The Saturday Special – March 5

- -

Welcome to March. Well, at least welcome to the almost first week of March.

The stakes get bigger come March, especially on the road to the Triple Crown and this week proves that point to a T. The Gotham, Fountain of Youth and San Felipe are on tap with plenty of points – if your horses are eligible of course – and a serious shakeup to the Kentucky Derby “horses to watch” lists looms large.

Speaking of running, how about the challenge jockey Nik Juarez is undertaking this weekend? Read more about it here.

Here’s your primer for the first Saturday in March. Enjoy and good luck.

By the Numbers

5: Days until reservations open for Saratoga Race Course’s newest hospitality venue, the Paddock Suite, go on sale at 10 a.m. March 10 for groups of up to 80. Reservations also open that day for the Stella Artois Spa Verandas; 1863 Club, including The Rail, Resorts World Legends Hall, and Luxury Suites; Big Red Spring Tent and the Festival Tent.

15: Entries for Todd Pletcher on the 13-race card at Gulfstream Park Saturday

800,000: Dollars per day in projected average daily purses for the 31-day Del Mar summer meet. Those numbers include 21 of the major stakes and overnight purses that will be raised by a blended rate of 15 percent.

75,000: Dollars in donation money from the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association recently to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program. The funds will support aftercare efforts at New Vocations’ Medina, OH, facility, which caters specifically to rehabbing, retraining and rehoming Thoroughbred racehorses retiring from racetracks in the state.


Riverdee Stable Names of the Day

Tax Code. Tampa Bay Downs. Race 9. The Godolphin homebred is out of Too Complicated.

Formation. Turfway Park. Race 4. The Juddmonte homebred is out of Structure.

Leslie Chow. Turfway Park. Race 4. Oh, the one and only Mr. Chow. The 3-year-old colt is by Practical Joke out of Roaming.

Icarus. Turfway Park. Race 4. Another good one from the same race, the gray gelding is out of Light The Sky.


Thoroughbred Racing Calendar Play of the Day

Honneur D’Ajonc, Pearly Island, Metier and Sir Busker show up on our Horse Tracker. Play a four-horse accumulator and we’ll see you in the islands.


Worth Repeating

“This is important. Now, she is 6 years old, and she made it look easy. It’s not easy. It’s a Grade 3. To win you have to make this kind of effort. She looks in very good form and ready for the next race.”
Trainer Fausto Gutierrez said on the winning return last week by Letruska

“The Apple Blossom is next. This year, if everything goes OK, I would like her to run six times. Last year, she had eight stakes, a lot of Group 1s, traveling all around. Now, we need to go more passive.”
Gutierrez on Letruska

“He’s a nice, solid horse – he’s been like a piggybank for everyone who has had him. He’s made money for everyone. He came back good and hopefully he’ll continue improving.”
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez on the stakes-bound Big Engine, a recent winner who boosted his earnings to $397,565 over five seasons

“I was ready to run him. He hadn’t been overdone. If we hadn’t been able to run him today, I don’t know when I would have run him. I wasn’t keen on trying to run him in [Saturday’s] Gulfstream Park Mile without a race in him. I was really pleased the way he ran, the way he acted, the way he finished. Coming over this track as fast as they were running, I think was a big accomplishment.”
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey on last Sunday’s winning return by graded stakes winner First Captain

“It would be picking on her to say she has any real weaknesses. I was watching the replay of the Distaff the other day and she had a pretty difficult trip in there and got bounced around at the top of the stretch and still fought on gamely on the inside and was only beaten a half-length.”
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher on last year’s champion 3-year-old filly Malathaat


Handicapper’s Corner

Not a brilliant performance on a cold and nasty Rebel Day card last week for the handicappers. Jessica led the way with three winners to tighten the race for the winter-spring leading handicapper. She sits with 18 winners heading into Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Day card at Gulfstream Park, just a few back of the leader Tom Law (22) and two back of John Shapazian (20). Rob Whitlock lurks in there, too, with 19 winners, with Charles Bedard a few back at 16.

Here are the picks for Saturday, March 5 at Gulfstream. Good luck.

John Shapazian (20/84):
1-You’re Killin Me, Jess’s Stride, Twice Too Many.
2-Veterans Highway, Falconet, Signal From Noise.
3-Never Surprised, English Bee, Clear Vision.
4-Particular, Felix, Master Of Arms.
5-Virginia Joy, Harajuku, Mezcal.
6-Girl With A Dream, Sweet Dani Girl, Classy Edition.
7-Coinage, Royal Spirit, Red Danger.
8-Liam, Stage Raider, Manor House.
9-Jouster, Gift List, Alms.
10-Speaker’s Corner, Fearless, Ny Traffic.
11-Abaan, Temple, Media Blitz.
12-Simplification, Emmanuel, High Oak.
13-Mischievous Kiss, Dolce Zel, Beside Herself.

Tom Law (22/84):
1-You’re Killin Me, Jess’s Stride, Tiger.
2-Veterans Highway, Signal From Noise, Inviting.
3-Never Surprised, Mouillage, Clear Vision.
4-Felix, Hidden Plan, Master Of Arms.
5-Beautiful Lover, Sorrel, Virginia Joy.
6-Girl With A Dream, Classy Edition, Kathleen O.
7-Royal Spirit, Coinage, Credibility.
8-Stage Raider, Soup And Sandwich, Chocolate Bar.
9-Alms, Jouster, Gift List.
10-Speaker’s Corner, Endorsed, Fearless.
11-Abaan, Fantasioso, Temple.
12-High Oak, Emmanuel, Simplification.
13-Lia Marina, Dolce Zel, Howdyoumakeurmoney.

Charles Bedard (16/84):
1-You’re Killin Me, Jess’s Stride, Twice Too Many.
2-Veterans Highway, Signal From Noise, Falconet.
3-Sigiloso, Never Surprised, Mouillage.
4-Super Quality, Particular, Positive Review.
5-Mezcal, Virginia Joy, Harajuku.
6-Classy Edition, Girl With A Dream, Mi Negrita.
7-Coinage, Red Danger, Royal Spirit.
8-Capocostello, Liam, Chocolate Bar.
9-Gift List, Alms, Jouster.
10-Fearless, Speaker’s Corner, Ny Traffic.
11-Temple, Abaan, Shamrocket.
12-Rattle N Roll, Simplification, Howling Time.
13-Diamond Wow, Opalina, Beside Herself.

Rob Whitlock (19/84):
1-You’re Killin Me, Handsome Prince, Friendly Fella.
2-Veterans Highway, Falconet, Inviting.
3-Mouillage, Never Surprised, English Bee.
4-Felix, Positive Review, Master Of Arms.
5-Virginia Joy, Harajaku, Beautiful Lover.
6-Outfoxed, Girl With A Dream, Cocktail Moments.
7-Red Danger, Royal Spirit, Coinage.
8-Stage Raider, Prevalence, Chocolate Bar.
9-Gift List, Bipartisanship, Alms.
10-Speaker’s Corner, Fearless, Endorsed.
11-Abaan, Temple, Fantasioso.
12-Mo Donegal, Simplification, High Oak.
13-Dolce Zel, Lia Marina, Opalina.

Jessica Paquette (18/84)
1-Awesome Beach, You’re Killing Me, Tiger.
2-Signal From Noise, Inviting, Falconet.
3-English Bee, Never Surprised, Mouillage.
4-Mendenhall, Villegas Swing, Hidden Plan.
5-Harajuku, Mezcal, Virginia Joy.
6-Kathleen O, Outfoxed, Girl With A Dream.
7-Coinage, Main Event, Sosua Summer.
8-Stage Raider, Liam, Prevalence.
9-Bipartisanship, Jouster, Alms.
10-Speaker’s Corner, Fearless, Diamond Oops.
11-Fantasioso, Gloucestershire, Abaan.
12-Dean Delivers, Simplification, Emmanuel.
13-Lia Marina, Spendarella, Mischievous Kiss.


As for the races…

Kelso. Race 2. 8:32 a.m. The undefeated trio North Lodge, Bold Endeavor and Sholokjack clash in the Grade 2 Premier Novices’ Hurdle on a strong Scottish card.

Newbury. Race 2. 8:50. As Cheltenham looms, some of the Saturday stars wait. Newbury always does its part with another strong Saturday card. The Grade 3 Greatwood Gold Cup attracts a seasoned group of 10 chasers.

Meydan. Race 6. 8:55. Recent Hall of Fame finalist Doug O’Neill aims at the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge with Appreciated (Dettori) and Go On (Jara). Both chased stablemate Hod Rod Charlie in early February.

Kelso. Race 4. 9:40. A battle-tested group of seven, including one of our all-time favorites Big River, battle in the Premier Chase.

Kelso. Race 5. 10:15. Welcome back, champ. Veteran Buveur D’Air returns for his first start since April in the Morebattle Hurdle. The two-time winner of the Champion Hurdle won’t make Cheltenham this year but will try to use this to catapult him back to Aintree. There’s nothing easy about this as Metier and others line up long and strong.

Meydan. Race 8. 10:30. The one and only Lord Glitters goes for his second straight stakes win at Meydan. The 9-year-old takes on Godolphin’s brigade Barney Roy, Highland Avenue, Land Of Legends and Zakouski.

Doncaster. Race 4. 10:30. Cloth Cap went off favorite for the Grand National last year. He pulled up that day and things have slid from there, losing his next three, refusing at the last fence in his most recent start. The 10-year-old tries to get back between the yellow lines in a deep renewal of the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase.

Lingfield. Race 7. 11:19. El Caballo takes the next step on his three-race win streak in the Spring Cup Stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 1:10 p.m. The Grade 3 Canadian Turf leads off the stakes extravaganza in South Florida. Never Surprised finished second to stablemate Colonel Liam in the Grade 3 Pegasus World Cup Turf last time and won’t face that one here. He’s a big favorite but plenty of potential spoilers in the mix with English Bee, Mira Mission, Clear Vision and Mouillage in the field.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:52. Chateau, who was running for a $32,000 tag at Saratoga in 2000, goes for his second straight win in the Tom Fool.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:10. Always one of our favorites, the The Very One. Actually the first of two runnings of the The Very One, with the latter at 5 furlongs on the grass during Preakness Weekend. This one goes 1 3/8 miles on the grass for fillies and mares. Graham Motion and Christophe Clement, on t his year’s ballot for possible induction into the Hall of Fame, have runners with huge chances. Motion sends out Harajuku and Clement goes with Beautiful Lover and Sorrel.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:40. Nice group of 3-year-old fillies for the Grade 2 Davona Dale, which offers 50 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Oaks field. Girl With A Dream comes back from New Orleans. She won the Grade 3 Forward Gal going 7 furlongs at Gulfstream for her third straight win. Waiting for her are the 2-for-2 Kathleen O. and the 3-for-3 Classy Edition, along with multiple stakes winner Outfoxed and others.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:10. Royal Spirit and Coinage finished 2-3 in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy and they’re back here for the $125,0000 Palm Beach shortening up a bit at 1 mile on the grass. Credibility, third in last year’s Grade 2 Bourbon and a starter in the murky Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, joins stablemate Coinage and looks tough off off-the-turf victory in 2022 debut.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:10. The 1-2 from the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf – Lovely Lovy and Sugar Fix – take on the 2-4-5-6 from the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf in Alms, Gift List, Bipartisanship and Wakanaka in the Grade 3 Honey Fox. Perhaps Navratilova upsets them here from the outside post, or Jouster off the layoff.

Santa Anita. Race 4. 4:28. California-bred win machine Brickyard Ride breaks from the rail in the San Carlos.

Oaklawn Park. Race 6. 4:33. Our favorite stakes, well, other than The Saratoga Special. The Downthedustyroad. Street Strategy looks strong in the Arkansas-bred filly and mare stakes.

Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:35. Dowagiac Chief returns to Fair Grounds after a fourth in the Texas Mile. The Tom Amoss trainee takes on six in the Black Gold.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:40. Speaker’s Corner and Fearless renew their “rivalry” in the Grade 2 WinStar Gulfstream Park Mile against a good group that includes Ny Traffic, Endorsed and Diamond Oops.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 4:57. The second of three stakes on the New York card, the Busher offers a big question to New York-bred Sterling Silver. Radio Days, second in the Forward Gal, ships north for Shug McGaughey.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 4:58. Eleven strong go in the Buena Vista.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:10. Abaan looks to duplicate form of his last three wins that included 2-length front-running score in Grade 3 W. L McKnight against Temple and Media Blitz, again, along with Queen’s Plate winner Safe Conduct, Fantasioso, Shamrocket and Gloucestershire.

Aqueduct. Race 10. 5:27. Solid group of 10 aim at the Gotham. Dean’s List for Todd Pletcher and Morello for Steve Asmussen make their stakes debut after 2-for-2 starts.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:30. Forbidden Kingdom, fresh off a win in the San Vicente, returns for the San Felipe. The next step on the road to Kentucky. For some.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:45. The day’s headliner, the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth. Worth 50 points to the winner, 1 1/16-mile event lost Mo Donegal to a slight fever but still features strong field led by Grade 1 winner Rattle N Roll, Holy Bull runner-up Simplification, Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner High Oak and the 2-for-2 Emmanuel. We should know a bit more about the Kentucky Derby field after this one.

Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:06. Someday we’ll get to Fonner and maybe it’s the day of the Bold Accent. First Alternate returns to defend her crown in the 4-furlong dash.

Oaklawn Park. Race 9. 6:10. Gar Hole goes for his fourth in a row for Shortleaf and trainer John Ortiz. The Arkansas-bred son of Tekton towers over nine rivals in the Nodouble.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 6:12. Close the day with the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride for 3-year-old fillies on the grass. We’ll be Lia Marina with Joel Rosario back aboard for Christophe Clement despite the outside draw.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:00. Envoutante travels west for Ken McPeek. The 5-year-old mare picks up John Velazquez for the Beholder Mile.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 7:29. Wow, what a card. The Frank E. Kilroe Mile keeps the hits spinning. Space Traveller hasn’t won in five starts since joining Brendan Walsh, but the late-running son of Bated Breath is getting closer. All about the trip.

Santa Anita. Race 11. 8:00. Express Train for recent Hall of Fame nominee John Shirreffs goes for his third straight in the Santa Anita Handicap.

Turfway Park. Race 5. 8:14. Goldeneye was impressive in his maiden win Feb. 10. The son of Hard Spun added an owner and switched barns since. He gets an acid test against the likes of Stolen Base, Erase, Tiz The Bomb and Bloodline in the John Battaglia.

Turfway Park. Race 6. 8:46. The undefeated Marissa’s Lady should add another 1 to her picket fence in the Cincinnati Trophy.

Sam Houston. Race 9. 11:44. Still going strong? Here’s the nightcap at Sam Houston and the nightcap for us. Texas-bred maiden claimers on the turf.


Checking in with Like Now

Mary Eddy, a communications specialist with NYRA and a member of the editorial team at The Saratoga Special in 2020 and 2021, wrote about 2006 Gotham winner Like Now this week. He won the Gotham at 36-1 and currently lives out “his golden years” at Old Friends at Cabin Creek in Greenfield Center, N.Y. Here’s Mary’s piece, from NYRA:

Grade 3 Gotham winner Like Now enjoying retirement thanks to devoted fan

Weyburn’s 46-1 upset of last year’s Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham marked the biggest longshot to win the Kentucky Derby prep since 2006 when 36-1 Like Now cruised to victory in his graded stakes debut at Aqueduct Racetrack.

A Florida-bred son of Jules, Like Now debuted in August 2005 at Saratoga Race Course for owner-breeder John Dillon. The now 19-year-old bay’s life has come full circle as he lives out his golden years at nearby Old Friends at Cabin Creek in Greenfield Center, New York, a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides thoroughbred racehorses with a dignified retirement.

Initially trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the talented gelding made his stakes debut in February 2006 at the Big A in the six-furlong Fred Capossela, leading gate-to-wire to score by 2 3/4 lengths with Fernando Jara aboard.

“He was just a neat horse who tried all the time,” said McLaughlin. “He was kind of an overachiever and did everything right.”

The 1 1/16-mile Gotham, contested that March over the old inner track, was a tall order for the bay gelding, who was stretching out beyond six furlongs and facing graded stakes company for the first time in his young career. The betting public agreed and Like Now was sent from post 4 with the third-highest odds in the field of 10 sophomores.

With Jara in the irons again, Like Now mirrored his Capossela tactics, opening up three lengths on the field from the start as Keyed Entry and Edgar Prado tracked in second. Like Now’s lead was cut to a length by Keyed Entry, who crept closer as the field turned for home. Drifting late into the stretch, Like Now dug in gamely under left-handed urging by Jara and refused to let Keyed Entry pass, reaching the wire a neck in front to upset the Gotham.

McLaughlin gave credit for the win to longtime assistant, Artie Magnuson, who oversaw his New York string at the time.

“Art was a great assistant for many years,” McLaughlin said. “He handled the horses while I was in Florida and did a great job with him.”

After his Gotham triumph, Like Now ventured out of the Empire State for the first time to contest the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland, finishing second to Grade 1-winner Showing Up. With the Kentucky Derby just two weeks away, McLaughlin opted to route the gelding to the Preakness instead, finishing a pacesetting seventh in a race won by eventual 3-year-old champion Bernardini.

Like Now would win once more for McLaughlin – an optional-claimer in August 2007 at Saratoga – before being transferred to the barn of William Badgett, Jr. and subsequently through two more trainers before making his last two starts in New York for David Jacobson.

Throughout Like Now’s career, Daryl Thomspon, ex-wife of assistant Magnuson, made frequent trips to visit the handsome bay with the distinctive white blaze. She continued to follow his career even when he was no longer in McLaughlin’s barn.

“When Like Now was a 2-year-old, I was living in Westchester and would go to Belmont every other weekend. I immediately fell in love with him and he was the sweetest horse,” Thompson said. “Artie and I had remained friends after we divorced and my husband Ron and him met one summer in Saratoga and became fast friends.”

In 2009, Thompson had asked Magnuson to keep up with Like Now and expressed interest in providing him with a home when his racing days were over. Ron Thompson, along with Magnuson, had decided to surprise her by purchasing Like Now privately from Jacobson.

“I was working at the Javits Center and Ron asked me if he could pick me up and bring me to Belmont to visit Artie. We got there and Ron suggested I should go around and meet some of the new horses in Kiaran’s barn while we waited for Artie,” said Thompson. “As I’m walking on the backside of the barn, I saw a little head sticking out and as I got closer, there was a sign next to him that said, ‘Like Now – Owner: Daryl Thompson.’ I was so happy and I promised to take care of him for the rest of his life.”

Like Now retired with earnings of $407,021 and a record of 6-2-4 from 29 starts, his last race a fourth in a claiming event at Aqueduct in April 2009.

“It was nice when [the Thompsons] took him for retirement,” McLaughlin said. “They loved him and our business and were around a lot. It’s a great memory.”

Thrilled that Like Now was hers, Thompson sent the then-6-year-old to retire to a farm outside of New York City where he lived for the next 10 years. The Thompsons eventually moved to Saratoga Springs, New York and in the beginning of 2020, their love of thoroughbreds led them to begin volunteering at Old Friends at Cabin Creek, which opened in 2009 and is accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA).

NYRA and its horsemen are committed supporters of the TAA, which accredits, inspects, and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations using industry-wide funding.

Every owner competing at NYRA racetracks donates $10 per start to the TAA, helping to fund aftercare organizations that provide homes for retired racehorses. New York’s horsemen also donate 1.5 percent of the purchase price of every horse claimed at a NYRA track to TAA and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association’s TAKE THE LEAD (TTL) program, which provides preliminary vet exams and treatment, as well as costs related to transportation and rehabilitation or retraining.

In June 2020, Thompson was heartbroken to receive a phone call from the owner of the farm Like Now was boarded at, learning the gelding’s home of over a decade would be sold and that she would need to find a new place for him to retire.

Unsure what to do next, she turned to JoAnn Pepper, owner and manager of Old Friends at Cabin Creek, to ask for advice.

“JoAnn said, ‘Bring him here’ and he arrived in July of 2020,” Thompson said. “It worked out so well. I have fallen more and more in love with Like Now. He’s so happy and it was a happy ending for all.”

Pepper, who has managed Old Friends at Cabin Creek with her husband, Mark, since taking in their first retiree in 2009, said Like Now has fit in well to the herd of 15 retired racehorses that includes familiar faces such as millionaires Be Bullish and Naughty New Yorker as well as the lovable loser Zippy Chippy.

Like Now, once the unlikely longshot, has proven to be a favorite at Old Friends where he likes to show off for the volunteers and groups of visitors who tour the farm.

“He’s probably the best dancer I’ve ever met,” said Pepper, with a laugh. “Every meal brings this big excitement to him and he has some very impressive moves. I just love having him here and he seems quite content.”

For more information on Old Friends at Cabin Creek, visit