.

Jimi Hendrix. Doncaster. Race 4. How can you not like a horse named after the guitar legend?

Enos Slaughter. Golden Gate. Race 9. If you’re rooting for this one, you can shorten it up and yell, “Come on Country.”  

As for the Races…

Saint-Cloud. Race 2. 8:33 a.m. Stand back in awe of Pensee Du Jour. The daughter of Camelot rates the longest look in the Group 3 Penelope Stakes.

Doncaster. Race 1. 8:50. The start of the turf season. Eighteen 2-year-olds make their debuts. Yes, European-based 2-year-olds start their careers in March.

Kempton. Race 2. 9:05. Secret State returns for his 4-year-old season. The Charlie Appleby-trained son of Dubawi is 3/2 in the Unibet Magnolia Stakes. 

Doncaster. Race 2. 9:25. Twenty-two clash in the Pertemps Network Spring Mile Handicap.

Doncaster. Race 3. 10:00. El Caballo returns for his first start since Royal Ascot. The 4-year-old rumbles with 11 rivals in the Pertemps Network Cammidge Trophy.

Doncaster. Race 4. 10:35. The Pertemps Network Lincoln Handicap. Always a fascinating race. This year’s edition features 22 milers. Inches equal lengths.

Doncaster. Race 5. 11:10. Poker Face hails as the favorite in the Pertemps Network Doncaster Mile.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 11:30. Big day and monster card. The first of 14 is 1-mile turf maiden for 3-year-old fillies.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:28. The $100,000 Cutler Bay for 3-year-olds on the grass, the first of 10 stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 12:57. Dr. Blute, runaway winner of the Empire Classic last fall in his native New York, makes 2023 debut in 1-mile optional.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 1:15. Arkansas Derby Day starts with 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:26. The Grade 2 Pan American Stakes presented by Rood & Riddle. Master Piece looks like a short price off third in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida last time out and with the addition of blinkers.

Chelmsford City. Race 4. 2:00. Three-years-olds clash in the Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Stakes. Iconic Moment puts his undefeated record on the line. Stormy Entry, a son of Point Of Entry, ventures from Ireland for Charles Fipke.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:26. Multiple graded stakes winner First Captain makes 5-year-old debut against Simplification, O’Connor and four others in the Grade 3 Ghostzapper.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 2:56. Amazing Grace, a group stakes winner in Germany, makes U.S. debut for Christophe Clement in the Grade 3 Orchid going long on the grass. Strong group awaits, including Viburnum, Transient, Personal Best and stablemate Atomic Blonde.

Oaklawn. Race 5. 3:17. Hopper, fourth in the Grade 1 Big ‘Cap last time, ships from Southern California and meets Caddo River, Smile Happy and others in the Grade 3 Oaklawn Mile.

Aqueduct. Race 5. 3:24. Regular readers know we’re all about the Bourbon Chase, a 200-plus-mile team relay running race every fall in Kentucky. We’ve mentioned the New York-bred Practical Joke colt by the same name in this space before and he’s set to graduate in this 6 1/2-furlong maiden off short freshening.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:31. My Prankster, last seen finishing fifth behind Gunite and others in the Grade 2 Amsterdam in late July at Saratoga, makes return in $100,000 Sir Shackleton.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:04. Back to the grass for the $150,000 Sand Springs for older fillies and mares.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 4:23. Arkansas-bred star Gar Hole ventures into open company for $125,000 optional that also lures Osbourne and Straight No Chaser.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:38. Field of 10 3-year-old fillies for the $100,000 Sanibel Island on the grass.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 4:57. Seven sophomores, including Californian Carmel Road and stakes winners Powerful and Frosted Departure, go in the $200,000 Hot Springs at 1 mile.

Aqueduct. Race. 8. 5:09. The $125,000 Excelsior ushers in the stakes portion of the Aqueduct spring meeting. Law Professor, winner of the Queens County two back and third in the Grade 3 Razorback last time, takes on six others in 9-furlong stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:15. Points for the Kentucky Oaks on the line in Grade 2, $250,000 Gulfstream, Park Oaks presented by FanDuel TV. New York-bred Miracle finished second in Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra last time out and figures to be favored over stablemate Atomically, Davona Dale winner Dort Vader, Sacred Wish and others.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 5:57. Steady On and Fort Washington, 2-3 in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf last time out, meet again in the $150,000 Appleton going 1 mile on the grass. Full field of 12 also includes Striker, Winfromwithin and Gray’s Fable.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:12. Wet Paint looks to add the Grade 3 Fantasy to her resume after winning the Martha Washington and Grade 3 Honeybee at the meet. She’s the one to beat in field of 10 that also includes Royal Sea, She’s Lookin Lucky and Grand Love.

Gulfstream. Race 14. 6:40. The Grade 1, $1 million Curlin Florida Derby presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa. That’s a mouthful, but no matter what it’s called it’s the marquee event of the meet. Forte, last year’s champion 2-year-old male, drew post 11 of 12 and will need to work out a trip under Irad Ortiz Jr. Son of Violence has done it before, although never further out in the gate than stall six. Are there any potential spoilers in the group? Good luck finding one. 

Santa Anita Park. Race 7. 7:07. Closing Remarks will be happy to now see Quattroelle and Queen Goddess when she lines up for the Grade 2 Royal Heroine for older fillies and mares on the grass.

Oaklawn. Race 12. 7:24. We’ll know a lot more about the prospective field for the Kentucky Derby after the Grade 1, $1.25 million Arkansas Derby. Rocket Can avoids Forte and ships in from Florida for Bill Mott, while Reincarnate tries to improve off his third in the Grade 2 Rebel. Red Route One, second in the Grade 3 Southwest and the Rebel, could also factor along with Grade 2 Risen Star winner Angel of Empire.

Turfway Park. Race 7. 8:55. Close the day with the $125,000 Serena’s Song, a 6-furlong stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Sunday Shoes looked good winning her debut over the track in mid-February, now she makes second start against Jill Jitterbug, Twice as Sweet, Bulsara and Collecting Flatter.