The Saturday Special – Feb. 4

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Racing lost a legend this week with the passing of graded stakes winner and star lead pony Chindi at age 29. Coady Photography.

Weekends like this are made for sojourns to all points south, fireplaces or at the very lease hunkering down on the couch with a warm beverage and an even warmer blanket.

Welcome to the deep freeze edition of The Saturday Special, a week removed from the Pegasus Day edition when temps were in the mid-70s for one of our team members in South Florida and a little more reasonable for the others. No such luck this weekend, but alas, it’s winter and we’re managing.

Triple Crown prep season is underway and a couple key races this weekend with the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park and Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita Park. They offer points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, or at least they’re supposed to. Yes, we’re looking at you four-horse Lewis with a quartet of runners trained by a man who at this writing was ineligible to earn any points.

Anyway, let’s get to business. Here’s the primer for Saturday, February 4. Stay warm, toss another log on the fire and good luck.

Worth Repeating

“He caught a case of Arabian Knight flu.”
Trainer Ron Moquett on the reason he didn’t run Protege in last weekend’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park

“This business is hopes and dreams. Horses have been my life and I’ve got to continue to be as good as I can as long as I live.”
Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, 90, and still conditioning a small stable of five at Santa Anita Park

“He lived a great life and I’m just going to look back on the all the great memories.”
Trainer Steve Hobby, after lead pony star, Chindi, died at 29

By the Numbers

2: Aqueduct cards cancelled this weekend – Friday and Saturday – because of cold weather and severe windchill in the New York metropolitan area.

3: Winners apiece for TIHR handicappers Tom Law and Jessica Paquette on last week’s Pegasus Day card at Gulfstream. Tom came up with Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Red Knight and Queen Goddess while Jessica tabbed Mozay, Wolfie’s Dynaghost and Red Knight.

3: NSA sanction races worth $65,000 added to the April 8 Old Dominion point-to-point meet at Ben Venue Farm in Washington, Virginia. The races include a pair of $25,000 maiden hurdle events at 2 miles and a $15,000 open timber at 3 miles.

7: Wins in a row on Friday’s card at Gulfstream for recently crowned Eclipse Award winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., tying a track record for most victories in a day.

11: Hours of racing coverage on the NBC family of networks through a new partnership with 1/ST Racing. The 1/ST Racing Tour will start Saturday with the Holy Bull at Gulfstream and Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita and continue for four other weekends through the May 20 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

15: Stakes worth $3.5 million set for Preakness Weekend at Pimlico Race Course in 2023.

50: Stakes worth $20,525,000 on the 44-day Churchill Downs spring meeting schedule, including the $3 million Kentucky Derby, $1 million Kentucky Oaks and $1 million Stephen Foster. The record lineup includes 28 stakes that received increases from last year.

Farewell to Oaklawn legend, graded stakes winner Chindi

Sad news out of Oaklawn Park Friday with the passing of Chindi at age 29. Here’s a piece from the Oaklawn publicity team:

A millionaire on the racetrack, but even more popular as trainer Steve Hobby’s longtime stable pony, Chindi was euthanized Thursday. The snow-white gelding was 29.

Hobby said Chindi’s physical condition had deteriorated for several weeks, adding he believes it was because of a neurological disorder triggered by his advanced age, rare to reach for a Thoroughbred racehorse.

“When he got bad, he went fast,” Hobby said on the trainer’s stand Friday morning. “I noticed little things riding him, like he kept bearing left and I had to keep correcting him. He wasn’t putting his hay in his water bucket. He’s done that his whole life. Then he started losing his action in behind. I hadn’t taken him to the track for four or five days. It was neurological. He was going to fall down and not get up. I had him out the day before yesterday, in the morning. I just took him out to clean his stall and I almost couldn’t get him back in his stall. He was going to fall down.”

Campaigned by Hobby’s most treasured client, Oklahoman Carol Ricks (Cres Ran LLC), Chindi had an 18-13-23 record from 81 starts and earnings of $1,000,838. Ricks, 93, learned of Chindi’s death Thursday night from her grandson, Ran Leonard, who now manages Cres Ran’s racing operation.

“She was very upset,” Leonard said Friday morning. “I mean, all of us were. But my grandma, she’s obviously an amazing human in every way. But she has this really good knack of immediately turning anything like that around and just commenting on how fortunate we were for everything he gave us during his racing career and post-racing career. And, how much he gave to Oaklawn and how much he gave to just racing in general and as an ambassador for the sport. I she said something about how he essentially gave us two lives. He had the one life as a racehorse that was amazing and then the whole life as a stable pony. We got more than we could have ever expected out of him. Twenty-nine years is a long time.”

Ricks’ late husband, Ran, privately purchased Chindi on the advice of bloodstock agent Omar Trevino, who stumbled across the horse and his dam, Rousing, while looking at some land near Lexington.

A late-running sprinter, Chindi – the Navajo word for “ghost” – recorded seven victories at Oaklawn, including the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for older horses at 6 furlongs in 1998. Chindi trailed by 11 lengths after a quarter mile and was still seventh after a half-mile before unleashing his patented stretch kick to win by 1 1/2 lengths under Don Pettinger. Pettinger, now the agent for Oaklawn-based jockey Travis Wales, rode Chindi regularly early in his career.

“Pretty cool horse,” Pettinger said Friday morning. “He was a lot of fun. Got to where I would just let him fall back and he’d be way back there. When you asked him that last quarter mile, he’d kick it in and make up a lot of ground. Everybody would think: ‘He’s beat, he’s beat’ because he’d be so far back. He was pretty cool.”

Chindi debuted March 15, 1997, at Oaklawn and retired following a sixth in the $40,000 Better Bee Stakes July 3, 2005, at Arlington Park. Retirement at Ricks’ CresRan farm north of Oklahoma City didn’t agree with the gelding and he quickly transitioned to Hobby’s stable pony, a position he held for almost two decades.

“But again, he never really spent any time there (farm) because he wanted to be at the racetrack with Steve,” Leonard said. “He was every bit as much Steve’s horse as he was ours, if not more. They had a bond that was – can’t put it into words. I really don’t believe in this kind of stuff as a general rule, but my grandma has spent the last two weeks going through all these old Chindi photos and trying to organize them and stuff. And then this happened. It’s just kind of like, ‘Was something in that world telling grandma?’ It’s just crazy how things like that happen.”

As the years passed, Chindi’s popularity grew, particularly at Oaklawn, where he made 24 career starts and was often the subject of acclaimed equine photographer Barbara Livingston. Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe proclaimed March 15, 2020, “Chindi Day,” allowing fans at Oaklawn a chance to again see the gelding in the winner’s circle and indoor paddock between races. He was already a morning fixture at Oaklawn, escorting Hobby’s horses to and from the track. 

“Absolutely,” Hobby said, when asked if Chindi was more popular after his racing career. “I don’t know why. I think longevity is one thing. People got so used to him and he was just always around. It’s like he was immortal. That’s why it’s kind of got everybody that he died. Like, ‘Chindi can’t die. He’s Superman.’ ”

Hobby said he may keep half of Chindi’s ashes, possibly sprinkling some at Oaklawn’s finish line. The other half, Hobby said, would go to Ricks.

“It was the right choice, had to be done,” Hobby said. “I did the humane thing. He lived a great life and I’m just going to look back on the all the great memories.”

In Chindi’s honor, Leonard asks fans to donate to Thoroughbred retirement charities in their state.

Names of the Day

Hot Rod Lincoln. Sandown. Race 2. We always said somebody should name a horse Hot Rod Lincoln. The 7-year-old should be a price in the novice hurdle.

Love Unlimited. Gulfstream Park. Race. 2. The 4-year-old filly is by Wicked Strong out of Holy Roller.

Windsor Park. Gulfstream Park. Race 5. We seem to always fall for Phipps and Janney-named horses. This 3-year-old colt is by Mastery, out of Carriage Trail.

Today Matters. Turf Paradise. Race 6. Words to live by…this gelding is by Carpe Diem out of Everything Matters. Almost too easy.

Bets of the Day

Deauville. Race 3. 9:15. Circo Massimo should get a smoother trip here. 

Sandown. Race 7. 11:03. We always take notice when Tom Lacey has one in the bumper. Watch the board for Ten Lengths Tom.

As for the races …

Leopardstown. Race 1. 8:20 a.m. The Dublin Racing Festival starts here. You can do anything you want this weekend, but schedule around this. A Grade 1 novice hurdle kicks it off (Honeysuckle runs Sunday). We’ll stick with Weveallbeencaught, one of just a few British raiders who take on the Irish at their own game.

Wetherby. Race 2. 8:35. Virginian Clarke Ohrstrom’s Our Jet is 9-5 in the handicap chase.

Leopardstown. Race 2. 8:55. Lossiemouth leads a Willie Mullins sextet in the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle.

Sandown. Race 4. 9:20. The undefeated Gerri Colombe swerves the Dublin Racing Festival and ventures across the sea for the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

Lingfield. Race 5. 9:26. The Kachy Stakes, a listed sprint, offers Annaf a chance at three in a row. Purchased for £16,000 before he made his debut, the son of Muhaarar, could go over $100,000 in earnings.

Leopardstown. Race 3. 9:30. The Goffs Irish Arkle Novice Chase. Appreciate It, at the ripe young age young of 9, leads another Mullins arsenal in this 2 1/8-mile Grade 1 chase.

Wetherby. Race 4. 9:40. Wow, a plethora of novice chases offered on the day. Ballygrifincottage rolls into the Grade 2 William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase.

Lingfield. Race 6. 10:01. Sir Busker, Tempus, Lord Of The Lodge and other high-profile milers clash in the Tandridge Stakes.

Leopardstown. Race 4. 10:05. The most electric horse in racing, Galopin Des Champs stands above the field, including three stablemates, in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.

Leopardstown. Race 5. 10:40. Be brave. Eighteen go in this handicap hurdle.

Leopardstown. Race 6. 11:10. Final Orders seeks his fifth in a row in this handicap chase.

Leopardstown. Race 7. 11:40. This Songisforyou, a rare American bred, tries to derail the Mullins train (Willie, 4. Emmet, 2) in the finale.

Laurel Park. Race 1. 12:25 p.m. The forecast isn’t near as dire in Maryland compared to New York, so head to Laurel for the nine-race card that starts with 7-furlong event for $8,000 to $10,000 claimers.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 1:30. Weather looks pretty moderate in Hot Springs, too.

Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 1:46. Field of 11 3-year-olds, including six firsters, for 1-mile turf maiden. Mutaawid made third start, and second on the grass. He’ll be tough.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:15. Super Chow, winner of five of six, heads field of six for the Grade 3 Claiborne Farm Swale Stakes.

Laurel. Race 5. 2:23. Multiple stakes winner Clubman bids for 14th victory in his 63rd start in 1 1/16-mile starter optional; and the 9-year-old son of Not For Love could be yours for $12,500.

Oaklawn. Race 3. 2:32. Mount Craig stretches out to two turns for 1-mile maiden for 3-year-olds and up.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:45. Ry’s The Guy, second in the John’s Call and third in the Grade 3 Sycamore in 2021, makes first start in well over a year in 7 1/2-furlong grass optional.

Laurel. Race 6. 2:52. Brad Cox sends Gulfstream Way, a winner last time out at Aqueduct, from his New York string for optional at 1 1/16 miles.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:16. Shesterkin and Tapit Thrice head field of seven in 1-mile optional for 3-year-olds not quite ready for the Swale or Holy Bull.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:46. Candidate and Major Dude, 1-2 I the Dania Beach, meet again in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy along with Boppy O, Congruent, Dude N Colorado and Lights Of Broadway.

Laurel. Race 8. 3:51. Princess Kokachin didn’t put up the numbers in 2022 that she did in 2021 – when she won eight of 12 – but still did fairly well. Five-year-old Graydar mare looks to get rolling again in 2023 in 5 1/2-furlong optional that also attracts stakes winner Street Lute, Response Time and Fraudulent Charge.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 7. 3:55. Another great place to be on a cold day in the Northeast. Here’s the Grade 3 Endeavour for fillies and mares on the grass. A field of 11 awaits, including European import Panama Red, Tropical Park Oaks runner-up Surprisingly, Fair Grounds shipper Oliviaofthedesert and lightly raced Marketsegmentation.

Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 4:05. Where have all the Southern California 3-year-olds gone? Certainly not to the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis, which attracts four colts from trainer Bob Baffert’s barn and no others. Arabian Lion, Newgate, Worcester and Hard To Figure can’t earn any points toward the Derby but will vie for the $200,000 purse.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:17. Sophomore fillies take their turn in the 7-furlong Forward Gal. Atomically, seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her first start for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Todd Pletcher, makes return against group of impressive maiden winners led by Undervalued Asset and Positano Sunset, along with stakes winners Red Carpet Ready and Twice As Sweet.

Santa Anita. Race 4. 4:38. The Grade 3 Megahertz for fillies and mares on the grass.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 4:38. Gun Pilot comes off good second in similar spot and looks to exit condition in 1-mile optional for Steve Asmussen. Ron Moquett hopes for the same for Protege, who could have run in last weekend’s Southwest.

Tampa. Race 9. 4:55. The co-featured Grade 3 Tampa Bay, also on the grass, brings a dozen together plus a couple AEs. Mike Maker could continue his amazing run in turf stakes with Field Pass but it won’t be a layup against the likes of Kentucky Ghost, Emmanuel, Verbal and Chez Pierre. We’d take a shot with Dakota Gold, too, if he’s anywhere close to his 30-1 morning-line price.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:01. Back to the grass for the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant for the 3-year-old fillies. Cairo Consort won her comeback and looks good against what appears to be fairly even group.

Tampa. Race 10. 5:25. Finish the day with a 1-mile turf allowance for 4-year-olds and up.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 5:42. A Mo Reay, winner of the Pago Hop in her first start after being sold for $400,000 in November and changing barns, ships from Fair Grounds to take on the first three from the Pippin in Lovely Ride, Ice Orchid and Le Da Vida in the Grade 3 Bayakoa.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:53. The Grade 3 Holy Bull starts the process of separating the contenders from the pretenders. Rocket Can might continue strong run for Bill Mott and Junior Alvarado from the outside post in 1 1/16-mile stakes. Cyclone Mischief figures to take plenty of action off sharp local victory from connections that like to show up in these spots.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:23. Fun To Dream rides three-race win streak into the Grade 2 Santa Monica and meets Awake At Midnyte again, along with Lady T and Samurai Charm in 7-furlong stakes.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 7:53. Field of 11 for the Grade 3 Thunder Road, the top local prep for next month’s Grade 1 Kilroe. Air Force Red comes in off back-to-back wins, Hit The Road won this and the Kilroe in 2021 and Anaconda ships from Fair Grounds for Joe Sharp and owner Three Diamonds Farm. Just three of the angles in 1-mile turf stakes.

Turfway Park. Race 6. 8:25. Keep it rolling with the $125,000 Forego. Not the Grade 1 at Saratoga but still a pretty good heat with Visitant looking to improve to 9-for-11 in Florence and Night Time seeking his first stakes victory.

Turfway. Race 7. 8:55. Formula One fans will be all about Verstappen in 1 1/4-mile optional. Yes, 10 furlongs. Good work racing office.