The Breeders' Cup is in the books - the election, too, mercifully - and it's time to begin the slide toward the holidays and the end of the year here at This Is Horse Racing. Thank goodness for Saturdays to shake things up a bit and we've got it all covered in this week's edition of Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.
We'll start early overseas, over the jumps at Cheltenham as clues for next year's Festival loom and a smattering of races on the flat, before returning stateside for Aqueduct, Churchill, Gulfstream Park West (it'll always be Calder to us) and Del Mar. Post-Breeders' Cup fall racing is underway and you better enjoy it now because once November is done it'll be a huge serving of winter racing.
Cheltenham. Race 1: 7:40 a.m. Start taking your Festival notes now. Juveniles clash in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial. The Grade 2 provides some of the first clues to March glory.
Naas. Race 2. 8:00. A tough couple of months for Willie Mullins, losing an owner and a few airplanes. Gordon Elliott has turned up the pressure. Here it looks it comes down to Koshari for Mullins and Missy Tata for Elliott.
Cheltenham. Race 2. 8:15. Don't bet. Don't fret. Just sit back and watch Thistlecrack, the best steeplechase horse in the world.
Cheltenham. Race 3. 8:50. Around our office, we love Minella Rocco. The Festival winner returns in the Grade 3 chase.
Lingfield. Race 5. 9:00. Big purse offered in the Churchill Stakes. Course specialist Grendisar rides a three-race win streak - and a 232-day layoff.
Cheltenham. Race 4. 9:25. Jonjo O'Neill has called More Of That the best horse he's ever trained. Big words. The 8-year-old dusts off 241 days of rest. Somebody convince Jonjo to bring him to Nashville, he wants 3 miles, would benefit from Lasix and could land the bonus.
Cheltenham. Race 5. 10:00. Veterans Irish Saint and Fingal Bay return in a deep handicap hurdle.
Wetherby. Race 6: 10:15. Contentious handicap hurdle. We've tabbed several of these in our Racing Post Horse Tracker. Guess which ones ...
Cheltenham. Race 6. 10:35. Handicappers, ranging from 140-rated Who Dares Wins to 116-rated Red Infantry clash.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 1. Noon. Maiden claiming race on the grass for 2-year-olds leads off Sunshine Millions Preview Day.
Uttoxeter. Race 7. 11. Bet Old Harry Rocks in the bumper.
Cheltenham. Race 7. 12:05 p.m. We liked Canoodle when she won her career debut in March at Newbury. She hasn't run since. Deep bumper to close the card.
Parx Racing. Race 1. 12:25. The $75,000 Christopher Elser Memorial, named for a young man taken way too soon, leads off the card. Race is for 2-year-old colts and geldings who spent 90 days in South Carolina and paid all the right fees. Greatbullsoffire looks to add to victory in Maryland Million Nursery.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 2. 12:30. You Bought Her looked good winning extended sprint at Keeneland last month. Daughter of Graeme Hall takes show on the road for $100,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff Preview going 7 furlongs.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 3. 1:00. Squadron won on the main track and takes the grass for second start in $100,000 Juvenile Turf.
Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:18. Barrel Of Dreams won back-to-back on the grass at Saratoga then didn't factor as the favorite going short at Belmont. Back to 1 1/16 miles might be the trick in this state-bred turf allowance.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 4. 1:30. Sweetontheladies won first two on the main track before turf experiment last time against open company in small stakes. Son of Twirling Candy back on the dirt for $100,000 Juvenile Sprint.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 5. 2:00. A lot of water over the dam since Uncle Vinny got put up in the 2015 Sanford at Saratoga. He's lost seven straight since and Todd Pletcher sends son of Uncle Mo to the grass for $100,000 Sunshine Millions Turf Preview against the likes of Enterprising, Light The Night and Thinkinquality.
Parx. Race 5. 2:13. Repole and Pletcher send Stay Thirsty filly Thirstforthecup down from Belmont for $50,000 maiden race on the main track.
Wolverhampton. Race 2. 1:15. For the love of it, for the sport of it. Nowhere does this mantra hold true like England. A cool £3,881 up for grabs in this 2-year-old race. The stallions represented - Invincible Spirit, Oasis Dream, Raven's Pass, Frankel...The trainers represented - Cumani, Gosden, Fahey, Haggas, Hannon...The owners represented - Strawbridge, Tinkler, Al Shaqab...
Aqueduct. Race 5. 2:17. Good group for 1-mile allowance on the grass. Of course Chad Brown should be strongly considered and he sends out Performance Bonus off win in early September at Belmont. Slim Shadey, still going strong at 8, looks for second win of 2016 while Security Risk tries to resurrect form from two back at Saratoga.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 6. 2:30. Fillies take their turn in $100,000 Juvenile Filly Sprint.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 2:47. I'm Amazing cost $1.6 million as a yearling in 2014. So far son of Unbridled's Song is 0-for-4 with a second and a third. He's one of nine in 1-mile maiden on the main track.
Churchill Downs. Race 5. 3:00. Long on the dirt - well, at least by today's standards - with 1 3/16-mile allowance. All eight members of the field exit races at Keeneland, no surprise there, some turf, some dirt, some routes, some sprints.
Aqueduct. Race 7. 3:17. The Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap. Everyone knows the quote about Saratoga, "you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue and go back 100 years." Big field entered for 11-furlong turf test, including Grade 1 winner Wake Forest, defending champ Messi and recent Sycamore runner-up Bigger Picture. Cool race.
Del Mar. Race 1. 3:30. The Bing Crosby meet got rolling Friday and 1 1/16-mile maiden race for 3-year-olds and up gets Saturday card rolling.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:47. Not many more chances for straight 3-year-olds, if any on the circuit. The Grade 3 Discovery attracts three who ran in the Travers - Gift Box, Governor Malibu and My Man Sam - Haskell third Sunny Ridge, Pennsylvania Derby third Wild About Deb, Oklahoma Derby runner-up Sticksstatelydude and the late-blooming Hot Seat.
Churchill. Race 7. 4:00. Field of 12 2-year-old fillies for 1-mile maiden on the grass. Cha Cha Magic, who is on also-eligible list, is half sister to Grade 1 winner Hot Cha Cha for same connections.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 9. 4:03. The stakes continue with $100,000 Juvenile Filly Turf. Compelled, a winner last time at Laurel after two good efforts in New York, ships down from Fair Hill for Tom Proctor.
Aqueduct. Race 9. 4:17. We usually avoid getting political here but Liberal Spin might be a play in the finale, a straight $25,000 claimer on the grass.
Del Mar. Race 3. 4:29. Plenty of high-dollar 2-year-old fillies in 6-furlong maiden, including $450,000 Lemon Drop Kid yearling Sabi Sands, $300,000 Uncle Mo 2-year-old Mopotism and $400,000 Distorted Humor yearling Princess Julia.
Churchill. Race 8. 4:30. Another big field of 2-year-old maidens; seven of the 12 make debut going 6 furlongs.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 10. 4:34. Mr. Jordan puts 2-for-2 mark at the track on the line in $100,000 Sunshine Millions Classic Preview. He's bumped heads in graded stakes company this year and is deserving 7-5 favorite.
Woodbine. Race 8. 4:40. Enstone took five tries to break her maiden, but the Grade 1 Natalma was in that handful of starts. Daughter of Tiznow is one of 11 entered in $250,000 Princess Elizabeth along with the 2-for-2 Mythical Mission, stakes winner Spring Tempest and Cindervella.
Del Mar. Race 4. 4:59. The restricted Let It Ride Stakes - 1-mile grass race for 3-year-olds - attracts only six. Ex-Europeans Mittersill and Barhanpour look like the two to beat.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 11. 5:05. State-bred 2-year-olds on the grass cap the card.
Churchill. Race 10. 5:30. Canadian classic winner Sir Dudley Digges finally gets chance at ‘home' track in Grade 3 Commonwealth for 3-year-olds on the grass. Son of Gio Ponti won the Queen's Plate on synthetic back in July and ran in other two races of Canadian Triple Crown. Plenty of others to like, too, including One Mean Man, Surgical Strike, Tizzarunner, Scholar Athlete and Blackout.
Turf Paradise. Race 7. 5:40. Featured $30,000 Luke Kruytbosch is named for one of the game's truly great guys who left us way too soon.
Del Mar. Race 8. 6:59. Field of 10 for good turf allowance. Hobbits Hero won on the course in August and looks to bounce back from Santa Anita defeat in last.
There you go, it's early. Call it a night.