Past the midpoint of November, steamrolling toward Thanksgiving and we’re back with another installment of The Saturday Special to keep you busy.
A fairly light slate awaits with just two graded stakes in North America – at Churchill Downs and Del Mar – and only 11 overall. Fear not though, with plenty headed your way come next weekend, into the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond.
The action might be minimal on this side of the Atlantic Ocean but it’s far from slow overseas with the start of National Hunt season underway with a strong card at Cheltenham. We preview all the action, plus racing from Lingfield, Punchestown and Wetherby.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, November 16. Enjoy and good luck.
Cheltenham. Race 1. 7:05 a.m. And so it begins. The National Hunt season returns with a bang at Cheltenham. They abandoned Friday because of waterlogged ground. The Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle drops the flag.
Lingfield. Race 2. 7:25. Dubawi…Oasis Dream…War Front…Godolphin…Lord Derby…The Queen…Varin…Hannon…Haggas. Winner’s share: £3,429.
Cheltenham. Race 2: 7:40. Start taking your notes for the Triumph Hurdle in March. This is the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle. The French invasion is in full force as Mick Pastor, Botox Has, Chocks Away and Thatsmyseat channel surf.
Punchestown. Race 2. 7:50. Willie Mullins is bringing back his guns. First, Douvan. Now, Faugheen. They once called him Faugheen The Machine. Well, the machine has some age on it now but it’s still potent. The 11-year-old tries to add to his $1.239 million tally in his chase debut. He faces 16 rivals.
Cheltenham. Race 3. 8:15. Nigel Twiston-Davies gets his inmates ready early and kicks it. Wholestone makes his third start of the season, taking on six rivals in the 3-mile novice chase.
Punchestown. Race 3. 8:25. The rift is over. Davy Russell takes the call aboard Éclair De Beaufeu for Gigginstown in the Grade 2 Elliott Group Craddockstown Novice Chase.
Cheltenham. Race 4. 8:50. Ramses De Teillee reverted back to hurdling for his seasonal debut, winning a novice hurdle in October, his first start since pulling up in the Grand National. The high weight takes on six foes in this chase.
Punchestown. Race 4. 9:00. Wonder what it’s like to be Ruby Walsh, watching the likes of Klassical Dream go on without you? They won three Grade 1 stakes in a row last season. The horse is back for his first start in open company. Surely, Walsh is wistful and not wishful.
Lingfield. Race 5. 9:10. Four-year-old filly Magic Lily makes just her fourth career start but she should win the Gillies Fillies’ Stakes for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby.
Wetherby. Race 4. 9:15. Mr Antolini made his belated chase debut against crack chaser Black Op. Beaten 12 lengths that day, there are no Black Ops in this.
Cheltenham. Race 5. 9:25. The popular and prolific Lizzie Kelly returns from injury on Siruh Du Lac in the Grade 3 Betvictor Gold Cup. They won the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at Cheltenham in March.
Lingfield. Race 6. 9:45. Whoa, Lord North is 3-5 in the Churchill Stakes.
Cheltenham. Race 6. 10:00. Remember Tobefair? He climbed the handicap ladder like Spiderman up a wall for a group of pub friends in 2018. The 9-year-old nearly pulled up off an upset of the Pertemps in March and has now won his last two.
Cheltenham. Race 7. 10:30. Jatiluwih puts his five-race win streak on the line in a tough handicap hurdle.
Cheltenham. Race 8. 11:00. Who What When? Yeah, that’s right Who What When upsets the last.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 2. 1:23 p.m. The final days of the Tropical Park, err, Calder, err, Gulfstream Park West meeting before the Championship Meet across town in a few weeks. Influx from points north underway, with runners from Jason Servis and Tim Hills in 6-furlong maiden.
Aqueduct. Race 4. 1:24. Todd Pletcher unveils More Than Ready first-timer Obsessed, who spent spring, summer and fall in Saratoga at the now closed-for-the-season Oklahoma Training Track.
Churchill Downs. Race 2. 1:30. Nikki Beach back to track and trip where she won two starts back. Daughter of Distorted Humor never runs a bad one and stands out in small optional for fillies and mares.
Woodbine. Race 3. 2:05. Two-year-old fillies go two turns in restricted $100,000 South Ocean. Owlette handled assignment in similar spots going one turn and daughter of Frac Daddy should handle this task for Wesley Ward.
Parx Racing. Race 5. 2:13. Graduation day for Monday Morning Qb.
Churchill. Race 4. 2:30. U S S Lexington, daughter of War Front named for World War II-era aircraft carrier known as “The Blue Ghost,” makes debut for Larry Jones in turf sprint for 2-year-old fillies.
Laurel Park. Race 6. 2:51. Tuggle, off the board in back-to-back graded stakes in New York, returns to the main track for the first time since third in Grade 2 Saratoga Special for $100,000 James F. Lewis III. Bill Parcells’ son of Point Of Entry doesn’t get it easy in 6-furlong stakes with Newstome, Raging Whiskey, Bernie’s On Fire and Sir Back In Black in the field.
Mahoning Valley Race Course. Race 7. 3:02. Totally Obsessed the heavy favorite on morning line for $75,000 First Lady. She’s 3-for-3 at the track and comes off back-to-back fourths in similar state-bred stakes at Thistledown.
Churchill. Race 5. 3:03. Mucho appeared destined for big things after close second in Grade 1 Hopeful last year. He’s won just once in six starts since and looks to improve off third in Keeneland optional in similar 6-furlong event.
Woodbine. Race 5. 3:07. Mark Casse, on his way to another training title in Toronto, sends out longshots Sky Factor and Espiritu de Luna in 5-furlong maiden for 2-year-old fillies.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:20. Time Limit and My Sassy Sarah drop from graded stakes company to meet fellow 2-year-old filly state-breds in $100,000 Key Cents.
Laurel. Race 7. 3:20. Summer Fortune looked good winning maiden debut Oct. 20 at Belmont for Jeremiah Englehart. Now the daughter of Violence steps up in $100,000 Warrior’s Reward Smart Halo and faces Cofactor and Letsstaypositive in 6-furlong stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
Aqueduct. Race 9. 3:50. Plenty of turf racing – with luck – left for the year in New York. Good 1-mile allowance draws Mean Mary from Fair Hill, Civil Union and Altea from Chad Brown’s barn and Wish Upon from the state-bred ranks off good efforts in restricted stakes.
Del Mar. Race 2. 4:00. Jalen Journey drops from three straight graded stakes appearances – good efforts at that – and stretches out against four others in 1-mile optional.
Woodbine. Race 7. 4:09. King Of Gypsies, 2-year-old gelding by Where’s The Ring, makes debut for Team Buttigieg. Not that Buttigieg, trainer Paul Buttigieg and owner Buttigieg Training Centre. Can’t believe we didn’t use that line yet this year.
Churchill. Race 8. 4:36. Mr. Monomoy, half brother to 2018 champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl, makes second for same connections in 6 1/2-furlong maiden. Son of Palace Malice finished fourth as favorite in debut last month at Keeneland.
Churchill. Race 9. 5:06. Good balanced group for 1-mile allowance. Take your pick.
Churchill. Race 10. 5:36. Mr. Understood returns to defend title in Grade 3 River City Handicap. The big question is whether it’s a true handicap, with all 10 entrants assigned 121 pounds.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 5. 5:48. Tomlin returns to the West Coast, to trainer Steve Specht’s string and to synthetic for 6-furlong allowance. Distorted Humor filly chased probable champion Covfefe two back in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness. She’s 2-for-3 at Golden Gate, including a victory in the Golden Gate Debutante that earned her trips to graded stakes at Santa Anita last winter.
Del Mar. Race 6. 6:00. Connections of Mundaye Call thought enough of Into Mischief filly to run her in Grade 1 Spinaway off close second in Saratoga maiden race in her debut. Freshened and prepped at Belmont Park, she draws rail in 6 1/2-furlong maiden.
Churchill. Race 11. 6:06. Eleven maiden 2-year-old fillies go 6 furlongs in the finale.
Hawthorne Race Course. Race 6. 6:30. The last time Richiesinthehouse faced state-breds he won a small stakes at Arlington in July. Since he won a handicap at Presque Isle, finished third in Grade 2 Nearctic at Woodbine and won an allowance at Woodbine. He’s back with Illinois-breds here for $50,000 Lightning Jet Handicap. He’s not top weight though, that falls to Wynn Time coming off the layoff that followed three straight stakes wins last winter at Fair Grounds.
Golden Gate. Race 7. 6:48. Oiseau de Guerre loves the synthetic – he’s 3-for-4 on the surface at Golden Gate – and looks tough from the rail in $50,000 Oakland.
Del Mar. Race 8. 7:00. The last six editions of the Grade 3 Bob Hope produced the likes of Shared Belief, Mastery and Mucho Gusto, who all won the race. Bob Baffert, who trained Mastery and Mucho Gusto, goes for his 10th win in the race with $1 million yearling Thousand Words and High Velocity.
Penn National Race Course. Race 4. 7:25. Turf to dirt and drop in class for Ladecka in 1-mile allowance. She won Malvern Rose two back at Presque Isle then finished seventh in Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont.
Del Mar. Race 9. 7:30. Maiden for older Cal-breds on the grass closes the card.
Delta Downs. Race 8. 9:11. Jose Camejo takes blinkers off and sends out Forevamo for the first time in $100,000 Delta Mile. Six-year-old son of Uncle Mo, who has racked up more than $526,000 despite only winning three times in 27 starts, won the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta back in 2015.
Charles Town Races. Race 7. 10:02. Here’s the nightcap, the $50,000 My Sister Pearl going 9 furlongs. That’s three turns for the state-bred fillies and mares. Several coming out of West Virginia Breeders’ Classics races, including B’s Wild Cork off a victory.