A relatively light weekend comes on the heels of last week’s deep freeze in much of the Eastern part of the U.S., although the action at Fair Grounds figures to heat up post-Mardi Gras with a stakes-packed card. Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud sets the stage for the big card in New Orleans plus other action from overseas, down in Florida and for the debut of Zenyatta's second foal in California.
The card in New Orleans is billed as the Louisiana Derby Preview and it features two top events for 3-year-olds in the Risen Star and Rachel Alexandra. There’s plenty of other interesting heats for older horses and grass runners, too.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, February 20. Enjoy.
Ascot. Race 5. 8:35 a.m. Flemenstar invades from Ireland for Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase going 2 5/8 miles. Silviniaco Conti and Dynaste are also in the field.
Lingfield. Race 3. 9:35. Desert Strike, 10-year-old gelding by the Danzig stallion Bertolini, makes career start No. 170 – yes, 170 – in 5-furlong handicap on the all-weather surface.
Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:50 p.m. Wonderment looked as good as any New York-bred juvenile last summer winning maiden and Lynbrook 10 days apart. Cosmonaut filly went to the shelf after the latter and meets Frosty Margarita and Clipthecouponannie in $125,000 Franklin Square.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 4. 1:55. Enterprising, a graded stakes w inner at 3 who went through a rough season last year, makes 5-year-old debut in 1-mile grass allowance against European import Aktabantay, Ancil and Mister Marti Gras.
Fair Grounds. Race 3. 2:27. Taprize is first-timer by Tapit out of Grade 2 winner Fun House, who did best work on the grass but was certainly capable on dirt. He goes 6 furlongs on dirt in this spot.
Aqueduct. Race 5. 2:50. Big Business, Towering Moon, North Slope, Turco Bravo, Cerro and Zambian Dream meet a few others in two-turn allowance-optional.
Fair Grounds. Race 4. 2:56. Sprint maiden for 3-year-old fillies. Second try to Stradivarius, who ran well in debut three weeks ago for Al Stall Jr.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:20. We’ll give Monte Man another shot on the stretchout in 1-mile maiden.
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 3:25. International Star ran his record to 4-for-4 at Fair Grounds with win in Louisiana Handicap, the prep for Grade 3 Mineshaft.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 3:55. A dozen entered in tough 1-mile allowance-optional on the grass. Take your pick.
Tampa Bay. Race 8. 3:55. Grade 3 winner Barbados, 12th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, set for debut in $100,000 Pelican Stakes.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:25. We know Cinco Charlie is better than his comeback, a sixth in allowance-optional at Oaklawn that was his first start in more than seven months. He won in New Orleans last winter and he’ll need to be at his best to handle Clearly Now in $60,000 Duncan F. Kenner.
Tampa Bay. Race 9. 4:25. Older fillies and mares take their turn in $50,000 Minaret going 6 furlongs.
Gulfstream Park. Race 9. 4:28. Mix of firsters and others that haven’t run particularly well make for interesting maiden race for 3-year-olds going 1 mile on the grass.
Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 4:30. Ziconic, second foal out of Horse of the Year Zenyatta by leading sire Tapit, makes debut going 7 furlongs. Word from the John Shirreffs barn last summer at Saratoga was he was much better than her first foal, the Bernardini colt Cozmic One.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:54. The Daisy Devine going 1 1/16 on the grass for fillies and mares. Tough spot for $60,000.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:23. Stageplay and Midnight On Oconee, one-two in the Silverbulletday, meet again in Grade 2 Twinspires.com Rachel Alexandra. Couple others deserve a look, including Southern California shipper Forever Darling.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:28. Cash Back ships from New Orleans with 2-for-2 record for $75,000 Melody Of Colors going 5 furlongs on turf.
Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 5:38. Who doesn’t have spring fever this time of year? The 11 entered for the race by that name, the $100,000 Spring Fever, might have a case.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 5:52. Chocolate Ride looks to keep it rolling in Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap going 9 furlongs on the grass. He meets familiar foes Roman Approval, Blarp, String King and Potomac River, along with some fresh faces.
Fair Grounds. Race 11. 6:21. The featured Veterans Ford Risen Star lost one entrant in Dolphus but still packs a powerful punch with a dozen other classic hopefuls angling for the 85 points on the line, including 50 to the winner. That’s essentially an automatic bid into the Kentucky Derby. Airoforce ships from South Florida to meet tough local contingent led by Mo Tom, Tom’s Ready and Uncle Walter.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:00. Keri Belle upset the Grade 3 Megahertz last time and she again meets Stormy Lucy and Theatre Star in Grade 2 Buena Vista. Her Emmynency won Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last fall and makes first start for Kristin Mulhall.
Turfway Park. Race 7. 9:09. Stay tuned in late for the $50,000 WEBN Stakes, the first supposed prep for the Spiral Stakes later in the meeting. Wesley Ward sends out the Macho Uno filly Banree, who hasn’t run since the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes in early November. She meets 11 others in 6 1/2-furlong stakes.