The Saturday Special – April 22

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Forte trains at Churchill Downs Friday. Coady photo

The final countdown is seriously on now. A mere two weeks to go until the first Saturday in May and the 149th Kentucky Derby.

All the prep races are done and now it’s time for the final workouts. Be wary of those touting who looks good and who looks bad. Wait, nobody ever seems to look bad, at least according to the in-print or on-air words from the analysts. Trust your own judgement and remember that unless you’ve seen the horses day in and day out all winter and spring, it’s all probably a guess.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how about some racing this weekend? A monster card is on tap in Middleburg, Virginia – hello home game for TIHR’s Sean Clancy – along with strong cards at Aqueduct, Oaklawn, Keeneland and more.

We’re back with the primer and plenty of other fun bits of news through Worth Repeating and By the Numbers. And don’t forget Names of the Day and some Plays of the Day, too.

Here’s the primer for Saturday, April 22. Good luck and enjoy.

Riverdee Stable Names of the Day

Off The Cuff. Keeneland. Race 3. The 4-year-old is out of Improv.

Nuance. Aqueduct. Race 1. The 4-year-old filly is out of Subtle.

Moreau. Keeneland. Race 6. We’re suckers for one-word names and especially ones named for artists. The 3-year-old colt is out of Art Director.

By the Numbers

11: Straight days Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Morning Works Show will run from Monday, April 24 through Thursday, May 4. The one-hour program will be streamed live on xxx from 7-8 a.m. ET, which will include the 15-minute exclusive training period for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders from 7:30-7:45 a.m.

124: Canadian-bred 3-year-olds nominated to the 2023 OLG Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, consisting of The King’s Plate, Prince of Wales and Breeders’ Stakes, up from 100 last year and on par with 125 in 2021.

100,000: Dollar gift from the Keeneland Association to the Lexington Public Library Foundation capital campaign for the new Marksbury Family Branch to open in late 2023.

The Saratoga Special Bets of the Day

Great Max. Newbury. 10:15. Rated 99 on the turf, the 4-year-old returns after a much-needed break and with a new trainer.

Ardbraccan. Brighton. Race 6. 2:15. The 4-year-old switches trainers and switches codes. He’s 11-1 on the morning line.

Worth Repeating

“He won the Wood, but his race in the Wood isn’t going to be good enough to win the Derby. He’s going to have to improve again. But as we’ve learned, you’ve got to get there to for a chance to win. They’re young horses who can improve. If he can make a leap forward again, he’ll be right there. We want to think the distance is within his parameter.”
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. on Kentucky Derby contender and Grade 2 Wood Memorial winner Lord Miles

“These workouts become super, super important. They keep you up at night.”
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, after overseeing his Kentucky Derby contenders Forte and Tapit Trice Friday at Churchill Downs

“It’s very satisfying to do it yourself. You can pay close attention to every single thing, pick up everything right away. So, you’re right on top of everything. But it’s very physically demanding and you have to wait, even if you win, another four weeks, five weeks until you run again. With a big stable, it’s not as physically demanding. It’s more managing everything. You’ve got your payroll and the issues that go along with owners, insurance and everything else. All of that is not so fun.”
Oaklawn-based Nancy Knott on the positives of training a small stable

As for the races …
Lyon-Parilly. Race 1. 5:35 a.m. Start off your day with the Verdi Cross Country.

Newbury. Race 1. 8:30. The best flat card on the day starts here with the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes.

Ayr. Race 2. 8:50. Our old friend Oscar Elite returns for his first start since Cheltenham. The 8-year-old takes on a deep field led by City Chief and Sail Away in the CPMS Novices’ Champion Chase.

Newbury. Race 2. 9:05. Bridestones, Remarquee, Soul Sister and Stenton Glider leap from debut wins into the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Stakes.

Ayr. Race3. 9:25. Colonel Mustard ducked Cheltenham. That plan could play dividends as the Irish raider spars with Cheltenham runners First Street, Highway One O Two, Anna Bunina and Milkwood in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

Newbury. Race 3. 9:40. Chaldean aims at his fifth win in a row in the Watership Down Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes for Juddmonte, Dettori and Balding.

Ayr. Race 4. 10:00. Strong field lines up in the Grade 2 Future Champion Novices’ Chase.

Navan. Race 3. 10:30. Stellar edition of the Irish Stallion EBF Farms EBF Committed Stakes. Aesop’s Fables, Shartash, The Antarctic and Ocean Quest won or placed in Group competition as 2-year-olds.

Ayr. Race 5. 10:35. It’s still National season. The Scottish National attracts 23 warriors to its $240,000, 4-mile test. Can Derek Fox and Lucinda Russell keep it rolling with Your Own Story?

Navan. Race 4. 11:05. Nothing like April when the European turf horses return. Lumiere Rock makes her 3-year-old debut after winning the Group 3 Staffordstown Stud Stakes to finish her juvenile season.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:24 p.m. Neural Network, winner via DQ in the Gander Stakes for New York-breds in late February, makes turf debut in $100,000 Woodhaven against Inflation Nation, Belouni and others.

Keeneland Race Course. Race 6. 3:40. Fans of all things Saratoga County might like the first-time starter exacta of Moreau and Solevo in this $100,000 maiden for 3-year-olds at 6 1/2 furlongs. Although we understand Moreau is named for the artist (see above).

Keeneland. Race 8. 4:44. Can Channel Maker muster up another big effort to defend his title in the Grade 2 Elkhorn? Or will Red Knight continue to show his affinity for the trip off good freshening since winning the W. L. McKnight on Pegasus Day. Solid co-feature on the final Saturday of the spring meet.

Turf Paradise. Race 3. 4:54. Arizona-bred 3-year-old fillies go 6 furlongs in the $60,000 Joanne Dye Breeders’ Oaks.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 5:06. General Banker cuts back in distance and drops in class for the $200,000 Times Square division of the New York Stallion Series. Son of leading New York sire Central Banker finished 10th in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial last time out after placings in three straight open stakes. Two other son of Central Banker lurk, including first-time starter Coach Pitino for Jorge Delgado and owner Roddy Valente.

Keeneland. Race 9. 5:16. The Grade 3 Ben Ali looked like starting spot for last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike. He didn’t enter, but co-featured $300,000 stakes still brought together nice field that includes Skippylongstocking, Rattle N Roll, Pioneer Of Medina and Tawny Port.

Oaklawn Park. Race 9. 5:30. The $150,000 Valley of the Vapors leads off trio of stakes in Hot Springs. This one’s for 3-year-old fillies not on the Kentucky Oaks trail but perhaps shooting for spots down the road.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 5:40. Multiple New York-bred stakes winner Sterling Silver makes return to her native state for 7-furlong state-bred allowance that also attracts Busher runner-up Asset Purchase.

Keeneland. Race 10. 5:48. Finish the day with good 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance worth $130,000.

Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 6:02. Brickyard Ride back to the main track to defend his title in the Grade 3 Kona Gold. Third in the Grade 3 San Simeon last time, 12-time winner meets Anarchist, Sunrise Journey and three others in stakes named for legendary sprinter and Hall of Fame hopeful.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:06. LastSamurai bids for third straight graded stakes score in $1 million, Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. He won the Grade 3 Razorback and Grade 3 Essex after a good fourth in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup for D. Wayne Lukas. No layup for the local star with Big ‘Cap winner Stilleto Boy and Big ‘Cap runner-up Proxy, Classic Causeway and Charge It also in the field.

Turf Paradise. Race 6. 6:25. Arizona-bred sophomore males take their turn in the $60,000 Gene Fleming Breeders’ Derby.

Oaklawn. Race 11. 6:46. Automatic bid to the Preakness on the line in the $200,000 Bath House Row at 9 furlongs. Red Route One looked like potential Kentucky Derby candidate after good efforts in the Southwest and Rebel, before sixth in the Arkansas Derby took him out of the points race. He leads the way here for Steve Asmussen with stablemate Powerful against Brad Cox’s duo of Victory Formation and Tapit Shoes

Turf Paradise. Race 7. 6:57. The stakes aren’t finished yet in Arizona. Here’s the $60,000 Dwight D. Patterson going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Turf Paradise. Race 8. 7:29. Ramblin’ Man puts 10-for-23 record at Turf Paradise on the line in the $60,000 Lyman and Bradley Rollins Stakes for older Arizona-breds going 6 furlongs.

Turf Paradise. Race 9. 7:59. Arizona-bred fillies and mares line up for the $60,000 Ann Owens Distaff.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 8:07. Defunded, second in the Pegasus World Cup and third in the Santa Anita Handicap, looks tough in the Grade 2 Californian.

Charles Town Races. Race 7. 10:02. Local legend Muad’dib starts his 2023 campaign in the $75,000 Confucius Say. Six-year-old son of Fiber Sonde owns 12 wins at the track, the same as his rival here No Change. Plenty of others with an affinity for the track, including Free Sailin (3-for-4 at Charles Town), Social Chic (9-for-20), Nico (8-for-23) and Coastal Mission (5-for-6).