The Saturday Special – April 27

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Champion and likely Kentucky Derby favorite Fierceness and jockey John Velazquez breeze a half-mile in :48.80, out 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 and 6 furlongs in 1:12.60, Friday morning at Churchill Downs. Renee Torbit/Coady Photography.

A week out from the 150th Kentucky Derby and the signs of spring are everywhere from coast to coast. Especially so here in the Bluegrass, where trees are in full bloom and grass already in need of a significant cut. Kroger, Liquor Barn and Total Wine are stocked with all the necessities, whether it be for a Derby party or souvenirs commemorating the historic race.

Churchill Downs opens its spring-summer meet Saturday with an evening card, just as Keeneland wrapped a spectacular spring meet down the road. Racing rolls on elsewhere, from Aqueduct to Santa Anita, Gulfstream to Oaklawn and all points in between.

The Saturday Special rolls on, too, with another useful installment complete with handicapping from Churchill and the day’s primer. Enjoy and good luck.

Big ‘Chop’
Remember Chop Chop?

Sure you do, huge late run from deep in the field in the 2022 Darley Alcibiades and favored in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies next time out despite facing the same filly that beat her. Favored again in sophomore debut, with eyes on the Kentucky Oaks, then poof, off the board in a key prep, turf, layoff and a return last fall. The return started on dirt at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, then switched to the synthetic at Turfway Park.

Ah yes, early winter and the depths of winter at Turfway. It’s not your grandfather’s, or even father’s (or mother’s) Turfway anymore.

Remember Idiomatic? She didn’t do it quite the same way for trainer Brad Cox, but she certainly used the Poly in Northern Kentucky on the way to an Eclipse Award as champion older dirt female in 2023. Maybe Chop Chop finds herself on a similar path after winning her second stakes in her last three starts Friday in the Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes presented by Keeneland Sales to close the spring meeting at Keeneland.

Chop Chop won the 1 1/2-mile Bewitch by 2 1/4 lengths under 2023 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice Alex Concepcion. The 4-year-old daughter of City Of Light might have benefitted from the race-day scratch of morning-line favorite War Like Goddess, who had won the last three editions of the Closing Day feature. She was running regardless, after Cox considered stakes during next week’s Kentucky Derby Week smorgasbord at Churchill.

“I don’t know if it changed how we attacked it, but it definitely softened it up a little bit,” Cox said. “She’s obviously a multiple Grade 1 winner and it was a little bit of a surprise to see that she was out, but we ran against who we had to run against, and she ran as well as she could, and the result was a victory.”

Chop Chop won in 2:27.80 for her fifth win in 15 starts and picked up $183,675 to boost her bankroll to $880,152. Atomic Blonde, off since pulling up in the Grade 3 Long Island in mid-November at Aqueduct, finished second with Long Island third-place finisher Vergara third again. – Tom Law

Congrats to Vivien Malloy
Big congrats from our team at ST Publishing/The Saratoga Special for longtime supporter Vivien Malloy receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. Here’s more information from the NYTB:

The New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. (NYTB) is pleased to announce Thoroughbred breeder and owner Vivien Malloy will each receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the New York-bred program.

Malloy, who owned and operated Edition Farm for more than four decades and bought her first racehorse in 1971, will be recognized at the NYTB’s Awards Dinner sponsored by the New York Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund from 6-9 p.m. Monday, May 13 at Sacred Saratoga on the property of GMP Farm in Schuylerville.

“What a thrill it was to hear I’ll receive this award,” Malloy said, who first joined the NYTB board in the 1980s on the advice of the late prominent New York breeder Gerald Nielsen. “He called and she I should be on the board. I told him I needed to talk to my husband first, and Harry said “oh, don’t get into anything political.’ ”

“I told him it’s not political and that I hoped I’d be able to represent small breeders and help in any way I can. Then in the years following I thought, ‘it’s all political.’ I spent so much time in Albany with lobbyists and politicians, but it’s all been worth it.”

Malloy was honored by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association as the New York State Breeder of the Year in 2007 and 2010. She also earned the NYTB’s Breeder of the Year Award in 2010.

“Vivien has been an integral and influential person in the development of New York breeding and racing,” said NYTB President Dr. Scott Ahlschwede. “She has been involved in every facet of our industry from breeding to ownership and standing stallions. On behalf of our board of directors and membership, we are proud to honor and recognize her lifetime contributions.”

Malloy’s run of success in the Empire State was centered on her two farms – Edition Farm in Waccabuc and Edition Farm North in Hyde Park. Malloy is the breeder of A Shin Forward, a son of Forest Wildcat who sold for $125,000 at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale before going on to become a Grade 1 winner in Japan. A Shin Forward earned $3,416,216 in his career, which ranks him as the third highest earning New York-bred in history.

“A Shin Forward was picked for the select sale at Saratoga and after I had a discussion with Craig Bandoroff who told me, ‘you’re going to be lost in the select sale, go to the preferred, you’ll be a star,’ ” Malloy said of her longtime consignor who operates Denali Stud. “I told him I didn’t want to be a star, that it will be good for my ego just that one time to be in the select sale. And he did quite well in there.”

In addition to A Shin Forward, stakes winners bred or co-bred by Malloy or Edition Farm include Mine Tonight, Minetonightsfirst, Bayou Blurr, Mistah, Then She Laughs, Kiss the Pro, Cliffie and Zow.

“We look forward to celebrating Vivien’s contributions to the New York-bred program at our upcoming annual marquee event alongside our New York-bred Divisional Award nominees and Champions at what will be a wonderful event,” said NYTB Executive Director Najja Thompson. 

Tickets are still available for the NYTB Awards Dinner $150 for NYTB Members and $175 for non-members – and can be purchased at nytbreeders.org/events or by calling the NYTB Office at (518) 587-0777.

Hall of Fame
Speaking of congrats, here’s to the Hall of Fame Class of 2024 led by jockey Joel Rosario and champions Gun Runner and Justify. While some of our team continue to be puzzled by a few omissions – namely John Shirreffs and Kona Gold – but we tip our caps to the nine new members. Here’s some of the release from the National Museum of Racing:

Nine new members have been elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The class of 2024 is comprised of jockey Joel Rosario and racehorses Gun Runner and Justify in the contemporary category; jockey Abe Hawkins and racehorses Aristides and Lecomte have been selected by the Pre-1900 Historic Review Committee; and Harry F. Guggenheim, Clement L. Hirsch, and Joe Hirsch were chosen by the Pillars of the Turf Committee. Rosario, Gun Runner, and Justify were all elected in their first year of eligibility.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be enshrined Friday, August 2 at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs at 10:30 a.m. The event is open to the public and free to attend.

Worth Repeating
“We encourage people to get involved because there is that connection to the horse. These horses can touch you every step of the way in many aspects. The way horses have the ability to bring people together is unmatched – through ownership, being at the sales and races. There are very few things in life that bring people together the way these horses do.”
Scott Hazelton, racing analyst for Keeneland and FanDuel TV, after seeing King Hazelton run last week at Keeneland. King Hazelton is named for Hazelton’s late father and veteran Chicago trainer Richard Hazelton, who ranks 11th all time by victories with 4,745

“I remember those first few times I went to Saratoga, being out in the morning and seeing the stacks of papers and thinking, ‘are these free?’”
Bloodstock agent Steve Castagnola, looking back at the early years of The Saratoga Special

“Do you know legend?”
Trainer Ian Wilkes to former trainer and Keeneland executive Buff Bradley, spotting The Special’s Tom Law in the paddock Thursday

“Oh yes, I know the legend.”
Bradley (We’re not ready to crown him a legend just yet though)

“Newhart because I like the show.”
Turf writer Liane Crossley on her pick in Thursday’s sixth race at Keeneland

“He’s shown us already what he can do. I’m happy and Vincent is happy. He’s brought a lot of fun for us, the whole team. There won’t be another one like him.”
Trainer Francis Lui about Golden Sixty, seeking his fourth consecutive win in the Grade 1 Champion Mile under regular rider Vincent Ho

Names of the Day
Alabama. Navan. Race 3. The 3-year-old colt is out of Dream The Blues.

Overacting. Aqueduct. Race 8. The 4-year-old filly is out of Mela Dramatically.

Going Country. Foxfield. Race 5. The Irish-bred is out of Frankly Native.

Total Joy. Foxfield. Race 5. Hey, it’s a good thought and a good goal.

Aziel. Woodbine. Race 10. God is my strength works for us.

Big Hat Willie. Santa Anita 5. Anybody know the story about Big Hat Willie? Tell us and get a prize.

Handicapping the Derby with Tom Law
If you were out at Keeneland at all for the spring meet you undoubtedly saw the words in the headline above, promoting Tom Law’s upcoming handicapping seminar at the Keeneland Library. Scheduled from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, the seminar will feature plenty of tales from Tom’s near three-decade run covering the Derby and hopefully plenty of winners.

Reception with refreshments starts at at 6:00 p.m.; program from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Keeneland Library.

To purchase tickets, click here.

By the Numbers
430,000: Dollars (plus) raised during Sunday’s sixth annual Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund Telethon presented by Lane’s End Farm and broadcast on FanDuel TV and America’s Day at the Races on Fox Sports.

218,741,501: Dollars in all-sources wagering (not including whole-card simulcasting) for the Keeneland spring meeting, a decrease of 2.5 percent from last spring’s record $224,348,745 for 15 days of racing. 

15,831,087: Dollars in on-track wagering this spring at Keeneland, compared with $15,844,092 in 2023. 

20: Wins at the Keeneland spring meet for leading jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who took home his first title in Lexington.

12: Wins for Wesley Ward at the spring meet, his seventh consecutive and eighth overall spring Meet leading trainer title. Ward has won a total of 10 Keeneland titles.

5: Wins apiece for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Godolphin and Fahad bin Khalid’s Juddmonte to tie for leading owner at the Keeneland spring meet.

Breeders’ Cup tickets on sale
Tickets for the 2024 Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 1-2 at Del Mar are on sale now at BreedersCup.com/Tickets.

Featuring 14 Grade 1 races and $33 million in purses and awards, the 2024 World Championships will entertain fans from around the globe as the sport’s best horses, jockeys and trainers compete over two days. Attendees will enjoy outstanding culinary experiences, high fashion, and top entertainment at Del Mar, “Where the turf meets the surf” on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, as the World Championships will be held at the seaside oval for a third time.

Handicapper’s Corner
Churchill Downs opens the doors on the spring-summer meeting, with the Oaks and Derby right around the corner, and the handicappers are back in action with some plays for the evening card.

John Shapazian (30/119):
1-Leader Of Men, Spycraft, One For Richie.
2-Beer With Ice, Barnaby, Haskelled.
3-Little Blaze, Travaille, Thestral.
4-Carotari, Octadore, Counterstrike.
5-Crafted, Chryso Alogo, Saint Peter’s Bay.
6-Golden Book, Cashmeup, American Raider.
7-Tituba, La Pachanga, Hola Gata.
8-Heart Headed Woman, Just Basking, Mystical Chant.
9-Socially Selective, Zeitlos, Last Leaf.
10-Galadini, Rubia, Star Court.

Tom Law (28/119):
1-Leader Of Men, Shortlist, Spycraft.
2-Oneparticulrharbor, Haskelled, Barnaby.
3-Thestral, Little Blaze, Travaille.
4-Outadore, Gaslight Dancer, Carotari.
5-Crafted, Chryso Alogo, Bledsoe.
6-Falcon Quest, Cashmeup, Moonovermontgomery.
7-Hola Gata, La Pachanga, Tituba.
8-Ava’s Look, Foreseen, Mystical Chant.
9-Speedy Traveler, Dazzling Blue, Zeitlos.
10-Tammy’s Cruiser, Starcourt, Green Fairy.

Charles Bedard (27/119):
1-One For Richie, Leader Of Men, Spycraft.
2-Oneparticulrharbor, Star Nation, Barnaby.
3-Little Blaze, Evie’s Encore, Thestral.
4-Smokin’ Jay, Carotari, Outadore.
5-Notorious Sixohtwo, Chrtso Alogo, Crafted.
6-American Raider, Coal Boss, Secret Edge.
7-Hay Stack, Hola Gata, Tituba.
8-Just Basking, Heart Headed Woman, Mystical Chant.
9-Speedy Traveler, Zeitlos, Current Climate.
10-Tammy’s Cruiser, Galadini, Starcourt. 

Rob Whitlock (19/107):
1-Leader Of Men, One For Ritchie, Spycraft.
2-Barnaby, Oneparticularharbor, Beer With Ice.
3-Little Blaze, Evie’s Encore, Thestral.
4-Gaslight Dancer, Carotari, Kigali.
5-Notorious Sixtwo, Crafted, Chryso Alogo.
6-Moonovermontgomery, Golden Buck, Coal Boss.
7-Hola Gata, Tituba, La Pachanga.
8-Just Basking, Ava’s Look, Foreseen.
9-Condensation, Dazzling Blue, Last Leaf.
10-Computadora, Tammy’s Cruiser, Starcourt.

Jessica Paquette (27/119):
1-Ready Pursuit, Keen On You, Dreaming Of Smarty.
2-Beer With Ice, Barnaby, Oneparticulrharbor.
3-Evie’s Encore, Thestral, Classic Performer.
4-Smokin J, Counterstrike, Into The Sunrise.
5-Saint Peters Bay, Crafted, Notorious Sixohtwo.
6-Cashmeup, Golden Buck, Falcon Quest.
7-Johanny, Killshave Beauty, La Pachanga.
8-Just Basking, Churning Berni, Choate.
9-Happy I Am, Socially Selective, Zeitlos.
10-Starcourt, Argan, Computadora.

As for the races …
Sandown. Race 1. 8:50. And the jump season comes down to this. Jockey Harry Cobden clinched his title over a gallant Sean Bowen Friday. The trainer’s race is still technically up for grabs as Irish wizard Willie Mullins leads British contenders Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls. The latter two shoot strong in the opener while Mullins waits with his nine-strong arsenal.

Sandown. Race 2. 9:25. Here comes the arsenal. Easy Game for Mullins clashes with Hitman for Nicholls in the Bet365 Oaksey Chase.

Auteuil. Race 4. 9:50. General En Chef looks strong in the Grade 2 Ingre Chase.

Sandown. Race 3. 10:00. El Fabiolo tries to recover from his Queen Mother blunder in the Grade 1 Bet365 Celebration Chase. Awesome clash between the multiple Grade 1 winner and multiple Grade 1 winner Jonbon.

Sandown. Race 4. 10:35. Twenty line up in the Bet365 Gold Cup. Mullins unleashes Minella Cocooner, Nick Rockett and Aime Desjy. Nicholls counters with Threeunderthrufive, Enrilo and Flash Collonges. Skelton offers Le Milos. And everyone is rooting for Kitty’s Light.

Auteuil. Race 6. 11:00. Four-year-olds clash in the Grade 2 Amadou Hurdle.

Navan. Race 6. 11:00. Group 1 stakes winner Kyprios returns for his 6-year-old season in the SBK Vintage Crop Stakes.

Sandown. Race 5. 11:10. Impaire Et Passe wheels back in 15 days after winning the Aintree Hurdle for Mullins. The French-bred is 4/5 in the Grade 2 Bet354 Select Hurdle.

Belterra Park. Race 2. 12:45 p.m. Live racing returned to Cincinnati this week and here’s a 6-furlong allowance for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds.

Foxfield. Race 5. 2:50. The Daniel Van Clief Memorial anchors a stellar card at the revamped and revitalized Foxfield Spring Races. And, oh, how we miss Queen’s Cup on its traditional weekend.

Maryland Hunt Cup. Race 1. 4:00. The race that stops an avenue. The 4-mile, 22-jump classic attracts a gallant group, including past winners Vintage Vinnie and Withoutmoreado placed Rocket Star Red, Goodoldtimes and Royal Ruse.

Aqueduct. Race 6. 4:02. Turf season rolls along on the East Coast and here’s the $125,000 Woodhaven, which marks the 2024 debut of Grade 1 winner Carson’s Run and the turf debut of one-time classics hopeful Elysian Meadows.

Fonner Park. Race 5. 4:30. The $25,000 Fonner Park Special. Hey, we like the sound of that.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:52. The $125,000 Star Shoot headlines the Opening Day card for 2024.

Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 5:20. Sevensophomores for the $200,000 Bachelor Stakes, including multiple stakes winner Valentine Candy, Time For Truth, Frost Free and Bergen.

Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 5:30. Speaking of Kona Gold, here’s the $100,000 Kona Gold Stakes featuring The Chosen Vron, Forbidden Kingdom and Express Train.

Fonner. Race 7. 5:30. Second stakes on the card, the $30,000 Elite Sprint Cup.

Gulfstream Park. Race 10. 5:51. Yes I Am Free, off the board last time in the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland, returns to South Florida and shortens up for $75,000 handicap going 5 furlongs on the grass. Souper Quest, a winner at Saratoga on yielding ground last summer, also looks to get his season going from outside draw.

Churchill Downs. Race 1. 6:00. Here we go, the opening of the spring meet and extended “Derby Week” in Louisville.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:38. HoosierPhilly tries again in the $200,000 Dig A Diamond Stakes going 1 mile.

Fonner. Race 9. 6:40. Featured event of the meet, the $75,000 Bosselman Pump and Pantry Gus Fonner Stakes going 1 1/16 miles. Field of eight includes Velociter, fourth last time out in the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic; Slim Show Slider, winner of the Dowd Mile at Fonner last time; and Grade 3 winner Great Escape, fifth in the Grade 3 Essex last out.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 8:00. Brendan Walsh ships Fuente Ovejuna from Palm Meadows in Florida for the Grade 3 Royal Heroine.

Churchill. Race 4. 8:00. Outadore, the winner of half of his 16 starts, takes on stakes competitors Gaslight Dancer, Carotari, Counterstrike and others in $134,000 turf sprint allowance-optional.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 8:45. Phil D’Amato ships Balnikhov north to defend his title in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile. He hasn’t won since, but has placed in a pair of Grade 2 stakes on the grass. Big field also includes Astronomer, Sumter, I’m A Gambler, Air Force Red and Lammas.

Charles Town Races. Race 5. 9:02. Jubawithatwist, a multiple stakes winner last season, looks to improve off second in 2024 debut here in 4 1/2-furlong allowance.

Charles Town. Race 7. 10:02. Finish the day (night) with the $75,000 Its Binn Too Long for West Virginia-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Churchill. Race 9. 10:46. On second thought, don’t finish things off just yet. Don’t miss the $200,000 Roxelana Overnight for fillies and mares going 6 furlongs. Speedy Traveler puts 3-for-3 mark on the line against Dazzling Blue, Zietlos, Socially Selective and others.

Churchill. Race 10. 11:17. Now you can call it. Goodnight.

Sha Tin. Race 7. 4:00 a.m. Oh, hell, stay up all night and watch the one and only Golden Sixty. The 8-year-old seeks his 27th career win in the Champions Mile.