Oaklawn Park and Arkansas Derby take center stage for 3-year-olds with Kentucky Derby dreams, while Keeneland hosts another strong card topped by the ultra-tough Grade 1 Jenny Wiley as April reaches its midpoint. We’ve got all that and more covered in this week’s Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.
The day gets rolling as always overseas, with jump racing from Haydock, Musseleburgh and Newton Abbot. Yes, Newton Abbot. Turf racing is starting to pop up at several American racetracks – not just the wintertime sites – and it’s Opening Day at Woodbine north of the border.
Check it all out in the weekly primer for Saturday, April 15. Good luck and enjoy.
Haydock. Race 1. 9:05 a.m. British racecourses receive a lot of grief over purses – well, lack of purses. Give Haydock its due, purses are usually robust. The Challenger Middle Distance finals come at you hard and fast. The opener offers £50,000 to handicap chasers.
Haydock. Race 2. 9:40. Rathlin Rose and Shanroe Santos seek their third straight wins. We’ve always liked Adam Du Breteau around our office.
Cork. Race 3. 9:45. Plenty of strong racing offered on the Easter Sunday and Easter Monday cards. As for Easter Saturday, the Noblesse Stakes is the highlight.
Musselburgh. Race 4. 10:35. The Queen’s Cup Handicap offers £100,000 over 14 furlongs. Dr. Marwan Koukash loves the track and loves the distance – he has Suegioo, Angel Gabrial and Gabrial The Hero lined up for the feature.
Kempton. Race 4. 10:45. Laugh Aloud looks long gone in the Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes for William Buick and John Gosden.
Musselburgh. Race 5. 11:05. The early bird gets…Requinto Dawn, a 2-year-old trained by Richard Fahey, won a division of the Brocklesby in his debut and returns for this 14 days later.
Kempton. Race 5. 11:15. Beware of Juddmonte horses off the bench. Blending returns from a 219-day absence for Gosden and Dettori.
Haydock. Race 5. 11:20. Should we give Behind Time another chance? Our bank accounts have been behind time since his last run, 70 days ago.
Newton Abbot. Race 7. 12:15 p.m. There is nothing like the ladder in British steeplechasing, horses go up it and go down it. Veterans Mon Parrain and Colbert Station offer comfort to amateur riders in the finale. Little Jonjo will surely make amends from unseating from Colbert Station last time.
Woodbine. Race 1. 1:00. Time to open the 2017 racing season in Ontario. The meet gets underway with Canadian-bred maiden optional going 5 furlongs.
Keeneland Race Course. Race 1. 1:05. Loaded card gets underway with 9-furlong maiden on the main track. Take Your Guns stretches out after going 1 mile in mid-February at Gulfstream.
Aqueduct. Race 1. 1:20. Short field of five older fillies and mares for 6 1/2-furlong maiden opener.
Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 3:07. The Championship meeting is in the books but the big guns are still around. Turf maiden for 3-year-olds features entrants from Chad Brown (Fast Mama and Cashless Society), Bill Mott (Shlee) and Todd Pletcher (Flying Harmony).
Keeneland. Race 5. 3:18. More Than Words makes U.S. debut for Charlie LoPresti as a big longshot in 9-furlong allowance on the main track.
Keeneland. Race 6. 3:51. We mentioned Juddmonte runners off a layoff earlier, well, this 1-mile allowance on the grass features one such candidate in Forge. Son of Dubawi makes first start in U.S. and first for Bill Mott.
Laurel Park. Race 7. 4:10. Linda Rice ships Forever In Love in from New York for first start since early November in 1 1/16-mile turf allowance.
Oaklawn Park. Race 6. 4:21. Off Road just missed in similar 1 1/16-mile maiden last month and looks poised to graduate with Mike Smith named for Steve Asmussen.
Keeneland. Race 7. 4:24. Eagle is back to defend title in Grade 3 Ben Ali and he’s in against the likes of Watershed, Bird Song, Scuba and Conquest Enforcer.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 8. 4:31. Thrice just missed in similar turf maiden in debut last month for Arnaud Delacour. Daughter of Hat Trick shortens up a touch to 1 mile and meets field that also includes Realism for Juddmonte and Bill Mott.
Aqueduct. Race 7. 4:44. John Kimmel always felt like Bar Of Gold would run well on the grass – he said as much in his 2015 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour after she finished second in the Grade 1 Test going 7 f urlongs on the dirt – and he gets chance to find out in $100,000 Plenty Of Grace going 1 mile on the turf. Good field also includes My Impression, My Sweet Girl and Light In Paris.
Woodbine. Race 8. 4:53. Stacked Deck is 7-for-10 at Woodbine, some on the old surface and some on the new. Either way the son of First Samurai is deserving favorite for $100,000 Jacques Cartier going 6 furlongs.
Keeneland. Race 8. 4:57. Lady Aurelia will take all the money in $100,000 Giant’s Causeway and rightfully so, she was a champion and Group 1 winner in Europe last year. She didn’t scare them off though and we’ll lean on Exaggerated, who won this race last year, off the layoff for Arnaud Delacour.
Oaklawn. Race 7. 4:57. Whitmore won his third straight in Hot Springs and bids for first graded score in Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint. Moe Candy ships in from Southern California for Hronis Racing and John Sadler, while Holy Boss tries to improve off lackluster effort in last.
Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 5:30. Kentuckian makes return to stakes company in Grade 3 Los Angeles going 6 furlongs. Son of Tiznow exits victory in late February going same trip for Jerry Hollendorfer.
Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:33. The $150,000 Northern Spur, names for track owner Charles Cella’s turf superstar, gives late-blooming or 3-year-olds not quite ready for the big time a chance to land a stakes victory away from the heavyweights. Cistron goes turf-to-dirt for Hronis Racing and John Sadler, while Warrior’s Club looks to win second straight for Javier Castellano.
Keeneland. Race 9. 5:34. Once a Derby prep, the $200,000 Stonestreet Lexington doesn’t carry enough points for the winner to lock in a spot, at least not as of this writing. The Grade 3 stakes still might be useful for big spots down the road. Bob Baffert used it for that last year when he won with Collected. He’s back with West Coast, a son of Flatter out of champion Caressing.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Midnight Storm just missed last time in Grade 1 Big Cap and gets a bit of class relief in Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. Not the strongest renewal of this heat, but it does draw quality older horses in Madefromlucky, Domain’s Rap and Texas Chrome.
Keeneland. Race 10. 6:12. Supremely stacked edition of the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley led by the popular Lady Eli, who might be a touch short at even-money on the line, against the likes of Time And Motion, Illuminant, Catch A Glimpse and Quidura.
Oaklawn. Race 11. 7:18. Featured $1 million Arkansas Derby will add the final pieces to the Kentucky Derby puzzle with 100 points to the winner on the line toward a spot in the starting gate. Champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire needs a fourth or better to get in the gate on the first Saturday in May and needs to improve off lackluster return in Feb. 4 Holy Bull, where he finished 6 3/4 lengths behind eventual Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry. He’s the class of the group, but Malagacy is the now horse with a 3-for-3 record and a sharp victory in the Grade 2 Rebel at the track, while Sonneteer, Untrapped and Petrov are all capable.
Oaklawn. Race 12. 7:48. Who wants to go long? How long? How about 1 3/4 miles in the starter-allowance that closes the meet.