Now that the presents have been opened, the eggnog polished off and in-laws sent on their merry way it’s time to get back to the serious business of the season. The end of the Christmas holiday means the start of racing for the winter and spring at Santa Anita Park and we’ve got that and other top tier action covered in the annual Boxing Day Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.
Four graded stakes are on tap at Santa Anita, led by the Grade 1 La Brea and Grade 1 Malibu, while Gulfstream, Laurel and Fair Grounds feature strong cards. There’s plenty of up-and-over action from across the Atlantic, too, as Boxing Day goes down for real in the U.K.
Get the wrapping paper in the recycling bin, gas up the remote with fresh batteries, fund the ADW account with some of that Christmas money and settle in for a good day of action. Here’s your primer for Monday, December 26. Good luck and enjoy.
Leopardstown. Race 3. 8:15 a.m. Just when Irish racing looked top heavy with Willie Mullins dominating, he lost the Gigginstown horses and Joseph O’Brien took out his license. He’s loaded with the likes of Landofhopeandglory, another proper flat horse, converting to hurdling. He’s undefeated in three starts.
Wetherby. Race 4. 8:50. Poor Ryan Hatch, spending Christmas on the sidelines while Blaklion, his big horse, well one of his big horses, runs in the feature chase.
Limerick. Race 4. 9:00. Bellshill seeks his third straight for Willie Mullins. Paul Townend deputizes for Ruby Walsh, who goes to Leopardstown.
Leopardstown. Race 5. 9:20. Min, second to Altior at Cheltenham, makes his second start over fences for Mullins and Walsh. This isn’t easy as Identity Thief puts his undefeated chasing record on the line as well.
Kempton. Race 3. 9:05. Ah, Kauto Star, the Boxing Day hero. Here’s a race named after him and a good field to match. Frodon, a rare 4-year-old going chasing, has done little wrong thus far.
Kempton. Race 4. 9:40. The New One and My Tent Or Yours reenlist in the Christmas Hurdle. They have company – new company – Yanworth.
Kempton. Race 5. 10:15. The race of the day. The race of the Tizzard barn. Veteran Cue Card clashes with novice Thistlecrack in the King George.
Laurel Park. Race 4. 1:54 p.m. High Roller, beaten as 9-5 favorite in James F. Lewis III last time out, takes on seven others in 5 1/2-furlong allowance.
Laurel. Race 6. 2:51. Valhalla and Kahramani ship down from Todd Pletcher’s Belmont winter string, while Painter’s Rags looks to add another winner for Union Rags.
Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:00. The winter meeting opens with starter optional going 6 1/2 furlongs.
Gulfstream Park. Race 7. 3:01. Juddmonte’s Mr Darcy just missed after fast finish in Churchill maiden on the grass. Bill Mott stretches Harlan’s Holiday colt out a bit more for 9-furlong maiden on the turf. Nearly all of the other major players in South Florida represented with entries, too.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:32. Another turf maiden, this one at 1 mile for older horses.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 2. 3:44. Several also-rans from Golden Gate Debutante take on impressive debut maiden winners Recoiling and Makaha Heat in 6-furlong allowance.
Laurel. Race 8. 3:50. Big field of 12 for 6-furlong allowance.
Santa Anita. Race 3. 3:59. Two-year-old maidens stretch out to 7 furlongs. These races usually produce a few to watch down the road and perhaps that will be Pavelski, a $1 million Curlin colt bought at Fasig-Tipton Florida in March; or Bronze Age, a $600,000 Mineshaft colt for Juddmonte. Both are trained by Bob Baffert. So, too, is First Degree Burn, a Pioneerof The Nile colt for Robert LaPenta.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:03. Staying on the grass for 1 1/8-mile allowance. Shop around for a price.
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:13. Include Betty takes her show to New Orleans, her eighth track in her last eight starts, for $50,000 Tiffany Lass. She’s winless since Remington Park Oaks in September 2015 but showed some of her old form in a few starts this year.
Golden Gate. Race 3. 4:14. One of the last remaining chances on the circuit to become a maiden winner at 2. Seven juvenile fillies line up for 6-furlong maiden.
Santa Anita. Race 4. 4:29. Buster Douglas delivered one of the biggest boxing upsets of all time more than two decades ago. A win by a 4-year-old Yagli colt by the same name wouldn’t be as huge in 9-furlong turf allowance.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:34. Sugar Cone was second at 13-1 in last year’s Margate Stakes and she’s back for another try in $60,000 feature. She’ll be a price again facing the likes of Banree, Mo’ Green, Bodacious Babe and Giddy Up.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:40. Allowance for older fillies and mares on the grass is a difficult puzzle. We’ll lean toward Hip Hop N Jazz for Tom Proctor from the rail.
Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 4:59. Maiden 2-year-old fillies take their turn, this heat going 5 1/2 furlongs. Eight of the 12 are first-time starters.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:07. Two-turn allowance for 2-year-olds. Bobby The Brain graduated going two turns on the front Dec. 3 while Hollow Point exits 7-furlong maiden win for Mark Casse. Shareholder Value might appreciate the trip, too, after finding the water a bit deep against McCracken and others in Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:31. The Grade 3 San Simeon going 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill. Conventional wisdom says lean toward specialists. Maybe that’s Stormy Liberal, although he takes jump in class second off the claim.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:34. Everyone loves some Bourbon Candy this time of year, right? Colt by Sidney’s Candy looks to improve with addition of blinkers in turf sprint allowance.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:01. Lightstream ships West for Grade 1 La Brea and faces tough assignment in 7-furlong test that attracts Finley’sluckycharm out of New Orleans and locals Constellation, Enola Gay and Perfect Pic.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:01. Winchell Thoroughbreds spent $600,000 on the Tapit colt Tapsolute, who debuts in 1-mile and 70-yard maiden for Steve Asmussen. He’s one of six six-figure purchases in the field, along with $550,000 Arch colt Takeoff for John Oxley and Mark Casse.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 6:28. Same conditions as Race 9, 2-year-olds go two turns. Not as many expensive ones in this heat, but that doesn’t always mean anything.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:31. The Grade 1 Malibu, traditional feature of Opening Day, is another good renewal with Breeders’ Cup Sprint third (actually, second) Mind Your Biscuits, Pat Day Mile winner Sharp Azteca, Grade 1 winner Mor Spirit and multiple graded stakes winner Awesome Banner in the mix. Mor Spirit is an interesting entry having been off since finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:01. The Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile for 3-year-olds on the grass features a few from the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, including third-place finisher Frank Conversation, and the hugely talented Conquest Enforcer for new connections.