The Saturday Special – Feb. 11

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Wonder Wheel and Tyler Gaffalione, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland, return in Saturday’s Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire Photo.

The weekend of the big game, as everyone seems either scared or obligated to call it. The Super Bowl comes Sunday but there’s plenty of top racing on the docket to fill the time before the Eagles and Chiefs take the field in Arizona.

A couple key preps – two for the Kentucky Derby and one for the Kentucky Oaks – are set to be run in New York and Florida. Wonder Wheel makes her return in the latter, taking on a fairly deep field in the Suncoast Stakes that shares the spotlight with the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.

We’ve got you covered with the weekly primer, plus some of our old favorites from the pages of The Saratoga Special. Have a great weekend and be safe.

Worth Repeating

“She’s very fast.”
Trainer John Sadler about second-time starter Stone Silent in the Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park

“Obviously, we were planning on running last week, but with the cancelation, I breezed him before the weather hit us. It was not ideal and the schedule isn’t perfect, but it is what it is.”
Trainer Linda Rice, who sends out Arctic Arrogance in Saturday’s Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct

“John (Hendrickson) really brought a lot of energy and wanted to be aggressive in turning the Hall of Fame into a destination where visitors came once a year if not once a season. We’d ask people, ‘When was the last time you visited the Hall of Fame?’ And they’d say, ‘Been there, done that.’ It needed to change. We wanted to be a year-round destination.”
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Director Cate Masterson on the changes and improvements at the Saratoga Springs facility

By the Numbers

65,000: Dollars added to the NSA circuit with the addition of three races at the Old Dominion Point-to-Point April 8.

369: Early nominations to this year’s Triple Crown, a group led by champion and three-time Grade 1 winner Forte.

6: Two-year-olds – four colts and two fillies – originally sold as yearlings at the 2022 Keeneland September yearling sale that will be reoffered. Details on horses and the offer process are available at Keeneland.com/reoffer. Keeneland invites offers to be made on each horse beginning at 9 a.m. ET, Monday, Feb. 27 through noon Wednesday, March 1.

455,000,000: Dollars in state-backed bonds the New York Racing Association could receive to make significant improvements at Belmont Park through Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed state budget.

Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour of the Day – Aug. 27, 2022.

Wonder Wheel: D. J. Stable’s 2-year-old daughter of Into Mischief won her first two starts at Churchill Downs, including a 6 3/4-length win in the Debutante July 4. Breezed a bullet furlongs in :59.40 Aug. 19 on the main track. “She’s the one we have to start with. She’s really something special. I put her up there with the Classic Empires, the War Of Wills of the world. I really think she’s special. The ease she does things. She’s 2-for-2, and really never been asked to run. She has a super mind and has done really well since she’s been up here. She’s headed to the Spinaway.”
The Eclipse Award winner makes her 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Names of the Day

Monroe. Aqueduct. Race 1. The 3-year-old filly is out of Girlaboutown.

Home School. Laurel Park. Race 3. The 3-year-old colt is out of Study Hard.

Ski Country. Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. Godolphin-bred 3-year-old is by Frosted.

Hov Lane. Laurel Park. Race 6. Robert Gerczak’s homebred is by Baltimore Bob out of Freeway Fun.

In The Know. Tampa Bay Downs. Race 11. The 3-year-old filly it out of Secret Agenda.

Miranda Rights. Turfway Park. Race 7. D J Stable’s colt is by Constitution out of In Jail.

As for the races…

Newbury. Race 1. 8:15 a.m. McFabulous takes on two rivals in the opener. The 9-year-old owns 10 wins from 21 starts.

Warwick. Race 2. 9:05. Love Envoi, 8-for-9 in her career, stamps her ticket to Cheltenham.

Newbury. Race 3. 9:25. Is there any fuel left in the tank? One of our favorites, Kalashnikov, takes on a tough group in the Grade 2 Denman Chase.

Warwick. Race 3. 9:40. The one and only Jonbon. The French-bred lost once over hurdles, 22 lengths behind Champion Hurdle favorite Constitution Hill ,and has produced two facile scores over fences this season. We’ve been impressed with Haddex Des Obeaux but this is an acid test.

Newbury. Race 4. 10:00. Greaneteen, another member of the deep chasing brigade for Paul Nicholls, clashes with four rivals in the Grade 2 Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase.

Naas. 5. 10:25. Plan the work. Work the plan. Elimay returns to Naas for her Cheltenham prep. She won it last before winning at Cheltenham. She’s back to do the same for Willie Mullins.

Newbury. Race 5. 10:35. Eighteen strong in the handicap hurdle.

Naas. 6. 11:00. Plan the work…Billaway follows the same Mullins’ strategy in the hunter chase.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:25 p.m. Sam F. Davis and Suncoast Day kicks off with 1-mile and 40-yard maiden special weight on the main track.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:17. The $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield for 3-year-olds going 6 furlongs. Did you read Brien Bouyea’s story about the amazing life and career of Winkfield? Check it out here.

Gulfstream Park. Race 7. 3:08. Miss J McKay, Imagery, Stony Point and Mamba Wamba, the first four from the Abundantia Stakes on Christmas Eve, return for the $100,000 Ladies’ Turf Sprint Stakes.

Tampa. Race 7. 3:27. The $50,000 Minaret for fillies and mares leads off the stakes program. Godolphin’s Caramel Swirl, second to eventual champion Goodnight Olive in the Grade 1 Ballerina, makes her first start since that day in 6furlong stakes.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:55. We’ve been fans of Shipsational since he appeared in the Stable Tour with the Little Guys back in 2021. He hasn’t come back as well as trainer Eddie Barker hoped when we stopped by his barn last summer, but gets another chance here in 1-mile allowance.

Tampa. Race 8. 4:16. Sibelius won the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream last time and looks to make it two straight for Jeremiah O’Dwyer in the $100,000 Pelican.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 4:27. Let’s try this again. The Grade 3 Withers, originally carded for last weekend but scrapped because of the frigid conditions, returns with an extra runner. Juddmonte’s Jungrau comes into the fray against Arctic Arrogance, Hit Show and others looking to get onto the Triple Crown trail.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:37. Interesting 1-mile maiden for 3-year-olds with firsters Union Tap, Monegasque, Justice Department, Union Trail and Dreamlike taking on Case  and Arthur’s Ride.

Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 4:38. Plenty of familiar names and resumes in 1-mile optional with the likes of Thomas Shelby, Soy Tapatio, Spa City, Super Stock and Silver Prospector in the field.

Tampa. Race 9. 4:48. The champ returns. Wonder Wheel, crowned Eclipse Award winner last month, takes first serious step on road to the Kentucky Oaks in the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes. She’ll meet last year’s Grade 2 Demoiselle winner Julia Shining, along with stablemate Ticker Tape Home, and others in 1-mile and 40-yard stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:06. Field of 10 led by Belgrano and Carotari go 5 furlongs in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint.

Tampa. Race 10. 5:18. Classic Legacy could continue big run for trainer Bill Mott, owner Bruce Lunsford and jockey Junior Alvarado in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. Son of Into Mischief hasn’t run since breaking his maiden in early December and takes on the likes of Remsen winner Dubyuhnell, Pasco Stakes 1-2 Zydeceaux and Champions Dream, Litigate and Dreaming Of Kona.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 5:42. Key Of Life, third at odds-on in her 2022 finale, returns against seven other 3-year-old fillies in the $150,000 Dixie Belle.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:14. One of our favorites, a 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies to close the card. All but four of the 12 are first-timers.

Fonner Park. Race 10. 6:51. Remember when Fonner Park was our lifeline? Don’t forget it. Granite-tough group of starter allowance veterans clash in the finale. They’ve combined to win 47 races. Cold Snack Thirty has accounted for 10 of those. The Florida-bred stretches from 870 yards to 4 ½ furlongs in his 9-year-old debut.

Santa Anita Park. Race 9. 7:38. Three-year-old fillies go down the hill in the $100,000 Sweet Life Stakes.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 8. 7:54. Are the Shermans back on the Triple Crown Trail? The Steve Sherman-trained Harcyn, a Jerry Moss-bred son of Goldencents, goes for his third straight in the El Camino Real Derby.

Turfway Park. Race 5. 7:55. Murky, Strokes, Tammy Tap Tap Tap, Jill Jitterbug and Sally’s Sassy all come off wins and take on the comebacking T Max in the $125,000 Valdale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 8:09. Nuclear, a son of Justify who cost $1.55 million at the 2021 Keeneland September sale, makes debut from outside post in 6-furlong turf maiden.

Turfway. Race 7. 8:55. Wadsworth ran lights out last time and takes next step up the ladder in 1-mile optional.