The Saturday Special – April 8

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Hit Show, winner of the Withers in early February, returns to New York for Saturday’s Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. NYRA Photo.

Here we go. The second weekend of April, time for the Master’s, opening weekend at Keeneland, Easter Sunday, baseball in full swing and buds on the trees. Some say it’s the best time of the year.

Hard to argue, considering the slate of racing action across the country Saturday. Kentucky Derby preps galore with the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass Stakes and Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes on tap. Why are two Grade 1 and the other Grade 2? Perhaps that’s a question for another day.

There’s plenty to dig into. Here’s the primer for Saturday, April 8. Good luck.

By the Numbers

3.4: Percentage decrease in wagering on U.S. races for the first quarter of 2023 compared to a year ago.

8.7: Percentage increase in U.S. purses during the first quarter of 2023 – $2,66,034,135 compared to $244,752,338 in 2022.

7.59: Average field size during the first quarter of 2023, up from 7.56 during the same period last year.

96: Days until Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course. Book your ads today for The Saratoga Special.

1,000: Wins for trainer Kelly Breen after Edge Racing’s Gentleman Gerry won Thursday on Opening Day of the Royal Palm Meet at Gulfstream Park.

3,075,000: Dollars in stakes purses for the 2023 Ellis Park meeting, up $1.65 million since 2022.

Names of the Day

Let It Ride. Aqueduct. Race 4. A classic name from a classic movie.

Tightrope. Keeneland. Race 3. The 5-year-old is by Daredevil.

Prove Right. Aqueduct. Race 6. The 3-year-old colt is by Justify, of course.

Clouseau. Santa Anita. Race 7. The 3-year-old colt is by Distorted Humor.

Worth Repeating

“It’s a little bit of a monkey off my back because it’s been over three weeks in between wins and a lot of seconds,” Breen said. “I have to [give credit] to my whole crew. I have a crew in New York and I have a crew down here. We all work hard. It’s not just me, it’s a team. It’s awesome.”
Trainer Kelly Breen after his milestone 1,000th win Thursday at Gulfstream

“Nobody is enjoying being in the sport as an owner more than me and it all comes full circle. I started as a kid that cut school to go to Aqueduct Racetrack and 40 years later I’m running in the biggest races, not only in New York, but in the United States. The Kentucky Derby is now the ultimate goal. People used to ask me, ‘Is it true you want to win the Belmont over the Derby?’ and I would say, ‘I want both, but if I could only have one, I want to win the Belmont.’ Thanks to Mo Donegal last year I won the Belmont and Nest ran a great second in the same race. That was beyond my wildest dreams.”
Owner Mike Repole, who heads to the Derby with champion Forte

As for the races …

Auteuil. Race 4. 8:15. Losange Bleu rides a four-race win streak into the Grade 3 De Pepinvast Hurdle.

Cork. Race 1. 8:15. John Oxley’s Sibyl Charm returns from a layoff after finishing second in her debut in August.

Auteuil. Race 7. 10:07. Grandeur Nature and Metasequoia square off again in the Grade 2 Murat Chase. The duo finished 1-2 in the Grade 3 Tonnerra Chase last time.

Haydock. Race 4. 10:15. Docpickedme aims for his third straight in the Challenger Stayers Hurdle Series Final.

Fairyhouse. Race 3. 10:20. Allegorie De Vassy snapped her win streak at Cheltenham when second to Impervious. The 6-year-old mare should start a new one in the Boylesports Mares Novice Chase.

Cork. Race. 5. 10:30. Time for the turf horses to reemerge. Group 1 stakes winner Tenebrism gets back to work in the listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Cork Stakes.

Musselburgh. Race 4. 10:35. Classy group of stayers clash in the Queen’s Cup, a 1 3/4-mile handicap for $120,000. They range from 4-year-old Good Show making his fourth career start to the wily veteran Nicholas T who makes his 78th start to Metier who ran in the Christmas Hurdle in December to Outbox who’s earned $799,086.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:27 p.m. The Grade 3 Gazelle opens the stakes portion of Wood Memorial Day. Field of six 3-year-old fillies hoping to get to the Kentucky Oaks, including the unbeaten Busher Invitational winner Shidabhuti.

Keeneland Race Course. Race 5. 2:50. Ten for the Grade 3 Commonwealth, including Get Her Number, Nakatomi, Run Classic and Pro Oxidant.

Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:09. Gilmore back to the dirt in the Grade 3 Bay Shore after back-to-back tries on synthetic around two turns. Who says horses don’t run as much as they used to; how about Prove Right? Son of Justify makes his 15th start off blowout win at Laurel Park last time out for James Chapman.

Keeneland. Race 6. 3:25. Pleasant Passage, runner-up in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on the course last time out, returns against Be Your Best, Well Into, Alpha Bella, Cairo Consort, Papilio and others in the Grade 2 Appalachian Stakes presented by Japan Racing Association.

Santa Anita Park. Race 2. 3:30. Cal-bred 3-year-old fillies go 6 1/2 furlongs in the $150,000 Evening Jewel Stakes.

Keeneland. Race 7. 4:00. Welcome back, champ. Goodnight Olive, last year’s champion female sprinter on the heels of back-to-back Grade 1 victories to close 2022, returns in the Grade 1 Madison.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:19. The Grade 1 Carter lost a major player when White Abarrio came down with a fever after shipping from South Florida. That leaves Repo Rocks as favorite. He bids for fifth straight win shortening back up to 7 furlongs.

Keeneland. Race 8. 4:35. Caravel, last seen winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint against the boys right here in Lexington, takes on males again in the Grade 2 Shakertown.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:00. Gold Phoenix scored 10-1 upset last time in the Grade 1 Kilroe and goes for back-to-back stakes wins here in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham. Named for the legend, 10-furlong stakes brings together several familiar foes including Masteroffoxhounds, Opry and Dicey Mo Chara.

Keeneland. Race 9. 5:15. The headline event of the spring meet, the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Plenty of players here, from Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapit Trice, Champagne 1-2 Blazing Sevens and Verifying and Gotham winner Raise Cain.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:30. Several spots still to fill out in the Kentucky Derby starting gate and the Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby will play a key role in making that happen. Practical Move won the Grade 2 Los Al Futurity and Grade 2 San Felipe in his last two starts and deserves favoritism but Geaux Rocket Ride, National Treasure, Skinner and Low Expectations could factor, along with Japanese invader Mandarin Hero.

Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 5:30. The $150,000 Rainbow, the first of two Arkansas-bred stakes on the card.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:00. Kangaroo Court put up a big number winning state-bred optional last time and goes for third straight in $150,000 Echo Eddie.

Aqueduct. Race 11. 6:16. Brad Cox sends out a pair from his loaded stable – Slip Mahoney and Hit Show – looking to bolster his Derby draft in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino. Big field of 13 also includes Classic Catch and Crupi from trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn, New York-breds Arctic Arrogance, General Banker and Shadow Dragon.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:40. A dozen Arkansas-bred 3-year-old fillies entered for the $150,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes.

Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:42. Medicine Trail seeks his third win at the mee in the Dowd Mile.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 7:30. Bulky field of 11 for the Grade 2 Monrovia going 6 1/2 furlongs on the grass down the hill.

Santa Anita. Race 11. 8:00. The hits keep coming. Here’s the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks. Faiza brings 4-for-4 record to the table but can’t earn any Kentucky Oaks points. The other eight can, including And Tell Me Nolies, Window Shopping, Clearly Unhinged and Venganza.

Evangeline Downs. Race 6. 8:46. For the second straight day, the Lafayette Stakes. Friday was a $400,000 event at Keeneland. Here’s another for $60,000. Both for 3-year-olds.

Evangeline. Race 8. 9:40. Still going strong? Here’s the $100,000 Evangeline Mile to cap the day.