The Saturday Special – June 12

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Another Triple Crown in the books and a light weekend slate before the racing world turns its eyes to Royal Ascot next week and Stephen Foster Day card at the end of the month.

The domestic slate features just seven stakes Saturday, including a pair of Grade 3 events with the Old Forester Mint Julep at Churchill Downs and Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park. We preview all the stakes and other races of interest here in the primer, which returns following a one-week hiatus to settle things up at Belmont Park last weekend.

Given the lighter than usual menu we’ll tidy up a bit from the Triple Crown and last week’s Belmont Stakes Racing Festival with a scaled down version of Here & There followed by the primer for Saturday, June 12. Take care and good luck.

By the Numbers

5 1/4: Combined margin of victory for the three Triple Crown races – 1 1/4 in the Belmont, 3 1/2 in the Preakness and a half in the Kentucky Derby.

12: Belmont Stakes winners who ran in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness since 1999 – Lemon Drop Kid, Commendable, Empire Maker, Birdstone, Jazil, Summer Bird, Union Rags, Palace Malice, Creator, Tapwrit and Essential Quality.

32: Days until Opening Day at Saratoga after Saturday.

2010: The year the last time at least one 3-year-old didn’t run in all three Triple Crown races until this year.

5,456: Attendance for last Friday’s card at Belmont Park.

11,238: Purposely reduced crowd for Saturday’s Belmont Day program.

$7,532,571: On-track handle for the 13-race Belmont Day card, an average of $670 per person.

$60,459,330: All-sources handle on the 153rd Belmont Stakes.

$112,725,278: All-sources handle on Belmont Day card, a NYRA record for a non-Triple Crown year.

$141,984,866: All-sources handle on the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which featured 17 stakes and 33 races total from June 3-5.

Worth Repeating

“We train him race day. I think all seven races we have and he comes back to the barn, cools out, lays down all day. He’s a very intelligent horse.”
Trainer Brad Cox on Belmont winner Essential Quality

“In all fairness, he probably ran as good a race as he has run. We all sometimes wish to work out a better trip, but it wasn’t meant to be and that’s horse racing.”
Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA, on Essential Quality’s trip in the Kentucky Derby

“Is the bar still open?”
Doug O’Neill, trainer of runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, after wrapping up his on-the-track interview with a small group of reporters

“I’m always nervous with an inquiry. But I had a hard time finding out what it was about. I couldn’t figure that out.”
Trainer Chad Brown after the Grade 1 Manhattan, where he sent out 1-2 finishers Domestic Spending and Tribhuvan

“He’s a Met Mile winner. … To be in this position today will give him the credit he deserves.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen on Silver State

“He’s a grinder; just keeps coming and coming.”
Jockey John Velazquez on Belmont Gold Cup winner Baron Samedi

“I may go to the Beverly D. The Diana has not been kind to me, but we’ll see.”
Trainer Graham Motion after Mean Mary won the Grade 2 New York. She finished second in last year’s Diana, one of Motion’s five runners-up along with two others that came close since 2016

“She was 1-9, so obviously we were in the right spot.”
Trainer Wesley Ward after winning the Astoria with Happy Soul

“A friend of mine texted me and said, ‘you need to go put a hat on.’ I’m not superstitious but honestly between the Met Mile and the Belmont I went back to the barn, checked on the horses, kind of hung out around the horse and sitting there was a hat. I said, ‘I’m going to put it on.’ ”
Cox, decked out in his signature baseball cap for the Belmont post-race press conference

“Are you sure Shapazian isn’t past posting?”
Rob Whitlock after John Shapazian took down two more handicapping challenges (see below)


Handicapper’s Report

John Shapazian wasn’t about to relinquish his spot at the top and took home top handicapper honors for the Triple Crown series.

Shapazian picked 15 winners over the six Triple Crown weekend cards – Kentucky Oaks and Derby at Churchill Downs, Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness at Pimlico and Belmont Friday and Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. That put Shapazian one ahead of Rob Whitlock and newcomer Jessica Paquette, who each tabbed 14 for the season.

Tom Law, Paul Halloran, Sean Clancy and Charles Bedard finished tied for third with 13 and Joe Clancy trailed the group with nine.

Sean wound up with the best showing on Belmont Day with three winners – Search Results in the Grade 1 Acorn, Domestic Spending in the Grade 1 Manhattan and Essential Quality in the Belmont Stakes. He also gave out the cold trifecta in the Manhattan – Domestic Spending, Tribhuvan and Gufo – to the tune of $264.48 for a $2 bet.

Charles also picked three winners – Althiqa in the Grade 1 Just A Game, Domestic Spending and Essential Quality.


Bankroll Challenge

More of the same in the season-long Bankroll Challenge, with John Shapazian keeping it simple and coming out on top with a profit to boot.

Shapazian came into Belmont Day with losses of $98 but turned it around when he used his entire $200 mythical bankroll on an Essential Quality win bet. When Essential Quality wore down Hot Rod Charlie in the stretch to return $4.60 to win on a $2 bet Shapazian pocketed $460, or a $260 profit on the day. Minus his prior losses – from Oaks and Derby Days and Preakness Day – Shapazian finished with a profit of $162 from a total mythical bankroll of $700.

Tom Law finished a close second, after spreading things out on Belmont Day and cashing bets from the first race through a daily double on the Manhattan and Belmont Stakes. Tom cashed on four of his bets, got an $8 return with a scratch in another race, and finished with a $204 profit on the day. After his losses of $54.40 heading into Belmont, Tom finished with a profit of $149.60.

Rob Whitlock tried to make it interesting with a big score in the Grade 1 Just A Game, betting $30 to win on Althiqa to cash for $252 – enough for a profit on the day – but didn’t hit any other bets. He finished with losses of $44 on the season. Charles Bedard also tried to spread on Belmont Day and cashed on three races, turning a profit of $138.87, but his prior losses held him back. He finished with losses of $351.10 for the season.


Name of the Day

Now Yus Cant Leave. Sixth race, Belmont Park. Fans of the movie A Bronx Tale will be all over this daughter of Tonalist in the sixth race at Belmont Park.


The Saturday Special

Sandown. Race 3. 9:15 a.m. Queens Carriage rides a three-race win streak into the Scurry Stakes for owner Kim and Kevin Coleman.

In the Room on HRRN. 10:00. Today, Sean talks to steeplechase jockey Tom Garner about everything from winning races to losing friends. Listen here.

York. Race 3. 10:05. The Grand Cup Stakes stretches them 1 3/4 miles. We’ve been riding the Ranch Hand train since a hurdle win at Exeter back in November. 

York. Race 4. 10:40. A cool $103,000 on the skillet in the Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap. We like Dark Shift. 

Auteuil. Race 1. 10:42. Stellar jump card kicks off with the Grade 3 Haras D’Etreham Prix Sagan Hurdle, which attracts six 3-year-old fillies, including Maggie Bryant’s undefeated Matilda Du Berlais. Stay tuned to the French jump oval all day, the hits come every 30 minutes. 

Pimlico Race Course. Race 1. 12:40 p.m. The show goes on from Old Hilltop. How about Tales Of Saratoga in the opener? We’re ready to tell some more tales from the Spa, especially this summer in The Saratoga Special.

Gulfstream Park. Race 2. 12:50. Last Leaf ran well in debut to finish second and now takes on five first-time starters in 5 1/2-furlong maiden for 2-year-old fillies.

Woodbine. Race 1. 1:20. Welcome back. After lengthy delay, the 11-race Opening Day card in Toronto kicks off.

Belmont Park. Race 2. 1:31. Southern Flag just missed in debut for Summer Wind Equine and Bill Mott. Son of Curlin goes the same 1-mile trip in second start against five others led by Uncle Mo firster Vindictive for Todd Pletcher and the $800,000 Into Mischief colt Absolute Courage for Shug McGaughey.

Belmont. Race 4. 2:33. Field of eight for 1-mile turf maiden.

Belmont. Race 5. 3:02. Control Group finished second at odds-on in off-the-turf Kingston last time and returns on short rest in 1-mile state-bred optional that also attracts Just Right in his return to the main track.

Pimlico. Race 6. 3:12. Big field of fillies and mares for 1-mile optional on the grass. We’ll go with Money Fromheaven, which is part of one our favorite quotes from The Chief.

Monmouth Park. Race 8. 3:27. Acceptable Risk, the winner of his only start last September and sold for $25,000 at Keeneland November sale, makes first start for Todd Pletcher in 6-furlong optional.

Belmont. Race 6. 3:34. Angelou makes first start since October and first for Todd Pletcher in 1 1/16-mile turf maiden for fillies and mares that also marks second start for 4-year-old Invincible Spirit filly Infinite Potential for Klaravich and Chad Brown.

Pimlico. Race 7. 3:42. We’ve touted Tommy Shelby, or others named for Peaky Blinders characters, in this space before. Not sure we’ll endorse Super Ninety Nine gelding in this 6-furlong optional topped by Mojovation and Noble Commander.

Belmont. Race 7. 4:06. Solid group of nine fillies and mares for 7-furlong allowance, including Juddmonte homebred Entreat, five-time winning New York-bred mare Love And Love and come-backing 2020 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour graduate Iaintfraidanoghost.

Arlington Park. Race 3. 4:20. P H Factor blasted a similar field by 10 lengths last time and looms large in 7-furlong starter optional in search of sixth straight win since being claimed by Larry Rivelli for $8,000 in late February at Turfway Park.

Monmouth. Race 10. 4:28. Ny Traffic, runner-up in last year’s Grade 1 Haskell to eventual Horse of the Year Authentic, takes on Grade 1 winner Basin, defending champ Pirate’s Punch, West Will Power and six others in Grade 3 Salvator Mile.

Santa Anita Park. Race 2. 4:35. Private Mission, a $750,000 Into Mischief out of the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale, returns from almost seven-month break in 6-furlong optional and takes on multiple Cal-bred stakes winner Big Sweep off an even longer layoff.

Belmont. Race 8. 4:40. New York-bred fillies and mares go 6 furlongs in $100,000 Dancin Renee Stakes. Good Credence comes out of second in Critical Eye last time on Big Apple Showcase Day while Sadie Lady returns to state-bred ranks after finishing second in the Grade 3 Vagrancy Handicap May 8. Multiple stakes winner Espresso Shot adds more depth and her sixth in the Critical Eye in the mud seems too bad to be true.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:51. Speightstown Shirl, second in her three starts, takes on $350,000 Malibu Moon firster Astrological and 13 others entered in body of 1-mile turf maiden.

Monmouth. Race 11. 4:58. Freer and first-time starter Lumino look tough for Todd Pletcher in 1 1/16-mile turf maiden, along with Kelly Breen’s He’spuregold and Jimmy Toner’s Neotropic.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:02. Summering, off since winning Florida-bred stakes in late March at Tampa, returns for Glen Hill Farm and Tom Proctor in $75,000 Ginger Punch. Daughter of War Front takes on either others, including Key Biscayne, Mo Of The West, Shifty She and Lovely Luvy.

Belmont. Race 9. 5:12. Somehow Second Of July didn’t make last year’s Glenn DiSanto Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with the Little Guys. He would have been the first to go from there to the Breeders’ Cup – we think – and now the 3-year-old son of Jack Milton makes his first start since the Juvenile Turf Sprint against older horses in 6-furlong optional on the grass.

Santa Anita. Race 4. 5:41. It’s Simple, daughter of Nyquist out of stakes winner More Complexity, makes debut for owners and breeders Reddam Racing and Doug O’Neill in Cal-bred 2-year-old maiden.

Wyoming Downs. Race 9. 6:25. Here’s one we don’t frequent much … but who knows, maybe one day there will be the Wyoming Special. Dare to dream. Anyway, the $12,5000 Inaugural Handicap leads the card and it’s a mixed bag of runners bred in California, Kentucky, Florida, Colorado and Idaho. None from Wyoming though. We’ll take a flyer with the 9-year-old Unbridled’s Song Kentucky-bred gelding Lovenseek, a 13-time winner and $247,498-earner.

Charles Town Races. Race 2. 7:32. We did a double take seeing the name Kukulkan in entries for 4 1/2-furlong allowance. Not to be confused with Mexican-bred star who ran in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup with the same name, Florida-bred by Corfu brings 1-for-42 mark with 13 seconds to this spot.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:52. Six older Cal-breds meet in $100,000 Thor’s Echo. Colt Fiction and Loud Mouth were 1-2 in allowance prep, ahead well clear of odds-on Brickyard Ride that day. Those three return along with Fashionably Fast, Whooping Jay and Jamming Eddy.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 9. 8:10. Bettor Trip Nick, Give Me The Lute and Brandothebartender occupy the three inside posts for $50,000 Albany and look the best in 5-furlong turf stakes. Lean toward Give Me The Lute, he’s won three times in five starts on the course.

Churchill Downs. Race 6. 8:30. Lady Edith won the Mamzelle sprinting on the grass last time and looks tough in 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance that’s worth just about the same.

Churchill. Race 8. 9:39. Joyful Cadence just. Missed in Grade 3 Miss Preakness at Pimlico and Purple Martin at Oaklawn in her last two. Daughter of Runhappy takes slight drop here in 7-furlong optional that drew a full field of 10 fillies and mares.

Charles Town. Race 7. 10:02. Maybe the standout of the day, Star Of Night brings four-race win streak to 6 1/2-furlong allowance. She won three stakes last year at Charles Town but hasn’t been out since December.

Churchill. Race 9. 10:11. Brad Cox looks to keep his strong spring rolling with Juliet Foxtrot in Grade 3 Old Forester Mint Julep. Juddmonte’s homebred daughter of Dansili won the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in her lone start of 2021. She finished sixth in this same stakes last year.

Churchill. Race 11. 11:10. Call it a night after this 1-mile maiden for fillies and mares.