The Saturday Special – May 11

- -
Racing returned to Pimlico Race Course this week and just a week remains until the 149th Preakness Stakes next Saturday. Maryland Jockey Club Photo.

With the 150th Kentucky Derby in the books, it’s time to turn our attention to the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville with Preakness 149 right around the corner.

That’s right, the jumpers head to Tennessee for the spring’s biggest meet and we have all the picks and a preview right here. We’re a week out from the team’s return to Old Hilltop for the Preakness, which always packs a punch even if the Oaks Day and Derby Day runners don’t show up.

Here’s the Special for Saturday, May 11. Enjoy.

By the Numbers
30: Nominations for the Grade 2 George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes May 17 at Pimlico Race Course, a group led by Kentucky Oaks winner Thorpedo Anna and graded stakes winners Lemon Muffin, Manama Gold and My Mane Squeeze and local stakes winners Call Another Play and Miss Harriett.

4,998: Wins for jockey Scott Spieth, who hasn’t ridden since May 4.

2,000: Approximate number of congratulatory texts Kenny McPeek received after his Kentucky Oaks-Kentucky Derby weekend sweep.

3.7 million: Dollars in stakes purses this summer at Ellis Park, a record for the meet which runs from July 4 through August 26. The $400,000, Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Aug. 4 leads the way.

Names of the Day
Straight No Chaser. Aqueduct. Race 4. The 5-year-old is out of Margarita Friday.

Holding The Line. Aqueduct. Race 5. The Irish-bred is by Soldier’s Call.

Antiquarian. Aqueduct. Race 6.  Centennial Farm’s 3-year-old is Preservationist out of Lifetime Memory.

Summerstateofmind. Pimlico. Race 5. By Imagining, out of Summer Kiss. And what we’re about to get into.

Home School. Monmouth Park. Race 4. The 4-year-old colt is out of Study Hard.

Stay On The Fence. Santa Anita. Race 2. In honor of Brian Hernandez Jr.

Afraid Not. Iroquois. Race 6. The steeplechase mare is by Tourist, out of Trepidation.

Hillwood Stable’s Ellen Charles earns Award of Merit
From the Maryland Jockey Club
Longtime horsewoman and lifetime philanthropist Ellen Charles, who has bred or owned some of Maryland’s most popular and successful horses of recent years, will be recognized with the Special Award of Merit May 16 during the Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico Race Course.

The Special Award of Merit is given to those who have made a positive impact on the racing industry. Past recipients have included Jim McKay, Hall of Fame trainers D. Wayne Lukas and King Leatherbury, and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

Charles’ roots in the racing industry run deep. Her mother, Adelaide Close Riggs, was one of the great supporters of Maryland’s breeding and racing industry for nearly 70 years and her father, Merrall MacNeille, held many jobs in racing before spending more than 20 years as a steward at Maryland tracks.

Racing since 2004 as Hillwood Stable, named in tribute to her grandmother, Marjorie Merriweather Post, former owner of General Foods and heiress to the Post cereal fortune, Charles bred filly Hello Beautiful, Maryland’s champion older female of 2021 that is one of just seven horses in history with three career Maryland Million wins.

Top horses owned by Charles include Grade 3 winner Bandbox; multiple stakes winner Phlash Phelps, Maryland’s 2015 turf champion; Grade 3-winning millionaire Cordmaker, Maryland’s champion older male of 2019; and current stable star Post Time, a two-time graded-stakes winner this year that was Maryland’s champion 2-year-old male of 2022. Charles was voted the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) Owner of the Year in 2016.

Charles has sat on the MTHA board of directors and currently serves on the MTHA’s finance and aftercare committees. For 25 years, Charles was president of the board of Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in Washington, D.C., helping realize her grandmother’s dream to turn her former estate into a public museum known for its large decorative arts collection.

In addition to horses, Charles has bred and owned multiple dogs that went on to compete for Best in Show at the famed Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Worth Repeating
“It depends on the horse, his physical status, of course, and the way they respond to a two-week rest. None of us as trainers think the two weeks (spacing) is perfect. I’ve had good luck with it in the past. My horses have responded well, and I see no reason why these two won’t either.”
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas on running back in the Preakness after the Kentucky Derby

“I’ve said it repeatedly: An old guy told me long ago, ‘Never make a decision until you absolutely, positively have to,’ If he’s healthy, we’re not scared to go. If we feel like he needs more time, he’ll get it. It’s all gray; it’s not black and white.”
Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Kenny McPeek on running back in the Preakness

“Who wouldn’t want to go? Especially, if your horse is doing well. And the mile and three-sixteenths is actually probably a better distance for him than a mile and a quarter, because they almost got him at a mile and a quarter.”

“We’re going to recharge the batteries and aim for some big stakes down the road.”
Trainer Phil D’Amato on Kentucky Derby seventh Stronghold

“It’s still pretty unbelievable last weekend actually happened. It’s going to take a lot of time to actually sink in, especially all of the things we were able to experience the last week.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who swept last weekend’s Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby

Handicapper’s Corner
The handicappers return – without their cohorts from The Saratoga Special who joined in on the fun for last weekend’s action at Churchill Downs – and take aim at the Belmont at the Big A card featuring four stakes. We’ll keep the handicapping rolling all the way to the Saratoga Race Course meeting, which is now less than nine weeks away.

John Shapazian (32/129):
1-Blake B., Jacobson entry, Jake Rocks.
2-Bustin Bay, Whitebeam, Aspray.
3-Iron Man Ira, Romantic Charmer, Russian Realm.
4-Straight No Chaser, Joey Freshwater, Durante.
5-Borletti, Lookin’ Super, Holding The Line.
6-The Wine Steward, Deterministic, Tuscan Gold.
7-Silver Knott, Ohana Honor, Nations Pride.
8-Mulkey, Grandilla, Seccessionist.
9-Power Seeker, Dubb entry, Ocean Atlantique.
10-Pitch Clock, Patty Cakes, Broderie.
11-Rozay Summer, Bossy Jeans, Sendera.

Tom Law (29/129):
1-Jacobsen entry, Cheeky Tico, Jake Rocks.
2-Whitebeam, Aspray, Quarrel.
3-Break The Fall, Russian Realm, Iron Man Ira.
4-Straight No Chaser, Joey Freshwater, Ninetyprcentmaddie.
5-Giant’s Fire, Borletti, Power Attack.
6-The Wine Steward, Protective, Unique Insight.
7-Nations Pride, Silver Knott, Tawny Port.
8-Mulkey, Granadilla, Mary Union Ave.
9-Dubb entry, Ocean Atlantique, Runningwscissors.
10-Midtown Lights, Bon Adieu, Broderie.
11-Rozay Summer, Bossy Jeans, Once An Eagle.

Charles Bedard (29/129):
1-Jacobson entry, Blake B., Jake Rocks.
2-Spirit And Glory, Whitebeam, Movie Moxy.
3-Judge Rules, Palace Boss, R.A. Hill entry.
4-Straight No Chaser, Joey Freshwater, Durante.
5-Lookin’ Super, Kant Beat The Rock, Warrior Richard.
6-Unique Insight, Tuscan Gold, The Wine Steward.
7-Silver Knott, So High, Nations Pride.
8-Mulkey, Inflammabelle, Granadilla.
9-Costa Terra, Dubb entry, Magical Ways.
10-Sweet Mystery, Pitch Clock, Patty Cakes.
11-Once An Eagle, Rozay Summer, Bossy Jeans.

Rob Whitlock (21/117):
1-Jacobson entry, Blake B., O’Trouble.
2-Whitebeam, Aspray, Spirit And Glory.
3-Break The Fall, Entry, Iron Man Ira.
4-Ninetyprcentmaddie, Joey Freshwater, Straight No Chaser.
5-Borletti, Power Attack, Street Swagg.
6-The Wine Steward, Antiquarian, Deterministic.
7-Nations Pride, Tawny Port, Silver Knott.
8-Mulkey, Granadilla, Spirit Of Esther.
9-Danzigwiththestars, Belouni, Ocean Atlantique.
10-Pitch Clock, Sweet Mystery, Brodie.
11-Bossy Jeans, Rozay Summer, Once An Eagle.

Jessica Paquette (29/129):
1-Blake B, Cheeky Tico, Jake Rocks.
2-Neecie Marie, Aspray, Whitebeam.
3-Russian Realm, Forgone, Iron Man Ira.
4-Ninetyprcentmaddie, Straight No Chaser, Joey Freshwater.
5-Holding The Line, Borletti, P Money.
6-Antiquarian, Lonesome Boy, Protective.
7-Ohana Honor, Kertez, Tawny Port.
8-Granadilla, Mulkey, Eastern Star.
9-Runningwscissors, Belouni, Ocean Atlantique.
10-Pitch Clock, Sweet Mystery, Broderie.
11-Rozay Summer, Sendera, Bossy Jeans.

New Study: Virginia Equine Industry Program Has Generated $86.2 Million in Economic Impact
From Virginia Equine Alliance
A newly released study commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance demonstrates the significant impact of the Virginia-Certified Residency Program for thoroughbreds on Virginia’s economy.

According to the study, the program has generated an estimated economic impact of $86.2 million between 2017 to 2023. 

The program requires out-of-state Thoroughbreds to reside at least six consecutive months (prior to turning three years old) at a Virginia farm to receive a certification as a Virginia-certified Thoroughbred horse. Upon completion of their residency, those horses then qualify to receive bonuses in eligible races.

“This is a significant total, especially taking into consideration that the program is still relatively new,” said Debbie Easter, president of the Virginia Equine Alliance. “The program didn’t begin until 2017, yet already is demonstrating its value.” 

Hundreds of Virginia horse farms participate in the program, receiving income from horse owners and breeders from outside of the state. 

More than 5,000 horses have participated in the Virginia-Certified Residency program since its inception. 

The large pool of Certified horses to draw from is now evident in the 2024 Colonial Downs Condition Book. Six Virginia-restricted stakes with combined purse money of $750,000 will be offered during the summer meet in New Kent which begins July 11. The Hickory Tree and Keswick Stakes – 2-year-old dirt sprints – will be held August 3 while a four-pack of handicap events for older horses will be contested on Commonwealth Stakes Day, August 31. The Meadow Stable, Camptown, Bert Allen and Nellie Mae Cox each have a purse of $150,000. 

A total of 40 Virginia-restricted overnight races will also be offered in the first condition book which covers the first 16 days of a 27-day meet. Fourteen maiden special weight races, with a purse of $75,000 each, are listed along with a variety of others including six allowance races. 

Highlights of the new study include, from 2017-2023:

• The direct spending of the program was estimated at $54.5 million for the seven years from 2017 to 2023. These spending activities generated ripple (indirect plus induced) effects yielding a total economic impact of $86.2 million. 

• The program generated an estimated $1.8 million in tax revenue for the state government.

• The cumulative economic impact is 5.9 times larger than the total incentive payout, representing a strong return on investment in the program. 

The Virginia-Certified Residency Program for Thoroughbreds is just one component of Virginia’s thriving horse breeding and racing industry. 

For more information on the Virginia Certified program and bonus incentives visit

The study was commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance, the industry’s organizational body that promotes the horse racing and breeding industry throughout the state. Chmura Economics and Analytics (Chmura), a research consulting firm in Richmond, Virginia, conducted the study. 

As for the races …
Chantilly. Race 3. 8:32 a.m. Darlinghurst seeks his fourth in a row in the Group 3 Pre De Guiche.

Lingfield. Race 3. 9:25. Hey, it’s that time of year. Danielle, Treasure and five other fillies take aim at the William Hill Oaks Trial.

Ascot. Race 3. 9:40. Twenty-three line up for the Victoria Cup, a wide-spread handicap ripping 7 furlongs.

Lingfield. Race. 4. 10:00. Defiance and Illinois lead the William Hill Lingfield Derby Trial. 

Haydock. Race 4. 10:15. In a time of constant griping about lack of purse money, Haydock delivers yet again. The Swinton Handicap Hurdle, worth $101,500, leads the card.

Lingfield. Race 5. 10:35. Remarque leads eight rivals in the Group 3 Chartwell Fillies Stakes.

Haydock. Race 5. 10:50. Nothing like a dual card. The listed Pertemps Network Spring Trophy Stakes launches six runners 7 furlongs.

Pimlico Race Course. Race 1. 12:25 p.m. A week out from Preakness Day, the card opens with two-turn $12,500-$10,000 claimer.

Churchill Downs. Race 1. 12:45. What a difference a week makes. A 6-furlong $20,000 maiden claimer opens the card.

Belmont at the Big A. Race 2. 1:04. First of four stakes on the day, the Grade 3 Beaugay for fillies and mares on the grass. Check that weather forecast, after rains Friday. Whitebeam, winner of the Grade 1 Diana last summer at Saratoga, makes her 2024 debut and might face biggest test from stablemate and last year’s Grade 2 Lake Placid winner Aspray.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 1:10. Time for the 2-year-olds. Field of seven for $65,000 maiden going 5 furlongs on the synthetic.

Belmont. Race 4. 2:06. Straight No Chaser, off since blowout win in Grade 3 Maryland Sprint last year on Preakness Day, returns for the Grade 3 Runhappy.

Lone Star Park. Race 1. 2:35. More 2-year-olds here with field of six firsters going 4 1/2 furlongs.

Belmont. Race 6. 3:08. Tickets could be punched for next month’s Belmont Stakes here in the Grade 3 Peter Pan. A useful prep for the final jewel of the Triple Crown through the years, 9-furlong stakes looks like showdown between Deterministic and The Wine Steward with Tuscan Gold likely bound for next weekend’s Preakness. Deterministic won the Grade 3 Gotham then flopped at odds-on in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. The Wine Steward looked good in his first start in more than six months last time in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland.

Monmouth Park. Race 7. 3:53. First steps on road to the Haskell, or perhaps even the Belmont Stakes, here in the $100,000 Long Branch Stakes for 3-year-olds. Lonesome Boy scratched out of the Peter Pan for this spot, where he’ll face Heartened, Sea Streak, Sugar Boy and others. Heartened finished fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby then a close second in good Keeneland allowance-optional going two turns April 10.

Belmont. Race 7. 3:39. The Grade 2 Man o’ War going 11 furlongs on the grass. Godolphin and Charlie Appleby send out formidable duo of Nations Pride and Silver Knott. The former won the Grade 1 Canadian International two starts back while the latter exits a win in the Grade 2 Elkhorn going 12 furlongs April 20 at Keeneland.

Churchill. Race 7. 3:51. Ngannou, runner-up in the Zuma Beach at 2 and a maiden winner last time out, ships from Santa Anita for Michael McCarthy and stands out in 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional on the grass.

Pimlico. Race 8. 4:04. Show of hands if you remember when the Pimlico Special highlighted the Saturday before the Preakness Week card? Those days are gone and the Special goes next Friday on Black-Eyed Susan Day. Here’s the feature, two turn allowance-optional with purse of $49,000.

Iroquois Steeplechase. Race 5. 4:40. Snap Decision tries to win his third Grade 1 Iroquois. The 3-mile feature attracted six runners, including Grade 1 stakes winner Noah And The Ark. 

Gulfstream. Race 8. 4:49. George Weaver takes aim at another potential run at Royal Ascot and sends out Bunratty Manor and Good Long Cry in the $120,000 Royal Palm Juvenile Fillies. They’re two of six first-timers in 5-furlong turf stakes, along with Mark Casse’s duo of Bullet and My Emmy.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:50. South Bend, fourth in the Travers and 15th in the Kentucky Derby during the Covid-19 2020 season for Bill Mott, makes first start since New Year’s Eve 2022 and debut for Mark Casse in 7-furlong allowance-optional.

Churchill. Race 9. 4:55. Hit Show, fifth in last year’s Kentucky Derby and fourth in the year’s Belmont, makes first start since late September in 9-furlong allowance-optional with pot of $141,000. Field of seven also includes consistent Warrior Johny, Gasoline and others.

Churchill. Race 10. 5:27. Nice As Pie brings 4-for-5 mark – on dirt and synthetic – into turf debut in the $225,000 Mamzelle Stakes going 5 1/2 furlongs. Full field of 14 also includes unbeaten Imaboutago for trainer Wesley Ward.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:52. Mark Casse holds strong hand in $120,000 Royal Palm Juvenile going 5 furlongs on the grass with Makeit To Cheyenne, Classy War and Garden Of War. Bright Skittle ran well in debut April 25 at Keeneland for Rusty Arnold and looks like one to beat along with Wesley Ward’s Raise The Bar and George Weaver’s first-time starter Governor Sam for Alex Bregman and Co.

Santa Anita Park. Race 9. 8:18. Musical Rhapsody returns to stakes company in the $100,000 Santa Barbara going 12 furlongs on the grass.

Evangeline Downs. Race 6. 8:46. The $30,000 Ken Cotton Memorial for Alabama-bred 3-year-olds. Yes, Alabama-breds in Louisiana.

Charles Town Races. Race 7. 10:02. Seven West Virginia-bred sophomores line up for the $75,000 Coin Collector at 4 1/2 furlongs.