The Saturday Special – June 1

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Jockey Frankie Dettori checks out the turf course at Penn National Friday afternoon before the Penn Oaks-Penn Mile card. Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

Here we go. A week out from the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Race Course and even less until the Festival kicks into gear, but one more installment of The Saturday Special to feed your jones.

The first Saturday in June marks Derby Day in England and we kick things off in our primer with a preview of all the action from Epsom. Weave your way back to North America and you’ll find good racing at Churchill Downs, Evangeline, Santa Anita, Woodbine and more.

Meanwhile, rest and hydrate. Next week will be a bear. Good luck.

By the Numbers
5: Days before The Belmont Special. Advertising spots are going fast.

Names of the Day
Readier. Churchill Downs. Race 2. The 5-year-old is by More Than Ready.

Chilled. Churchill Downs. Race 4. The 3-year-old filly is by Frosted.

Voice From Above. Woodbine. Race 4. The chestnut filly is by Audible out of How Far To Heaven.

Change The Play. Churchill Downs. Race 5. The 3-year-old filly is by Audible, of course.

Rejection Hurts. Canterbury Park. Race 3. The Minnesota-bred is by Not This Time out of Love The Breeding.

Handicapper’s Corner
One last quiz this week before the big exams next week with the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course. The handicappers dig into Saturday’s stacked card at Churchill Downs, which includes the Grade 3, $275,000 Blame and the Grade 3, $275,000 Shawnee. Check out their picks below, and make sure to pick up a copy of The Belmont Special for full-card selections during the Festival Thursday to Sunday. Good luck.

John Shapazian (37/151):
1-Sherbet Fountain, She’s Magic, Singsational.
2-Hailstorm, Readier, Second Service.
3-Little Jamie, All Things Go, Standoutsensation.
4-Secondbite, Chilled, Bells Beach.
5-Tweetster, Mink’s Palace, Simply Enchanting.
6-Ottoman Fleet, Emmanuel, Northern Invader.
7-Skelly, Angkor, Bourbon Heist.
8-Wet Paint, Scylla, Xigera.
9-Dancing N Dixie, Buchu, Sassy Princess.
10-Dreamlike, Cagliostro, Five Star General.
11-Cameo Performance, Cugino, Thomas Aquianas.

Tom Law (31/151):
1-Singsational, She’s Magic, Sherbet Fountain.
2-Hailstorm, Stormin Tanda, Run Jalen Run.
3-All Things Go, Little Jamie, Barbratina.
4- Bells Beach, Bellofthebluegrass, Soundbite.
5-Mink’s Palace, Tweetster, Wonder Ride.
6-Ottoman Fleet, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T.
7-Skelly, Angkor, Bourbon Heist.
8-Wet Paint, Xigera, Scylla.
9-Buchu, Dancing N Dixie, Way To Be Marie.
10-Highland Falls, Dreamlike, Cagliostro.
11-Formidable Man, Cugino, Nomos.

Charles Bedard (32/151):
1-Miss Tappy Tone, She’s Magic, Singsational.
2-Hailstorm, Remarkable Mo, Second Service.
3-Just Basking, All Things Go, Pretty Ana.
4-A Dollar A Day, Cararra, Soundbite.
5-America’s Vow, Simply Enchanting, Sabrina.
6-Ottoman Fleet, Northern Invader, Emmanuel.
7-Skelly, Tejano Twist, Angkor.
8-Xigera, Magical Lute, Scylla.
9-Way To Be Marie, Dancing N Dixie, Hello Hollywood.
10-Dreamlike, Highland Falls, Trademark.
11-Lagynos, Formidable Man, Twirling Point.

Rob Whitlock (21/139):
1-Sherbet Fountain, She’s Magic, Singsational.
2-Readier, Gun Show, Run Jalen Run.
3-Just Basking, All Things Go, Pretty Ana.
4- Bells Beach, Bellofthebluegrass, Soundbite.
5-America’s Vow, Simply Enchanting, Sabrina.
6-Chasing The Crown, Ottoman Fleet, Emmanuel.
7-Skelly, Angkor, Tejano Twist.
8-Scylla, Hidden Connection, Hoosier Philly.
9-Hello Hollywood, Gavea, Buchu.
10-Dreamlike, Highland Falls, War Campaign.
11-Formidable Man, Nomos, Cameo Performance.

Jessica Paquette (37/151):
1-Singsational, She’s Magic, Almond Fudge.
2-Readier, Gun Show, Run Jalen Run.
3-Just Basking, Pretty Ana, Cat’s Cave.
4-Chilled, Soundbite, Bells Beach.
5-Sabrina, Tweetster, Miss Justify.
6-Smokin’ T, Ottoman Fleet, Chasing The Crown.
7-Skelly, Bourbon Heist, Closethegame Sugar.
8-Scylla, Malloy, Hoosier Philly.
9-Faith Understood, Sassy Princess, Hello Hollywood.
10-Highland Falls, Cagliostro, Classic Causeway.
11-Twirling Point, Nomos, Cameo Performance.

Belmont Stakes Week events at the Hall of Fame
From the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame:
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will play host to several on- and off-site events and programs during the week of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. For a complete description of events and to purchase tickets to select events, please visit https://racingmuseum.org/events.

Wednesday, June 5
Belmont Memories with Tom Durkin
When: 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Where: National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
About: Legendary racecaller Tom Durkin shares the stories behind some of his favorite and most iconic calls of the Belmont Stakes in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame Gallery with moderator Jeff Carle.
Cost: Free for Museum members, $10 non-member
Tickets: Available at the door

Friday, June 7
Old Tavern Farm Tour
When: 10:30 a.m.
Where: Old Tavern Farm, 45 Brown Rd., Saratoga Springs
About: Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Old Tavern Farm, one of New York’s most beautiful thoroughbred farms.
Cost: $30 Museum member, $40 non-member
Tickets: Old Tavern Farm tour | National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (racingmuseum.org)
For more information: (518) 584-0400 ext. 118 or racingmuseum.org

Saturday, June 8
Belmont Stakes Day Saturday Morning Social, sponsored by George & Sharyn Neble, Chevaux Racing, LLC
When: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Where: National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
About: The Museum’s popular open house series includes complimentary coffee and doughnuts courtesy of Stewart’s Shops; complimentary water courtesy of Saratoga Spring Water Co.; and several exciting programs.
Cost: Free admission 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Schedule of events:

  • 9 a.m. — What It Takes: Journey to the Hall of Fame film showing
  • 9:30 a.m. — Belmont Stakes handicapping seminar with Daily Racing Form’s Mike Beer and Dan Illman
  • 10:30 a.m. — President Grant and His Horses, presentation by Ben Kemp of U. S. Grant Cottage State Historic Site: How horses, including thoroughbreds, played an important role in the life of President Ulysses S. Grant and how he shaped American history. Ben Kemp, operations manager of U. S. Grant Cottage State Historic Site, will portray President Grant for the presentation.
  • 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Greg Montgomery Belmont Stakes poster signing (posters available for purchase)
  • 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Saratoga Spring Water historic carriage on display and giveaway items

For more information: Belmont Stakes Day Saturday Morning Social, sponsored by George & Sharyn Neble, Chevaux Racing, LLC | National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (racingmuseum.org)

Ongoing events throughout the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival
Oklahoma Training Track Tours
When: 9 a.m. daily
Where: Tour begins at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
About: Find out why this beautiful and historic site, located across the street from the main track at Saratoga Race Course, is a favorite spot for Hall of Fame trainers such as Steve Asmussen, Bill Mott, D. Wayne Lukas, Shug McGaughey, Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito. The Museum’s behind-the-scenes Oklahoma tour is offered in conjunction with the New York Racing Association. This walking tour covers approximately 1 1/2 miles and lasts for 90 minutes. Participants must be at least 10 years old. By reservation only.
Cost: adult $15, student/senior $10, Museum members are 50 percent off!
Tickets: https://www.racingmuseum.org/visit/tours
For more information: (518) 584-0400 ext. 118 or racingmuseum.org

Belmont Stakes Artists’ Festival
When: June 6-9, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Where: National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame grounds
About: Some of thoroughbred racing’s most celebrated artists and vendors will be on-site at the Museum selling original artwork, prints, high-end designer brands, and a variety of memorabilia throughout the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. Meet the artists, learn about their creative process, and purchase beautiful and unique thoroughbred racing artwork, and designer brands. Participants include Frankie Flores, Nick Martinez, Encounter, and Christine A. Moore Millinery.
Cost: Free (artwork and other products available for purchase)
For more information: (518) 584-0400 or racingmuseum.org

Walk of Fame at Saratoga Race Course
When: June 6-9
Where: Saratoga Race Course backyard
About: The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is the official curator of the Saratoga Walk of Fame at Saratoga Race Course and will operate daily throughout the Belmont Festival Thursday through Sunday. The Museum will present fans with informational panels about each Hall of Fame category; panels and bios in recognition of the most recent Hall of Fame Class; video features of select Hall of Fame members; and JockeyCam, a virtual reality jockey experience.

Jockey of the Week
Memorial Day Monday turned out to be especially meaningful for jockey Umberto Rispoli posting wins in the Grade 1 Gamely and the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. The two prestigious wins led the panel of racing experts to vote Rispoli Jockey of the Week for May 20 through May 27.

 The weekly honor recognizes jockeys for riding accomplishments and who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 1050 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.

Trainer Leonard Powell gave a leg up to Rispoli on the 4-year-old filly Anisette in the Gamely for older fillies and mares. Off as second choice and breaking from post position six in the field of eight, Rispoli settled Anisette in mid-pack as race favorite Ruby Nell opened up on the field. Approaching the far turn, Rispoli guided Anisette four wide and powered to the front down the stretch for a one-half length win over East Coast invader Olivia Maralda. Coming off a six-month layoff, it was Anisette’s third career Grade 1 win, all with Rispoli aboard.

“I had to ride her like she was the best filly in the race,” Rispoli said. “When I passed the leaders and took off, she got in front and started to wait for the other horses. I said, ‘No, you don’t do that today.’ I think it was a great effort.”

 Two races later Rispoli was aboard Johannes for trainer Tim Yakteen in the Shoemaker Mile for 3-year-olds and up on the turf. Off as the second favorite in the field of 11, Rispoli settled 4-year-old Johannes in mid-pack while Kentucky invader Funtastic Again and longshot Goliad led the field through the opening quarter. Rispoli and Johannes launched their bid near the quarter pole catching Funtastic Again at the top of the stretch. Johannes and Funtastic Again battled head-to-head for the final eighth mile with Johannes just pulling ahead to post a one-half length win over Funtastic Again and jockey Frankie Dettori.

“That was fantastic. I beat my idol,” said Rispoli who, like Dettori hails from Italy. “I have so much respect for Frankie. Having my second Gamely and Shoemaker Mile on the same day is just a dream come true.”

As for the races …
Epsom. Race 1. 8:25 a.m. The Derby card starts now.

Epsom. Race 2. 9:00. The Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes begins the stakes.

Epsom. Race 3. 9:35. Hunch play in the Group 3 Betfred Diomed Stakes? Sean. At 10-1.

Auteuil. Race 8. 10:25. Four-year-olds clash in the James Hennessy Listed Chase.

Epsom. Race 6. 11:30. Ambiente Friendly, Ancient Wisdom, City Of Troy and Los Angeles lead a 16-strong brigade in the Group 1 Betfred Derby.

Epsom. Race 7. 12:15 p.m. Grade 1 hurdler Not So Sleepy still going strong in the Long Shot Northern Dancer Handicap.

Doncaster. Race 3. 12:40. King’s Gamble returns for his first start since finishing third in the Group 2 Gimcrack in August.

Woodbine. Race 1. 1:10. Solid card up north starts with 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional on the main track.

Doncaster. Race 4. 1:15. High Order returns from a 13-length win for the King and the Queen.

Monmouth Park. Race 2. 1:19. Seven of the eight here in 4 ½-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds are first-time starters, including the $120,000 Munnings filly Obliging.

Gulfstream Park. Race 2. 1:24. Seven2-year-old fillies entered for 5-furlong maiden, including Unchained Elaine off decent fourth in 5-furlong turf stakes.

Woodbine. Race 5. 3:08. Candy Overload, the winner of back-to-back including stakes at Woodbine; and Flag Of Honour meet again in the Grade 3 Jacques Cartier.

Churchill Downs. Race 6. 3:18. The Grade 3, $275,000 Arlington kicks off six-pack of stakes. Ottoman Fleet, runner-up in the Grade 2 Fort Marcy, and Emmanuel, fifth in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile, stand out in 1 1/16-mile turf stakes.

Churchill. Race 7. 3:51. Skelly, blowout winner in back-to-back stakes after good try in Saudi Arabia in February, returns for the $275,000 Aristides.

Woodbine. Race 7. 4:09. Fillies and mares take their turn in the Grade 3 Belle Mahone. Millie Girl, off since trying the boys in the Grade 3 Valedictory, makes 2024 debut for Catherine Day-Phillips.

Churchill. Race 8. 4:23. Surprised a few runners here in the Grade 3, $275,000 Shawnee didn’t opt for the Grade 1 Phipps on next weekend’s Belmont Day card. Grade 1 winner Wet Paint looks to bounce back from sixth in the Apple Blossom while Xigera tries to do the same after faltering in the slop in the Grade 1 La Troienne. Meanwhile, Scylla might continue her rise for Juddmonte and Bill Mott.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:40. The Grade 3 HPIbet Royal North brings together a good field of filly and mare turf sprinters, including Play The Music, Secret Money, Miss Speedy and Howboutdemapples.

Churchill. Race 9. 4:55. Way To Be Marie leads the best of the rest from the Edgewood here in the Grade 3, $275,000 Regret. Daughter of Not This Time finished second in Kentucky Oaks Day turf stakes, ahead of Dancing N Dixie (third) and Buchu (sixth), who run back here.

Woodbine. Race 9. 5:11. The featured Grade 2 Bet365 Eclipse Stakes looks like good starting spot for Tyson, a multiple stakes winner last season who tried the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 2 Woodward in New York in 2023. Paramount Prince, who gave Mark Casse yet another King’s Plate last year, also makes his return in Toronto with a good prep in March at Gulfstream. Casse also sends out Get Smokin, the earner of more than $1.6 million.

Churchill. Race 10. 5:27. Highland Falls, fourth in the Grade 1 Big ‘Cap and second in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, stands out in the Grade 3, $275,000 Blame. Todd Pletcher will try and make sure it isn’t a layup with the very capable Tapit Trice and Dreamlike.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:30. Chi Chi, hopefully named for the legendary golfer, returns to South Florida for the $95,000 Game Face after decent try in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland. Haulin Ice, the winner of three of five, looms as deserving favorite in first start for Saffie Joseph Jr.

Monmouth. Race 11. 5:38. Talk about a race with some history, the Jersey Derby. There’s no Spend A Buck in here, like in 1985 when he bypassed a chance at the Triple Crown. And it’s on turf now, too.

Churchill. Race 11. 5:58. The $275,000 Audubon for 3-year-olds closes the card. Formidable Man, second at a big price in the Grade 2 American Turf on Derby Day, takes on familiar foes Lagynos and Cugino.

Santa Anita Park. Race 6. 6:31. Only four, but a pretty solid four, entered in the Grade 2, $200,000 Triple Bend. Take your pick, Dr. Venkman, Happy Jack, Tahoe Sunrise or Big City Lights.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 7:03. Shilo’s Mistress and Circle Of Trust, 2-3 in the Grade 3 Providencia, return for the Grade 3 Honeymoon going 9 furlongs on the grass.

Evangeline Downs. Race 5. 8:18. Fireup thewagering account, it’s Louisiana Legends Night. Kick things off with the $100,000 Mademoiselle at 5 1/2 furlongs for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares. Ova Charged, winner of five straight including Grade 3 turf sprint on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs, doesn’t figure to be even-money.

Evangeline. Race 6. 8:46. The $100,000 Louisiana Legends Cheval, a 1-mile event for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds.

Evangeline. Race 7. 9:13. Toughto sort group of 12 entered here in the $100,000 Lousiana Legends Turf Distaff. Take a price.

Evangeline. Race 8. 9:40. Accommodate Eva, off the board in back-to-back tries in Grade 2 stakes, returns to Louisiana-bred ranks for the $100,000 Louisiana Legends Soiree at 1 mile.

Charles Town Races. Race 7. 10:02. Maggie’s Girl, third last time as the odds-on favorite, looks to get back on track in$75,000 Fancy Buckles.

Evangeline. Race 9. 10:07. Keep it rolling with the $100,000 Louisiana Legends Turf. Calicocco, Woods N Water and Behemah Star look tough.

Evangeline. Race 10. 10:34. Don’t call it a night just yet, here’s the $100,000 Louisiana Legends Sprint. Harpeth River, a 5-year-old son of Bind who sold for $5,000 at the 20202 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale, returns from Mexico with a record of 11-for-17 and two seconds.