The Saturday Special – May 4

- -
They’re running for the gold trophy and legendary status in Saturday’s 150th Kentucky Derby. Coady Media/Churchill Downs Photo.

May 4. May the 4th. May the fourth be with you, and all that. Better yet, the 150th Kentucky Derby. That seems to have a better ring.

Who’s ready? Our team for sure, we’ve got handicapping here on the site and another packed installment of The Saturday Special to prime the pump for the big day ahead.

By the Numbers

100,000: Dollars in bonus money offered by the Maryland Jockey Club for trainers who run a minimum of five horses in the 15 stakes over Preakness Weekend May 17-18 at Pimlico Race Course. The trainer with the most points will receive $50,000, second is worth $25,000, third $12,000, fourth $7,000, fifth $4,000 and sixth $2,000. Points are accumulated for finishing first (10 points), second (seven), third (five), fourth (three) and having a starter (one) in the 15 Thoroughbred stakes including the Grade 1 Preakness.

6: Age of 2023 Horse of the Year Cody’s Wish after his birthday Friday. Tip of the cap to The Special’s Paul Halloran for the heads up.

107,236: Attendance for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks Day card.

Coach 88

By Michael Fenrich
This scribe used to hot walk for the coach, Mr. D. Wayne Lukas. 

I hot walked horses for Mr. Lukas at Belmont Park. The staff especially, the grooms and other hot walkers, really taught me a lot. I made some great friends with the grooms and hot walkers. 

I used to walk the great Lord Carson. Every day I showed to the barn I was teamed up with Lord Carson. We were a great team. 

Another exciting time for me at the stable was when we won the Belmont Stakes with Editor’s Note. 

Whenever I visit the track now as a fan, I see the grooms and hot walkers and they still remember me. They were great friends at the barn and so many memories happen when I see them again. 

In 2024, it is amazing to see Mr. Lukas at the Kentucky Oaks with Lemon Muffin and the Kentucky Derby with Just Steel. 

I am not hot walking now but am very grateful that Mr. Lukas gave me the opportunity to walk these majestic horses. Mr. Lukas inspires at 88. 

Michael Fenrich is a freelance writer based in Long Island

Worth Repeating

“No way. If anything, it just becomes more nerve racking.” 
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will send out Kentucky Derby favorite Fierceness, on whether running in the opening jewel of the Triple Crown ever becomes old hat

“My grandfather is over on the backside. He doesn’t go for all of this publicity.”
Matthew Hillard, grandson of trainer John Hancock, who sent out West Memorial to victory in Thursday’s Kentucky Juvenile Stakes

“He was loving the track this morning. It was good to see him going so well.”
Trainer Michael McCarthy on Endlessly enjoying the wet going Friday at Churchill Downs

“I just want him to run his race. And I just want the rain to stop. I want a fast track.”
Trainer John Ennis on Epic Ride, who drew into the Kentucky Derby off the also-eligible list

“She was the class of the field.”
Jockey Florent Geroux on La Troienne winner and champion Idiomatic

“The sloppy track didn’t do us any favors today. It’s never been her favorite surface and she struggled quite a bit down the lane.”
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione on Pretty Mischievous’ third in the La Troienne

“I was glad we weren’t up there with him (the pacesetter). We were sitting a decent trip, I was hopeful we were not too close with the fractions.”
Trainer Brad Cox on First Mission’s winning trip in the Alysheba, where Japan’s T O Saint Denis threw down splits of :22.96, :46.77 and 1:10.45 before yielding in the stretch to finish second

“My owner (Elliott Logan) really picked out this race right after we ran in Florida. … I went along with it as long as she trained well. … This was something that we wanted to try and this is his hometown and it worked out. It worked out very well.”
Trainer Martin Drexler after Fast As Flight won Friday’s Modesty at 20-1

NY-bred My Mane Squeeze scores Gr. 2 upset

How good was My Mane Squeeze in Friday’s Grade 2 Eight Belles?

We’ve been fortunate to write about the New York-bred daughter of Audible over the last several months – including two victories this season – and Tom Law penned this one about the filly Friday for the New York Thoroughbred Breeders.

Names of the Day

House United. Churchill Downs. Race 1. Spendthrift’s 3-year-old is by Constitution.

Holy Alimony. Horseshoe Indianapolis. Race 9. Robert Hunt’s homebred is by Get Stormy out of Wedding. 

Mena. Churchill Downs. Race 3. A tribute to a lost friend.

West Saratoga. Churchill Downs. Race 12. It’s not named for our Saratoga but for a street near the long-lost Centennial Race Track in Colorado. Great story.

As for the races…

Newmarket. Race 1. 8:10 a.m. Listed fillies pull the curtain on a stellar card at Newmarket.

Punchestown. Race 1. 9:30. The final day of the Irish Festival. Cross-country specialists kick it off.

Newmarket. Race 4. 9:55. Ryan Moore reunites with Twilight Calls in the Group 3 William Hill Palace House Stakes.

Churchill Downs. Race 1. 10:30. One of the longest days in sports kicks off with a 6 1/2-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds and up worth $120,000. Stay hydrated folks.

Newmarket. Race 5. 10:35. The Group 1 Qipco Two Thousand Guineas and the long-awaited 3-year-old debut of the undefeated City Of Troy. The son of Justify faces 10 rivals in the First Saturday in May classic. Yeah, that one.

Punchestown. Race 3. 10:42. The once-beaten Lossiemouth goes for another penalty kick. This one in the Grade 1 Coolmore N.H. Sires Bolshoi Ballet Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle. Punch her ticket and see you for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next year.

Churchill. Race 2. 11:01. Juddmonte and Bill Mott should win 1-mile allowance-optional with Grade 3-placed Scylla.

Churchill. Race 3. 11:31. It’s not even lunchtime and there will already be three race in the books in Louisville. Bet Invigorated, the “other” Pletcher-Repole runner.

Punchestown. Race 5. 11:50. Kargese takes on the boys again in the Ballymore 4-year-old Champion Hurdle.

Fonner Park. Race 1. 2:30 p.m. It feels like we’ve said this before, big fans of the $25,000 Fonner Park Special.

Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 3:04. Destiny Star, third in the Sanibel Island at double-digit odds, won’t be that big of a price in the $100,000 Honey Ryder for 3-year-old fillies on the grass.

Belmont at the Big A. Race 6. 3:29. Good allowance at 1 mile draws Drake’s Passage, Cascais and Moore’s Law.

Belmont. Race 8. 4:39. Godolphin and Charlie Appleby are everywhere, including the Grade 2 Fort Marcy with Ottoman Fleet.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:50. Fourteen clash in the Whimsical Stakes.

Belmont. Race 9. 5:09. Several olds friends, including Yes And Yes, Thin White Duke, Our Shot, Nothing Better and Dancing Buck meet in the $150,000 Elusive Quality Stakes.

Belmont. Race 10. 5:39. The return of Randomized. Almost too good to lose in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, last year’s Alabama winner returns in the Grade 2 Ruffian.

Fonner. Race 8. 5:53. The co-featured $25,000 Al Shihart Memorial for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs. That’s two turns.

Oaklawn Park. Race 10. 5:55. Grade 3 winner Straight No Chaser returns in the Lake Hamilton.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 6:05. Named for one of the greats – can we get him in the Hall of Fame maybe? – the $100,000 English Channel closes the card.

Oaklawn Park. Race 11. 6:35. Maybe Jon Court can go out a winner in the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship. The veteran jockey hangs up his boots this weekend.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 7:37. Here’s a good one. Rockemperor, War At Sea and Planetario lead the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham at 1 1/4 miles on the turf.

Churchill. Race 13. 8:00. The race after the Kentucky Derby. Where’s our man Chuck Simon when we need him?

Turf Paradise. Race 11. 8:30. Don’t forget the Hasta La Vista. Veterans stretch 1 7/8 miles on the turf.

Churchill. Race 14. 8:35. Yes, the 14th. Brad Cox closes a big weekend with a victory by Dive Bomber.

And a Sunday bonus…

Oaklawn Park. Race 11. 6:45 p.m. The venerable Trail’s End draws another curtain close on another strong season in Hot Springs. Fourteen starter handicap veterans stretch a cool 1 3/4 miles in one of the sport’s greatest traditions. Enjoy.