The Saturday Special – Feb. 5

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Another week, another major winter weather event. Perhaps it’s way past overdue to say, “this just in, it’s winter,” but here we are in the days of mad dashes to the grocery store and constant meteorologist updates.

No such adversity in South Florida and Southern California, which run major Kentucky Derby prep races this weekend. Aqueduct, forced to cancel the finale Thursday because of fog, also runs a key Derby prep that helps play a part in another big day of racing around the world.

The handicappers are back for some more swings, again taking a look at Gulfstream’s Holy Bull Day card. Check the weather before diving in, as the winter blast has already canceled Saturday cards at Turfway Park and Oaklawn Park.

Here’s your primer and everything else you need to know for Saturday.


By the Numbers

1.82: Percentage drop on wagering on U.S. races in January 2022 compared to January 2021.

7.75: Average field size in U.S. races in January 2022, a decrease of 4.1 percent from 8.09 last year.

15.48: Increase in U.S. purses in January 2022 compared to January 2021 – $82.1 million versus $71.1 million.

42: Entries for Willie Mullins at the two-day Dublin Racing Festival.

59: Stakes scheduled for total purses of $16.95 million for the Belmont Park spring/summer meeting that runs from April 28 to July 10.

92: Days until the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, where it dealt with snow and ice this week.

159: Days until the first Saratoga Special of 2022. Get your advertising booked early.


Riverdee Stable Names of the Day

Wonderstruck. Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. The 3-year-old filly is out of Spellbind.

Gate Crew. Tampa Bay Downs. Race 4. Here’s a shout out to all the gate crews around the world.

Disco Ball. Santa Anita. Race 3. The 5-year-old is by Orb out of Dancing Band.

Encroachment. Santa Anita. Race 5. The 5-year-old is out of Border Dispute. 


Worth Repeating

“We need to come out of there running because I don’t want to be getting caught in traffic from the one-hole in a big field going two turns. We’ll use a little gas up early and see where the dust settles and go from there.”
Trainer Ray Handal on Withers contender Constitutionlawyer

“We’re going to take a little different path than the traditional ‘I’m on the Derby trail.’ We are not on the Derby trail. We will see how this horse develops, but we will target him in a way that if he develops the way that we would like him to, then maybe we will sneak into the Preakness with a fresh horse and see if we can surprise some people.”
The Elkstone Group’s Stuart Grant on his homebred Joe, expected to run next in the Feb. 19 Miracle Wood with the April 16 Federico Tesio as a long-range goal to get to the Preakness

“Like we say every year, this is the time for the 2-year-olds to turn into men and grow up.”
Trainer Dale Romans, who hopes Holy Bull contender Giant Game has done just that since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

“I got my first off-the-track Thoroughbred back in 2008 and watching him transform, his potential, his trainability, his eagerness to do something else and to learn new things and please really inspired me. After riding so many of those horses and seeing how much they put out for us on the racetrack, it’s just something I can’t avoid making a part of my life.”
Retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, who will be on site at Fair Grounds for New Vocations Day at the Races to raise awareness for Thoroughbred aftercare and second careers

“It was a good move. Pointing for the Azeri. I think it’s going to be a realistic goal to get to the Azeri. Obviously, it’s a prep for the Apple Blossom.”
Trainer Brad Cox about about Grade 1 stakes winner Shedaresthedevil’s first breeze of the year


Thoroughbred Racing Calendar Plays of the Day

Lingfield. Race 1. 8:11. Moel Arthur has shown glimmers of form in his three starts. The son of Flintshire makes his handicap debut in the opener. At 10-1, he should handle these and get your day off right.

Deauville. Race 2. 8:33. Atalante will relish a return to the all-weather surface for her 4-year-old debut.


Handicapper’s Corner

The Saratoga Special handicappers tackle Gulfstream Park for the second straight week after a good showing on Pegasus Day. Five stakes on tap, including the important Grade 3 Holy Bull for would-be Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Check out the handicapper’s picks:

John Shapazian (10/36):
1-Good Trouble, Evil Of Course, Flor de Plata.
2-Savage Sailor, Panorama Truck, Cashier Check.
3-Palm Island, Stay Restless, Unikee.
4-Super Fortune, Caribbean Gold, Al Hilal.
5-In Dreams, My Prankster, Of A Revolution.
6-Ankara, Remote, My Romeo Lima.
7-Coinage, Speaking Out, Grand Sonata.
8-Radio Days, Diamond Wow, Girl With A Dream.
9-Violent City, War Stopper, Coastal Defense.
10-Battle Charge, Ocean Safari, Opalina.
11-Simplification, Giant Game, Mo Donegal.
12-Vettori Kin, Boru, Mo Ready.

Tom Law (12/36):
1-Good Trouble, Evil Of Course, Flor de Plata.
2-Savage Sailor, Cashier Check, Panorama Truck.
3-Palm Island, Stay Restless, Nitrous Channel.
4-Al Hilal, Souper Fortune, Caribbean Gold.
5-My Prankster, Graphic Details, Of A Resolution.
6-Allegorical, My Romeo Lima, Ankara.
7-Red Danger, Coinage, Speaking Scout.
8-Radio Days, Girl With A Dream, Greatitude.
9-Candy Man Rocket, Prevalence, Soup And Sandwich.
10-Nostalgic, Ambitieuse, Opalina.
11-Simplification, Mo Donegal, Giant Game.
12-Mo Ready, Vettori Kin, Flowmotion.

Charles Bedard (6/36):
1-Flor de Plata, Uncaptured Faith, Nobody’s Secret.
2-Panorama Truck, Cashier Check, Savage Sailor.
3-Superstitieux, Unikee, Stay Restless.
4-Souper Fortune, Caribbean Gold, Al Hilal.
5-My Prankster, In Dreams, Oh A Revolution.
6-Tap The Gavel, Khufu, My Romeo Lima.
7-Red Danger, Royal Spirit, Grand Sonata.
8-Radio Days, Girl With A Dream, Greatitude.
9-Artemis Citylimits, Soup And Sandwich, Joe Di Baggio.
10-Opalina, Battle Charge, Ambitieuse.
11-Mo Donegal, Tiz The Bomb, Simplification.
12-Caloric, Uncle Curly, Boru.

Rob Whitlock (10/36):
1-Good Trouble, Evil Of Course, Flor de Plata.
2-Birdman Ritchie, Cashier Check, Savage Sailor.
3-Unikee, Palm Island, Stay Restless. 
4-Windy City Red, Hardredcandy, Caribbean Gold.
5-My Prankster, In Dreams, Of A Revolution.
6-Remote, Once A Giant, My Romeo Lima.
7-Grand Sonata, Coinage, Speaking Scout.
8-Radio Days, Girl With A Dream, Greatitude.
9-He Hate Me, Artemus City Limits, War Stopper.
10-Battle Charge, Miss You Ella, Ambitieuse.
11-Giant Game, Mo Donegal, Simplification.
12-Vitori Kin, Surprise Factor, Kitten Street.

Jessica Paquette (10/36):
1-Evil Of Course, Flor de Plata, Good Trouble.
2-Savage Sailor, Birdman Richie, Cashier Check.
3-Palm Island, Octozingo, Stay Restless.
4-Windy City Red, Souper Fortune, Unimpeached.
5-In Dreams, Dean Delivers, My Prankster.
6-Allegorical, Remote, My Romeo Lima.
7-Speaking Scout, Grand Sonata, Coinage.
8-Diamond Wow, Radio Days, Girl With A Dream.
9-Artemus Citylimits, Candy Man Rocket, War Stopper.
10-Ambitieuse, Nostalgic, Miss You Ella.
11-Galt, Mo Donegal, Cajun’s Magic.
12-Flow Motion, Mo Ready, Vettori Kin.


And now for the races…

Leopardstown. Race 1. 8:05 a.m. The Dublin Racing Festival, two days of top-class National Hunt racing, starts with the Grade 1 novice hurdle. Hollow Games had his undefeated record snapped at Naas in January, the 6-year-old tries to rebound against seven rivals.

Leopardstown. Race 2. 8:35. Fil Dor leads the juveniles in the Grade 1 Racing TV Spring Juvenile Hurdle.

Sandown. Race 3. 8:50. The enigmatic Goshen continues to try to right the ship. The 2021 Kingwell Hurdle winner rides a five-race losing streak into the Virgin Bet Contenders Hurdle.

Leopardstown. Race 3. 9:10. The third consecutive Grade 1 stakes on a stellar card. Willie Mullins sends out Blue Lord, Haut En Couleurs and Saint Sam in the Irish Arkle.

Sandown. Race. 4. 9:20. Stop what you’re doing and watch the five novices navigate the Railway Fences in the Scilly Isles Chase.

Wetherby. Race 4. 9:30. Saint Palais aims at his fourth straight in the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase.

Musselburgh. Race 4. 9:40. American-owned Highly Prized returns to action in the Scottish County Handicap Hurdle. The ground should suit the 9-year-old who finished off the board in the Far Hills maiden back in 2018.

Sandown. Race 5. 9:55. Cheltenham Cross Country Chase winner Easysland returns for Jonjo O’Neill(s) in the Grade 3 Heroes Handicap Hurdle. In a prep for March, the 8-year-old gives at least six pounds to each of his 18 rivals in this competitive handicap hurdle.

Leopardstown. Race 5. 10:15. Frodon goes back on the road for the Grade 1 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup. Standing firmly in the way of his road trip are 2021 Irish Gold Cup winner Kemboy and 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo. Robbie Power, recently back from injury, picks up the plum ride on Minella Indo.

Lingfield. Race 5. 10:25. King Of The South rides a three-race win streak into the Winter Derby Trial.

Musselburgh. Race 6. 10:45. The stoic and the brave go 3 15/16 miles in the Edinburgh National Handicap Chase.

Lingfield. Race 6. 11:00. Good Effort, fourth in the 2021 Vosburgh, leads a 10-strong scrum in the Kachy Stakes. 

Leopardstown. Race 7. 11:25. All six starters in Grade 2 Goffs Future Stars flat race exit wins in their most recent starts. Facile Vega goes 4/5 for Mullins.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:13. Five Prizes, a daughter of Bernardini that Mike Repole bought for $330,000, should win the opening 1-mile and 40-yard maiden.

Delta Downs. Race 1. 1:00. Louisiana Bred Premier Night with an afternoon start and the Bon Temps Starter leads off.

Delta. Race 2. 1:28. The $100,000 Premier Night Matron for fillies and mares at 5 furlongs. Cilla, winner of the Grade 2 Prioress last summer at Saratoga, ships in from Fair Grounds and looms large.

Kempton. Race 4. 1:30. Nayeff Road, a player in the top stamina races, returns for his 6-year-old season. The 8/5 favorite takes on five rivals in the 2-mile conditions stakes.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:50. The Grade 3 Toboggan, originally carded for Jan. 29, brings together a field of five led by heavy favorite Happy Medium. He’s won three in a row for Michelle Nevin, including back-to-back by open lengths at the Big A.

Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 1:57. The Grade 3 Claiborne Farm Swale kicks off the stakes. Perfect sponsor for the race, which draws six 3-year-old. Put the names of the group on a wall and toss a dart.

Tampa. Race 6. 2:42. Bleecker Street, unbeaten in three starts; and In Italian, the winner of two of three with a close second, make up strong entry for Peter Brant and Chad Brown in the Grade 3 Endeavour. Don’t engrave the trophy just yet, not with Lady Speightspeare, Stunning Princess and Oyster Box in the field for 1 1/16-mile turf stakes.

Delta. Race 5. 2:56. We’ll be Medley for Steve Asmussen in the $100,000 Premier Night Starlet at 1 mile for 3-year-old fillies.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:01. The Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy. Red Danger and Speaking Scout, 1-2 in the Pulpit Stakes in early December, are back in 1 1/16-mile turf stakes along with Grand Sonata, Coinage and Royal Spirit.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:30. Start the day on the West Coast with the Grade 3 Thunder Road. Subconscious, winner of the Grade 2 Twilight Derby and fifth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, takes on Count Again, Ready Soul and three others in 1 mile turf stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:33. Girl With A Dream ships from New Orleans in search of third consecutive win and second straight stakes. She meets a tough foe in the unbeaten, $750,000 Gun Runner yearling Radio Days for Shug McGaughey.

Tampa. Race 8. 3:46. Full field of 12, not including an AE, for the Grade 3 Tampa Bay on the grass. Get Smokin, last year’s winner, makes his first start for Mark Casse off long layoff against Chad Brown’s duo of L’Imperator and Devamani, Floriform for Juddmonte and Bill Mott and Calumet Farm’s uncoupled duo of Cellist and English Bee.

Delta. Race 7. 3:56. Ten for the $100,000 Premier Night Sprint, including last year’s runner-up Bertie’s Galaxy.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:05. Welcome back to Prevalance and Soup And Sandwich. The former won his first two then lost the Grade 2 Wood Memorial and Grade 2 Pat Day Mile. The latter finished second in the Florida Derby to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby field, where he finished last. They’re among the 12 entered for 7-furlong optional.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:25. The first three from the Jerome – Courvoisier, Smarten Up and Cooke Creek – are back to take on impressive maiden winner Early Voting, Constitutionlawyer and Grantham. First of two races on the day (and three for the weekend) that offers 10 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Delta. Race 8. 4:26. Strummer puts 3-for-3 mark locally on the line in the $125,000 Premier Night Distaff.

Santa Anita. Race 3. 4:32. Shaaz took a while to make the races but former $1.1 million 2-year-old won his debut on Opening Day late last year. Uncle Mo colt takes the next step in 7-furlong optional.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:37. The 3-year-old fillies take their turn in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant. Battle Charge started to improve when put on synthetic and the grass; now she takes another step up.

Delta. Race 9. 4:56. Unified Report tried open graded company last time in the Lecomte and now he’s back with state-bred 3-year-olds for the $100,000 Premier Night Prince at 1 mile.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:10. The featured Grade 3 Holy Bull marks the 2022 debut of controversial Remsen winner Mo Donegal – watch the replay here – and he takes on Mucho Macho Man winner Simplification, Grade 2 turf stakes winner Tiz The Bomb, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile third Giant Game and others in 1 1/16-mile stakes that offers 10 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.

Delta. Race 10. 5:26. The trio of Izzy’s Baby Boy, Langs Day and Luck Of The Draw, drawn from the rail out, will decide the $150,000 Premier Night Championship at 1 1/16 miles.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:06. Welcome back Ce Ce. The last time we saw her she ran away to a 2 1/2-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, most likely clinching the Eclipse Award for champion female sprinter. She meets four others here in the Grade 2 Santa Monica, including Grade 1 La Brea winner Kalypso.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:10. The Grade 2 San Pasqual. Express Train topped Hot Rod Charlie last time out in the Grade 2 San Antonio and that won turned in an easy win over lesser in Dubai Friday. Eight Rings, Spielberg and Law Professor give small field some depth.