The Saturday Special – March 12

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March and critical Kentucky Derby prep season arrived in full force last week and continues on this week with the Tampa Bay Derby taking center stage.

Only eight weeks remain until the first Saturday in May – gulp – and there’s still plenty to sort out. Classic Causeway and Shipsational are the two main contenders for the Tampa Bay Derby, which offers 50 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. And perhaps more importantly, it’s just one of the final 11 domestic preps on Churchill Downs’ Road to the Derby schedule.

Want something to distract you from all the Derby talk – or perhaps all the college basketball, brackets and March Madness mayhem – how about Cheltenham? That’s right, the world’s greatest jump racing meet of the year comes at us fast and furious in just a few days’ time.

Our man Sean Clancy won’t make it this year but he’ll be offering his take on the Festival next week. Make sure you check back. Perhaps we should even rev up the handicappers, surely they wouldn’t punk out and abstain.

Anyway, here’s your Special for this week witih picks from Tampa Bay and more of your favorites below. Enjoy.

Worth Repeating

“Nayef Road ran disappointingly at Riyadh, when everything went wrong for him at the start really – he missed the break completely and was on the backfoot from then on. At the same time, it was still a disappointing run, which means we have shelved plans to take him to Dubai. He has come back from Riyadh in good order and, even though this is a last-minute plan, it would be nice to get him qualified for Finals Day.”
Trainer Charlie Johnston about 4-5 favorite Nayeff Road at Kempton

“I’ve wanted to be a jockey my whole life. I came down here to get more experience and practice a lot. To win my first race was unbelievable. It was like, ‘Wow. I did it. This is what I’ve wanted for so long.’ It was amazing.”
Apprentice jockey Maddie Rowland on her nine-win start at Tampa Bay Downs this winter

“This is an opportunity for me, I’ve got my hands on some well-bred horses and horses of quality. It’s a dream, training these horses.”
Trainer Eddie Barker about Shipsational at Saratoga last summer, the New York-bred takes aim at the Tampa Bay Derby

“It’s a great field. I didn’t expect it to be easy. It’s a solid field, but I think she (Ce Ce) is the class of the field.”
Trainer Michael McCarthy on Saturday’s Azeri at Oaklawn Park, where 2021 champion female sprinter Ce Ce makes her second start of 2022

“I think Lukie, he’s going for the Derby. Did you see the work the day before yesterday? That filly gets better every fricking day. She looked liked a monster coming home.”
Trainer Mike Puhich, deciding whether to run Call Me Jamal next in the Arkansas Derby or Blue Grass Stakes, and awaiting word where the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Secret Oath will run next

“You know what blows my mind was that I could not win a race at Delaware or in Maryland and then I come here to Oaklawn Park and it should be the other way around,” Bailey said moments after the ninth race. “Should it not?”
Apprentice jockey Chel-C Bailey, a former collegiate wrestler and MMA fighter, after scoring her first riding triple Sunday at Oaklawn Park

“[Retirement] was on the table, but it was the timing of things that we were able to give her a shot. It was still early enough that if something flared up or she had a setback, we could turn a different avenue and make her a broodmare. Touch wood, she’s very good right now. She’s doing good. Hopefully, we can keep going for a while and next year she can become a broodmare.”
Ian Wilkes on Four Graces, who runs in Saturday’s Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream

“I was lucky enough to win the East Coast version of the Woolf Award, the Mike Venezia Award in 2018, and now to be honored here on the West Coast, wow, you don’t know what an honor this is.”
Jockey Joe Bravo on winning the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award

“There’s probably only one award above this that I’d like to have, and that’s the Hall of Fame.”
Joe Bravo

“Sometimes in life you take chances and I had some exercise riders who kept telling me to try him on the dirt. It was the end of the year, we tried him, and it just didn’t work.”
Trainer Jim Bond on Rinaldi’s 11th in his dirt debut in the Thunder Rumble division of the New York Stallion Series last fall at Aqueduct

Riverdee Stable Names of the Day

Settlement Date. Charles Town. Race 8. The 3-year-old gelding is by Real Estate.

Postnup. Fair Grounds. Race 4. The 4-year-old filly is by Declaration Of War out of I’m Engaged.

Papa Joe. Fonner Park. Race 7. This one’s for you, Dad.

Thoroughbred Racing Calendar Play of the Day

We’ll give you two bombs at Sandown. Hydroplane at 40-1 in the third at 9:25 a.m. and Maridadi at 33-1 in the fourth at 10:00. If they win, we’ll see you in the islands.

By the Numbers

34: Stakes scheduled for the 2022 Del Mar meeting, worth a total of $8,275,000.

3.5 million: Dollar value of the 24 stakes on the schedule for 2022 at Colonial Downs.

193.3: Joe Clancy’s running mileage so far in 2022; on the way to the 1,000-Mile Challenge presented by iRun Local.

157.7: Tom Law’s mileage so far in 2022.

70: Sean Clancy’s mileage so far in 2022 (he’s admitedly not tracking or shooting for 1,000, but we’re encouraging him just the same).

Handicapper’s Corner

The SEC men’s college basketball tournament is in Tampa this weekend and so is a major Kentucky Derby prep with the Tampa Bay Derby. The handicappers aren’t there – we can’t speak for John Shapazian – but they’re back for some more swings on the loaded card that features six stakes.

Here are their picks for Saturday. Good luck.

John Shapazian (20/84):
1-Wholebodemeister, Pink Shoelace, Don’t Get Khosy.
2-Self Taught, Cajun Casanova, Jeopardy James.
3-Runaway Tom, Street Lamp, El Fantasma.
4-Jimmy The Kid, Whiskey Plank, Pharoah Cat.
5-Commandperformance, Piccadilly, Fenwick.
6-Gina Romantica, La Casa d’Oro, Birthday Time.
7-Bleecker Street, Rocky Sky, Lady Speightspeare.
8-Greatest Honour, Dynamic One, War Stopper.
9-Dole Zel, Spicer, Ambitieuse.
10-Kitten Mischief, Heavenly Street, Fort Washington.
11-Classic Causeway, Happy Boy Rocket, Major General.
12-Distinctlypossible, Edye’s Candy, Bali Belle.

Tom Law (22/84):
1-Don’t Get Khozy, Night Cap, Tap Dance Fever.
2-Cajun Casanova, Self Taught, Jeopardy James.
3-Runaway Tom, El Fantasma, Street Lamp.
4-Jimmy The Kid, Pharoah Cat, Miami Chrome.
5-Commandperformance, Piccadilly, Exxel.
6-Birthday Time, Sweets Maker, Spiked.
7-Lady Speightspeare, Take Charge Ro, Bleecker Street.
8-Cody’s Wish, Greatest Honour, Dynamic One.
9-On Alert, Ambitieuse, Dolce Zel.
10-Gingrich, Fort Washington, Heaven Street.
11-Classic Causeway, Shipsational, Majkor General.
12-Zena Crown, Bali Belle, Laugh And Play.

Charles Bedard (16/84):
1-Pink Shoelaces, Tap Dance Fever, Don’t Get Khozy.
2-Cajun Casanova, Jeopardy James, Self Taught.
3-That’s My Boi Toy, Runaway Tom, Marsico.
4-Whiskey Plank, Jimmy The Kid, Captain.
5-Commandperformance, Always Above, Picadilly.
6-La Casa d’Oro, Gina Romantica, Birthday Time.
7-Bleecker Street, Lady Speightspeare, Rocky Sky.
8-Dynamic One, Greatest Honour, Cody’s Wish.
9-Ambitieuse, Dolce Zel, Spicer.
10-Kitten Mischief, Fort Washington, Bens Malice.
11-Classic Causeway, Shipsational, Strike Hard.
12-Zena Crown, Distinctly Possible, Edye’s Candy.

Rob Whitlock (19/84):
1-Night Cap, Don’t Get Khozy, Pineshoelaces.
2-Cajun Casanova, He’s Smokin No, That’s My Boi Toy.
3-Cinnamon Jawbreaker, Whiskey Plank, Pharaoh Car.
4-Flatford Mill, Royal Court, Always Above.
5-Flatford Mill, Piccadilly, King Of Chais.
6-La Casa d’Oro, Birthday Time, Sweets Maker.
7-Take Charge Ro, Bleecker Street, Runaway Rumour
8-Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Greatest Honour, Tune In.
9-Mrs Barbara, Sweet Dutchess, Spicer.
10-Wake Surf, Heaven Street, Gingrich
11-Trademark, Classic Causeway, Giant Game.
12-Get Serious, India Caribe, Standup Comidienne.

Jessica Paquette (18/84):
1-Don’t Get Khozy, Night Cap, Pink Shoelaces.
2-Jeopardy James, Cajun Casanova, Self Taught.
3-Runaway Tom, That’s My Boi Toy, El Fantasma.
4-Jackson Strong, Nantucketer, Cpower.
5-Picadilly, Commandperformance, Royal Court.
6-Gina Romantica, Birthday Time, Spiked.
7-Lady Speightspeare, Rocky Sky, Bleecker Street.
8-Shirl’s Speight, Greatest Honour, Dynamic One.
9-Ambitieuse, Spicer, On Alert.
10-Electrostatic, Kitten Mischief, Wake Surf.
11-Major General, Belgrade, Classic Causeway.
12-Edye’s Candy, Pure Country, Get Serious.

As for the races…

Sandown. Race 1. 8:15 a.m. Oh, the unsung Sandown. Another strong card, especially on the cusp of Cheltenham awaits at one of Britain’s best racetracks. Juvenile hurdlers start it off. A pint of Carling, the Railway Fences and the beginning of the buzz.

Sandown. Race 2. 8:50. The Grade 3 National Hunt Novices Hurdle always delivers with a strong showing of stamina-laden future chasers. This year’s edition is as bullish as ever with the likes of Thunder Rock, Peejaybee and Our Jet. Proper course. Proper race.

Lingfield. Race 2. 9:21. Aldhaja was impressive in his debut. The son of War Front comes right back in 18 days against fellow debut winner King Of Time.

Sandown. Race 3. 9:25. Wow, 22 strong in the Grade Paddy Power Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle.

Wolverhampton. Race 3. 9:40. Internationalangel puts her six-race win streak on the line in the Lady Wulfruna Stakes.

Gowran Park. Race 5. 10:45. Nothing like a $743,795 earner in a handicap chase on a Saturday morning. Anibale Fly hasn’t won since 2017 but he’s played at the very top end and will try to make his way back to Aintree in April.

Navan. Race 5. 11:00. Four days before Cheltenham, Navan puts on a solid Grade 2 chase. Castlegrace Paddy finished second in the 2-mile chase last year at about the same time Notebook and Cilaos Emery were chasing Put The Kettle On in the Queen Mother and Sizing Pottsie was pulling up in the Grand Annual. Stay home and get the money, boys.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:15 p.m. Tampa Bay Derby Day kicks off with a $38,000 handicap at 7 furlongs. Wholebodemeister, last seen winning the Grade 2 Davona Dale in late February 2021, makes first start for trainer Michelle Hemmingway.

Hereford. Race 8. 12:51. Come on, my son. One time. Blumen Glory tries again for the Colony Stable, Neil Mulholland and Tom Scudamore. Richard needs some Cheltenham money.

Tampa. Race 5. 2:13. Commandperformance, second in the Grade 1 Champagne and fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, looms large in 1-mile and 40-yard maiden for 3-year-olds.

Kempton. Race 6. 2:30. Nayef Road returns from a disappointing run in the Red Sea Cup in Saudi Arabia. The 6-year-old takes in five rivals going 2 miles here.

Tampa. Race 7. 3:14. The Grade 2 Hillsborough leads off the stakes. Bleecker Street puts unbeaten mark on the line against top New York-bred Runaway Rumour, stablemate Rocky Sky and Grade 1 winner Lady Speightspeare.

Gulfstream Park. Race 7. 3:35. Multiple graded stakes winner Obligatory – a maiden winner at Gulfstream last year – makes 2022 debut in Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. She meets a tough foe in fellow one-turn specialist Four Graces, along with the likes of My Destiny and Starship Nala.

Tampa. Race 8. 3:49. Hello friends. Greatest Honour, last year’s Fountain of Youth winner; Dynamic One, last year’s Curlin winner; and Wolfie’s Dynaghost, the winner of back-to-back including on the synthetic last time at Gulfstream, meet in the Grade 3 Michelob Ultra Challenger.

Tampa. Race 9. 4:20. Solid group of nine for the Grade 3 Florida Oaks, including Grade 3 Mazarine winner Mrs. Barbara, French import Dolce Zel, Grade 3 Sweetest Chant runner-up Ambitieuse and On Alert. We’ll go with the latter in 1 1/16-mile turf stakes.

Tampa. Race 10. 4:51. Sophomore turf horses – or wanna be turf horses – take their turn in the $75,000 Columbia at 1 mile.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:57. Club Car ships in from Ben Colebrook’s Keeneland base and takes on a couple tough New York-breds in Kept Waiting and Letmetakethiscall in $100,000 Correction Stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:10. Could be a big stretch for Brian Lynch. He runs Tobys Heart here in the $100,000 Captiva Island and 15 minutes later sends out Classic Causeway in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Tampa. Race 11. 5:23. The main event of the meet, the $400,000 Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Classic Causeway and Shipsational, 1-2 in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis, are back and will be tough against the likes of Major General, Happy Boy Rocket and Money Supply.

Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:06. We can’t resist a little Fonner. Here’s the $20,000 Ogataul. Phlash Drive, Ye Be Judged, Name The Price, Bartenders Mistake and Kamikaze Judge all prepped in the same race. Take your pick.

Oaklawn Park. Race 9. 6:10. Ce Ce, winner of the 2020 Apple Blossom in Hot Springs and last year’s champion female sprinter, returns to two turns for the first time in almost a year for the Grade 2 Azeri. She meets 2020 Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil, 2021 Remington Park Oaks winner Lady Mystify and Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes winner Pauline’s Pearl in $350,000 stakes.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 6:10. California Angel, everyone’s favorite story before last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, makes return to the grass in $75,000 Allen “Black Cat” Lacombe Memorial. She won the Grade 2 Jessamine on the turf and has finished off-the-board in back-to-back dirt stakes this year. Good group here with New Year’s Eve, Dreamworker, Luck Is Fickle, Pearl Earing, Kneesnhips, Lolloping and Maria’s Fortune all looking like future stakes winners.

Santa Anita Park. Race 9. 7:41. Old friends Say The Word, Acclimate, Award Winner and others take on some new shooters to the turf marathon scene on the circuit in the Grade 3 San Luis Rey at 12 furlongs.

Turfway Park. Race 6. 8:46. Still going strong? How about the $100,000 Big Daddy at 6 furlongs? Visitant is 5-for-6 on the Northern Kentucky synthetic and comes out of a sharp win at odds-on in the Forego. He should be a short price again against his seven foes here.