The Saturday Special – May 25

- -
Grand Slam Smile, the winner of four of six, headlines Saturday’s California Gold Rush card at Santa Anita Park. Benoit Photo.

With a successful 149th Preakness Stakes in the books, it’s time to zero in on the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. But first we’ll take a little pause for Memorial Day, remembering all those lost and readying for the start of the summer.

Here’s The Saturday Special for the kick off to Memorial Day Weekend. Be safe out there and good luck.

By the Numbers
5.5 million: Average viewers for last weekend’s Preakness Stakes on NBC. The broadcast peaked at 7 million, was the largest audience since 2021 and increased 7 percent from a year ago.

32,921,500: Total sales in dollars for this weeks Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2-year-old sale. The sale’s average price for the 345 juveniles sold came in at $95,425, up from $92,788 last year.

1.25 million: Price in dollars paid by Winchell Thoroughbreds for a filly by Bolt d’Oro at the Midlantic May sale, highest of the 345 that were hammered down. She’s a half-sister to stakes winners Howling Time and Air Recruit out of the Arch mare Werewolf.

Names of the Day
Play Free Bird. Aqueduct. Race 4. The 3-year-old filly is out of Stormy Saturday. Reminds us of high school dances.

Allied Attack. Aqueduct. Race 10. Seems appropriate on this weekend. The 3-year-old colt is by Omaha Beach.

Free Time. Belterra Park. Race 8. The 4-year-old filly is out of Open Agenda.

Stage Presence. Monmouth Park. Race 5. Siena Farms’ homebred is out of Marquee.

Wrath. Canterbury Park. Race 4. The 64-start veteran is out of Ire.

Stayinyourlane. Charles Town. Race 1. The 4-year-old is by Accelerate out of Infraction.

Fun Loving. Churchill Downs. Race 10. The 3-year-old filly is out of Frivolous.

Haunted Haze. Canterbury Park. Race 8. The 4-year-old is by Ghostzapper out of Vapor Cloud.

Bets of the Day
We were impressed with Newsreader in his two all-weather wins. The 3-year-old makes his turf debut in the first at Goodwood. The 3-year-old is 12-1 on the morning line.

Belmont Stakes Racing Festival post times
The New York Racing Association announced post times for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that runs June 6-9 at Saratoga Race Course.

Post time for the 10-race program Thursday, June 6 is 12:50 p.m. ET. Admission gates will open to the public at 11 a.m.

Post time for the 12-race program Friday, June 7 is 12:20 p.m. Admission gates will open to the public at 10:30 a.m.

Post time for the 14-race Belmont Stakes Day program Saturday, June 8 is 10:45 a.m. Admission gates will open to the public at 9 a.m.

Post time for the 10-race New York Showcase Day program Sunday, June 9 is 12:50 p.m. Admission gates will open to the public at 11 a.m.

Worth Repeating
“I’ve wanted to claim (Sugoi) this winter at Turfway but I was out-shook on him. I knew he was a talented horse and I was looking forward to having him do what he did tonight – rate on the front end of a turf marathon. This race opens the door to several options including the (July 20) United Nations and he’s still eligible for the Claiming Crown.”
Trainer Mike Maker on Louisville Handicap winner Sugoi

“I needed to bounce back and get another one. One of the things that surprised me is they told me it was 10 or 11 years since Oxbow. I didn’t think it was that long. Doesn’t seem that long.”
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas on winning another Preakness last weekend with Seize The Grey

“He is amazing. He is super human. I don’t see myself, at 88, doing what he is doing. No shot. He is fearless, and I think that is why he wins races like this. He has done it many times because he is so fearless. I have done it a few times myself, but not at the level he has done it.”
Trainer Kenny McPeek on Lukas

“You want to see a horse go for the Triple Crown. That would have been great. The next best thing is Wayne winning one of these. He is creeping up on me. Wayne loves his job. Every day is a new day to him. Every time I talk to him, he says he has a good 2-year-old on the farm. He is still competitive, and this is a good feeling. If I am going to get beat in one of these races, I want to see Wayne win it. He is still a great trainer. He had the best horse.”
Hall of Fame trainer and eight-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert

“Unbelievable. Amazing. I’m half his age and still trying to get the Preakness for the first time at 44. Naw, it’s all good. I joke with Wayne. I think he was 40 when he won his first Grade 1 race. It was the year I was born. It’s amazing. I said it before the Derby: ‘Triple Crown races are better when Wayne’s in ‘em.’ I wish he hadn’t been in this one, though.”
Trainer Brad Cox

“He’s probably fresher than we are.”
McPeek on Lukas

“Horses are my favorite animal, and when I was a kid in the car with my parents, they would point out horses as we drove by and I would say, ‘Where, where?’ They have always been in my heart. I was watching racing one day and said, ‘I want to do that.’ I went to the track the next day, looked up all kinds of information, and that was it.”
Winning Preakness jockey Jaime Torres

DeVaux earns richest Preakness Weekend trainer bonus
Her first three-win day, all in stakes, helped earn Cherie DeVaux the top prize of $50,000 in the Maryland Jockey Club’s $100,000 trainer bonus offered to horsemen for their participation in stakes races over Preakness weekend at Pimlico Race Course.

DeVaux is the first female to claim top honors. A former assistant to trainers Chuck Simon and Chad Brown, the upstate New York native went out on her own in 2018 and has won 170 races and more than $14 million in purses. DeVaux owns 11 graded-stakes victories including She Feels Pretty in the 2023 Natalma and Vehva in the May 4 Derby City Distaff.

On the weekend, DeVaux started horses in five stakes and won with all three of her runners on Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day program – Pyrenees in the $250,000, Grade 3 Pimlico Special, She Feels Pretty in the $100,000 Hilltop and Shotgun Hottie in the $100,000 Allaire du Pont Distaff. Her two starters on Saturday’s Preakness Stakes card were Blissful, who ran fourth in the $150,000, Grade 3 Gallorette and Beatbox, eighth in the $500,000, Grade 3 Dinner Party.

DeVaux finished with a total of 34 points, four more than runner-up and four-time top bonus winner, Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. Laurel Park-based Mike Trombetta finished third with 28 points.

To be eligible for the bonus, trainers had to run a minimum of five horses in the 15 stakes, eight graded, worth $4.3 million in purses offered during Preakness weekend. Points were accumulated for finishing first (10), second (seven), third (five), fourth (three) and fifth through last (one).

The trainer with the most points earned $50,000, followed by $25,000 for second, $12,000 for third, $7,000 for fourth, $4,000 for fifth $2,000 for sixth.

Jockey of the Week: Jaime Torres
To say jockey Jaime Torres is on a fast track with his fledgling riding career is an understatement. Just two years into riding, Torres won the coveted Grade 1 Preakness Stakes aboard Seize the Grey earning the unanimous selection as Jockey of the Week by the panel of racing experts for the week of May 13-19.

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.

Riding in his first Triple Crown race and for legendary Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Torres and Seize the Grey were coming into the Preakness off a surprise win in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. The win prompted Lukas to retain Torres for the Preakness even after being approached by agents representing more experienced riders.

“I thought he (Torres) had a lot talent and I loved working with him, but I really feel good about taking him to this level,” said Lukas.

“It means a lot, said Torres. “From the beginning Wayne has given me a lot of opportunities, and I appreciate that.

“He’s such an amazing horse,” said Torres of Seize The Grey. “He just relaxed for me, and he felt the other horses coming close and he was just looking at them. As soon as I asked, I had a lot of horse. That was like from the quarter pole to the wire, he gave me everything.”

Torres, 25 and a native of Puerto Rico, discovered a passion for riding horses after attending the races at Camarero. To develop his new found focus, he quit college and enrolled in jockey school. Torres moved state side becoming an exercise rider then taking out his jockey license in August 2022. He rode his first winner September 17, 2022 at Gulfstream Park aboard Takestwotowiggle. The following year, he moved his tack to New York and was the leading apprentice on the NYRA circuit. He rode at Fair Grounds over the past winter finishing fifth in the standings. Torres intends to ride full time at Saratoga this summer.

Other nominees for Jockey of the Week included Javier Castellano with two stakes wins at Pimlico, Frankie Dettori with a graded stakes win at Pimlico, Elvin Gonzalez with a stakes win at Prairie Meadows and nine wins for the week to lead all jockeys and John Velazquez who won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan.

Handicapper’s Corner
The team is back – after some up and down results at Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness Stakes – and honing their skills as we count down to the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga. Here are the picks for Saturday’s Belmont at the Big A card. Good luck.

John Shapazian (34/140):
1-Trade Secret, My First Love, Stop Giggling.
2-Stanley Rough, Irie Man, First Sons.
3-Jackson Heights, Bob John Ray, Merlin’s Moment.
4-Capital Spending, Naughty Destiny, Generous Luva.
5-Firsttimeinforever, Roagna, Lady Of Thoroton.
6-Hours In A Day, Shakin’ The Belle, Venge.
7-Legend Of Time, Risk Tolerance, Triple Espresso.
8-Smokin’ Hot Kitty, Smokie Eyes, Determined Lilly.
9-Funkenstein, Vaenzan Day, Candy Tycoon.
10-Big Prankster, Power Attack, Jimmythetooth.
11-Jhirsch, Frozen Four, Ballyheygue.

Tom Law (30/140):
1-Stop Giggling, Trade Secret, My First Love.
2-Stanley Rough, First Sons, Eternal Glory.
3-Bob John Ray, Jackson Heights, Boys Code.
4-Capital Spending, Turriga, Heavenly Girl.
5-Firsttimeinforever, Can’t Fool Me, Boxed Wine.
6-Hours In A Day, Conniving, Venge.
7-Legend Of Time, Risk Tolerance, Royal Majesty.
8-Smokie Eyes, Stellar Mars, Determined Lilly.
9-Funkenstein, Candy Tycoon, Cheeky Tico.
10-Big Prankster, Jimmythetooth, Russi.
11-Solo Empire, Jhirsch, Frozen Four.

Charles Bedard (30/140):
1-Trade Secret, Sister Linda, My First Love.
2-Irie Man, Stanley Rough, Alpha Sonny.
3-Jackson Heights, Bob John Ray, Aula.
4-Capital Spending, Turriga, Welcome Back Babe.
5-Firsttimeinforever, Roagna, Can’t Fool Me.
6-Venge, Shakin The Belle, Apuro.
7-Risk Tolerance, Triple Espresso, Royal Majesty.
8-Smokin’ Hot Kitty, Determined Lilly, Stella Mars.
9-Durkin’s Call, Disappearance, Funkenstein.
10-Dubb entry, War Terminator, Russi.
11-Impulsive Spending, Jhirsch, Judge Rules.

Rob Whitlock (21/128):
1-My First Love, Stop Giggling, Trade Secret.
2-Stanley Rough, Irie Man, Alpha Sonny.
3-Bob John Ray, Jackson Heights, Boys Code.
4-Generous Luva, Welcome Back Babe, Heavenly Girl.
5-Boxed Wine, Roagna, Mim.
6-Apuro, Whitby, Venge.
7-St James The Great, Risk Tolerance, Legend Of Time.
8-Scarlet’s Dream, Artemis Girl, Determined Lily.
9-Candy Tycoon, Funkenstien, Durkin’s Call.
10-Allied Attack, Power Attack, Dubb entry.
11-In My Shadow, Frozen Four, Judge Rules.

Jessica Paquette (34/140):
1-Sister Linda, My First Love, Stop Giggling.
2-Stanley Rough, Irie Man, Eternal Glory.
3-Bad Larry, Aula, Merlin’s Moment.
4-Princess Summer, Capital Spending, Generous Luva.
5-Succulent, Firsttimeforever, Boxed Wine.
6-Hours In A Day, Conniving, Apuro.
7-Royal Majesty, Legend Of Time, Risk Management.
8-Determined Lilly, Artemis Girl, Smokie Eyes.
9-Candy Tycoon, Durkin’s Call, Funkenstein.
10-Allied Attack, Big Prankster, P Money.
11-Jhirsch, Frozen Four, Solo Empire.

As for the races …
Curragh. Race 1. 8:20 a.m. Aidan O’Brien unveils a trio in the opener. Gun Carriage, a son of Gun Runner and Special Event. Henri Matisse, a son of Wootton Bassett and Immortal Verse. Monumental, a son of Kingman and Riqa. Start taking notes.

Haydock. Race 3. 9:25. The undefeated Vandeek returns for his 3-year-old season in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes.

Curragh. Race 3. 9:30. Thirteen clash in a strong renewal of the Group 2 Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes.

York. Race 4. 10:20. Rachael Blackmore takes the call on Term Of Endearment in the William Hill Bronte Cup. The Group 3 attracts another jumper in Marie’s Rock.

Curragh. Race 5. 10:40. Group 1-placed River Tiber makes his 3-year-old debut in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Group 1 stakes winner Rosallion and Group 2 stakes winner Haatem travel from England for Richard Hannon.

Goodwood. Race 5. 10:45. Space Legend looks strong in the Cocked Hat Stakes, the feature on a strong card at Goodwood.

Chester. Race 7. 12:15. p.m Fouroneohfever aims for three in a row for Maranto Manor and George Boughey. The 3-year-old colt impressed at Chester in his most recent start.

Salisbury. Race 4. 1:30. Group 2 stakes winner Sakheer returns from an 11-month layoff in the Cathedral Stakes.

Belmont at the Big A. Race 7. 3:39. Godolphin’s Legend Of Time, fifth in the Grade 2 American Turf on Derby Day, returns for the Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge for 3-year-olds on the grass.

Churchill Downs. Race 7. 3:51. Multiple graded stakes winner Bound For Nowhere, a 10-year-old ungelded son of The Factor, drops in for $80,000 for 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance-optional with purse of $134,000.

Gulfstream Park. Race 7. 3:52. Octane, seventh in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap and winner of the Grade 3 Razorback two back, shortens up for the 7-furlong Big Drama Stakes.

Monmouth Park. Race 7. 3:54. Fieldof nine for the $100,000 Cliff Hanger going 1 1/16 miles on the grass. We’ll give General Jim another try.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 4:00. California Gold Rush Day kicks off with 5-furlong turf allowance-optional.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 5:01. Graded stakes winner Main Event, fifth going longer in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida for George Weaver, makes first start for Fernando Abreu in the $95,000 Mr. Steele.

Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 5:06. Easy pickings here for The Chosen Vron, winner of four straight, against four others in the $100,000 Thor’s Echo.

Churchill. Race 10. 5:27. Chop Chop, winner of the Grade 3 Bewitch, looks for another turf marathon stakes victory in the $250,000 Keertana. Atomic Blonde and Vergara finished second and third in the Bewitch and try again.

Santa Anita. Race 4. 5:38. Switch to the grass for the $100,000 Crystal Water for Cal-bred 3-year-olds and up.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:42. Field of 11Cal-bred fillies and mares take to the grass for the $100,000 Fran’s Valentine going 1 mile.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:46. The $100,000 Snow Chief Stakes. Named for one of the greats, 9-furlong turf stakes for Cal-bred sophomores might be spot for Shady Tiger to win his fourth straight.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 8:18. Grand Slam Smile,the winner of four of six with two seconds, looks tough in the $125,000 Melair.