One final weekend to go in the shortest month of the year – even if it is a Leap Year – and one more edition of Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home to Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal. We’ve got a good one this week, thanks to a stellar card at Gulfstream Park and plenty of action elsewhere.
The day starts early – or late depending on where you are – and goes even later, or earlier. Now we’re really confused. Anyway, the Leap Year edition of our weekly rundown of the day’s best takes you from Randwick to Turffontein and Aqueduct to Sam Houston.
Here’s your weekly primer for Saturday, February 27. Sit back and soak it in.
Randwick. 12:25 a.m. If your Friday night lights are still on, fill the cereal bowl and watch Winx seek her seventh consecutive group stakes win in the Chipping Norton Stakes. After she won the Cox Plate, trainer Chris Waller was quoted in Racing Post, “She was good from day one but how do you know if you’ve got a Cox Plate horse? She’s just something different. You keep raising the bar and she keeps answering.” It might be worth staying up for…
Newcastle. Race 1. 8:50. Next stop, Cheltenham. Fingers crossed. Seeyouatmidnight wasn’t disgraced in the World Hurdle last year, he aims at his third consecutive win since switching to chase fences.
Turffontein. Race 7. 8:55. The Group 2 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Guineas. Negroamaro exits the Three Troikas while Princess Varunya has won her last four.
Kempton. Race 1. 9:00. Alan King is loaded with juveniles. Here’s part of the load. Gibralfaro is unbeaten in his two British hurdle starts. He faces his sternest test here.
Kempton. Race 2. 9:35. The Pendil Novices’ Chase. The Saint James hit the board at Cheltenham and Aintree last year. Winless for a while, he aims to right the ship here.
Newcastle. Race 3. 9:50. Wow, $119,000 on the line in the Eider Chase. They deserve the money, they clamber over big fences for 4 1/8 miles.
Kempton. Race 3. 10:05. Winter Escape puts his undefeated mark on the line in the Dovecote.
Lingfield. Race 4. 10:20. Furia Cruzada makes her debut for John Gosden in the Winter Derby. The daughter of Newfoundland won her last two at Palermo in Argentina. She takes on eight-time winner Grendisar.
Newcastle. Race 4. 10:25. Promising novice hurdlers Delusionofgrandeur, April Dusk, Bun Doran and the undefeated Tomngerry look for experience and a reason to go to Cheltenham.
Kempton. Race 4. 10:35. Enjoy one of the last bastions of proper jump racing before the pre-Cheltenham lull. Grade 3 chasers rumble in the Betbright Chase.
Chepstow. Race 4. 10:45. Crazy to think about prepping for the Grand National with a hurdle start, but it’s been done before. Pineau De Re won the Grand National in 2014, the 13-year-old veteran tunes up in this handicap hurdle which has attracted the likes of Kings Palace, Southfield Vic and O’Faolains Boy. Cool race.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. Very strong card should get off to fast start with $75,000 Texas Glitter going 5 furlongs on the grass. Manhattan Dan impressed in mornings leading up to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, finished seventh in that spot and then last in Grade 3 stakes at Del Mar to end season. Freshened since, son of Big Brown might be at his best in this spot.
Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:58 p.m. Our man Manitoulin stretches out to two turns for the first time, but so do several others, including Dig Deep.
Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:27. X Y Jet makes first start for new connections, who purchased with hopes of running in Dubai, in Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint.
Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:56. John Servis looks to take the next step with unbeaten Cathryn Sophia, who should be up to the 1-mile test in Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale. Thrilled, second going 9 furlongs in Grade 2 Demoiselle, should provide good test in her first start at the trip.
Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:25. Catch A Glimpse, amazingly 6-1 in winning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, gets her 2016 campaign started in Grade 3 Herecomesthebride. Lira is perfect in her three starts for Todd Pletcher, including win over the course in Ginger Brew Jan. 2.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:55. Grass allowance-optional for older fillies and mares breaks up the stakes action. Itsonlyactingdad, runner-up to Lady Eli in Grade 1 Belmont Oaks last summer, returns for Starlight and Pletcher.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:25. Very strong group for Grade 3 Canadian Turf, including multiple graded stakes winners Heart To Heart, Avanzare, Long On Value and Divisidero.
Fair Grounds. Race 3. 3:25. Slower Saturday this week in New Orleans. Maiden for 3-year-olds on the grass draws interesting group of 11.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 7. 3:25. We’ve said it for years – there is nothing more difficult than a filly and mare maiden on the turf at Tampa. Trainers? Proctor, Clement (2), Casse, Motion, Harty (2). Owners? Jones (2), Evans, Oxley, Godolphin (2), Pin Oak. Stallions? Tapit, Mineshaft (2), Hard Spun, Bernardini. Purse? Less than half of the Far Hills maiden hurdle, $23,000.
Parx Racing. Race 7. 3:37. Parx reopens with a nine-race card. Maidens from the barns of Motion, Rice, Servis and Lawrence highlight a 1-mile maiden. The shippers have an advantage, they've been able to get on a racetrack.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:56. Field of 14 entered for inaugural $100,000 Sand Springs, a 1-mile grass test for older females. Several sport good records on the course. Only Daring Kathy is unbeaten on it (3-for-3).
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:25. Second division of earlier race and meet’s leading trainer Michael Stidham takes shot with two – Our El Dee and Le Dimanche.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:27. Like big fields for allowance-optional races on the grass? You’re in luck here, with 14 entered for 1 1/16-mile test.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:50. John Servis spoke highly of Whistling Straits earlier this year after she won maiden race just before Cathryn Sophia won a graded stakes at Gulfstream. He ships Scat Daddy filly north for $100,000 Busher to take on Flora Dora, Katniss The Victor and Lost Raven.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:58. Azar, who won last year’s Grade 2 With Anticipation late in the Saratoga meet, takes on J R’s Holiday and Don’t Be So Salty again in Grade 3 Palm Beach. They aren’t the only top threats either, with Gimlet, Giant Run, Urban Bourbon and Kismet’s Heels entered.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:23. Three-year-olds on the grass in $50,000 Black Gold, a race named for the 1924 Kentucky Derby winner who is buried at the track.
Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:30. Featured Grade 2 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth brings together unbeaten Mohaymen, Zulu and Awesome Banner, plus the once-beaten Awesome Speed. Best Kentucky Derby prep of the season by far, so expect plenty of buzz for the winner. And 50 points too.
Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 5:38. The Downthedustyroad Stakes for Arkansas-breds. We always wanted to win the Downthedustyroad.
Santa Anita Park. Race 6. 6:00. Downhill on the turf. Ten California-breds and a California-sired Kentucky-bred clash in the Sensational Star. The latter, Forest Chatter, looks strong for Hall of Famers Richard Mandella and Mike Smith.
Gulfstream. Race 13. 6:02. Don’t hit the exit too soon, good 9-furlong maiden on the grass for 3-year-olds for the finale.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Always keep your eye on two-turn maiden races for 3-year-olds in February. Promising, albeit late-developing, sons of Tapit, Uncle Mo, Sky Mesa, Arch, Malibu Moon from high-octane barns. Maybe a Belmont Stakes winner emerging from the shadows.
Turfway Park. Race 1. 6:15. While his brethren begin speed work for the 2016 jump season that starts in March. Lune De Caro returns to the flat for trainer Joe McSorley. The three-time winner over hurdles in 2015, returns in a 14-furlong starter.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:21. Fourteen state-breds go 1 mile on the turf in $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace.
Sunland Park. Race 9. 6:55. The Peppers Pride Handicap. She won 19 of 19. Her sire, Desert God, is represented by Desert Stepper, Zasha and B Bold Cindy.
Penn National Race Course. Race 4. 7:22. Winter Hours. Jonathan Sheppard continues his northern exposure experiment at Penn National. Rum Tug Tugger, a decent turf horse through 2015, makes his third consecutive dirt start for the Hall of Famer, 0-for-12 at Penn this winter.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:30. Newcomb hops out of a runner-up finish over Laurel’s turf in November. The daughter of Giant’s Causeway will win this for Glen Hill Farm and Tom Proctor.
Sam Houston Race Park. Race 6. 9:36. Cassatt travels from Fair Grounds in search of career win No. 8 for Fox Hill Farm, Larry Jones and Florent Geroux.
Turfway. Race 8. 9:38. Swept Up aims for her third consecutive win for Charlie LoPresti. She’s even money for Sophie Doyle.
Sam Houston. Race 7. 10:05. The Maxxam Gold Cup highlights a strong Saturday night in Texas. Fox Hill, Jones and Geroux team up with Coup De Grace, winless since taking the 2014 Amsterdam at Saratoga. Ride On Curlin, who chased California Chrome through the Triple Crown, tries to snap a six-race losing streak.
Sam Houston. Race 8. 10:33. If it’s another Saturday night and you ain’t got nobody…at least you have the Bucharest Turf Sprint. Marchman tries to stop an eight-race skid, dating back to the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint in 2014.
Sha Tin. Race 6. 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Still going strong? Take in the Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup. Military Attack tries to pad his cash register which sits at $5.2 million.