Saez sizzles with Hollis in Jim McKay Turf Sprint

October 1, 2020

BALTIMORE, Md. – Jockey Gabriel Saez, who will ride Mr. Big News in the 145th Preakness Stakes (G1) Saturday, got Preakness weekend off to a thrilling start by guiding WSS Racing and 4G Racing’s Hollis to a front-running neck victory in Thursday’s $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico Race Course.

The 15th running of the McKay for 3-year-olds and up and the 21st renewal of the $100,000 The Very One for fillies and mares 3 and older, both sprinting five furlongs on turf, joined the $200,000 Chick Lang (G3) in opening a spectacular Preakness weekend of 16 stakes, nine graded, worth $3.35 million in purses featuring Saturday’s 145th Preakness (G1), this year’s final jewel in the Triple Crown.

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Third-longest shot in a field of seven at 11-1, Hollis ($24.80) completed the distance in 59.61 seconds over a yielding turf course to earn his first career stakes victory. It was the only mount of the day for the Kentucky-based Saez and the first of nine over the weekend, six of them in stakes, including his Preakness debut.

“I can say that I’ve been having a decent meet the last couple of weeks. Horses have been running great for me,” Saez said. “Now I’m here at Pimlico looking forward to a good performance on Saturday. We just started today. First ride of the weekend and here we are. Thank goodness.”

Hollis, claimed for $50,000 in May by trainer John Ortiz, was quickest from the gate and emerged with the lead after running a quarter-mile in 22.59 seconds chased by stakes winners Francatelli and Texas Wedge with defending champion Completed Pass in the clear in fourth. Hollis was still in front following a half in 46.39 and had enough left through the stretch to hold off a fast-closing Completed Pass.

It was three lengths back to 25-1 long shot Love You Much in third. Narrow favorite Texas Wedge, Francatelli, Tiger Blood and Tempt Me Twice completed the order of finish. Axtell, Fair Catch and Dr. Feelgood were scratched.

“I was feeling excited. I just wanted to get there,” Saez said. “Thank God he got the job done.”

Saez rode Mr. Big News to a win in the April 11 Oaklawn Stakes, an automatic qualifier for the Preakness, as well as a late-running third behind Authentic and Tiz the Law in the Kentucky Derby (G1) Sept. 5. While Tiz the Law is sitting the Preakness out, Authentic is the 9-5 program favorite.

“Going into the Derby, I was liking the horse the whole time. We got a good trip and finished third, a really strong third. The two horses that beat me are really nice horses and I was just super happy he ran the way he did,” Saez said. “[Trainer] Bret Calhoun is doing a fabulous job with him. He shipped in the other day and he’s been over the track and he’s doing well. Hopefully on Saturday we get a good run. Fingers crossed.”

The Jim McKay Turf Sprint pays homage to the late Hall of Fame broadcaster and Philadelphia native who considered Baltimore his home. McKay first gained notoriety as host of ABC’s ‘Wide World of Sports’ in 1961 and then wide acclaim as voice of the Olympics, winning 13 Emmy Awards and the Eclipse Award of Merit. He was instrumental in conceiving and launching the groundbreaking Maryland Million in 1986, and passed away in 2008 at 86.

Press Release

Photo: Hollis. Credit: Maryland Jockey Club

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