The final month of the year is here and with it the first of five editions of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.
Cigar Mile Day at Aqueduct – pushed back a week to give Breeders’ Cup horses an extra week and off the busy Thanksgiving Weekend – takes center stage along with the Opening Day card of the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park.
Next month’s $16 million Pegasus World Cup and the Florida Derby highlight the 89-day South Florida season in late March. The Claiming Crown is the first of the big Saturday programs at Gulfstream, with nine restricted stakes on tap.
Turfway Park also opened its doors this week for the extended winter and spring season in Northern Kentucky, while Fair Grounds, Golden Gate, Charles Town, Mahoning Valley, Parx and Woodbine host Saturday stakes. The day starts as always this time of year, with jumpers overseas, this week at Newcastle, Doncaster, Newbury and Fairyhouse.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, Dec. 2. Take care and good luck.
Newcastle. Race 1. 6:55 a.m. Juvenile hurdlers begin their ascents.
Doncaster. Race 1. 7:05. Proper day of National Hunt racing rolls to life with a solid novice hurdle that attracts the undefeated Irish Prophecy and Kalashnikov. Stone-cold runners.
Newbury. Race 1. 7:10. Cap Soleil puts her unbeaten record on the line in the opener. Davy Russell travels for Angels Antics…and others.
Newbury. Race 2. 7:45. Black Corton and Bryony Frost have won five in a row. They aim for six in the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase.
Newcastle. Race 3. 8:05. Hear No Evil aims at his second hurdle win for Mrs. John Magnier and Dan Skelton.
Newbury. Race 3. 8:20. Bouvreuil drops a level or two into the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase. Is there any zest left in Different Gravey?
Newbury. Race 4. 8:50. We’ve always liked Air Horse One, he might be rounding into his best form for our go-to guys, Harry Fry and Noel Fehily. Awesome handicap hurdle.
Fairyhouse. Race 4. 8:55. Numbers…25 maidens line up for a $14,000 prize. Yes, 25. Yes, $14,000.
Newcastle. Race 5. 9:10. Buveur D’Air, winner of the Champion Hurdle in March, returns for his first start of the season. He takes on Fighting Fifth standby Irving.
Newbury. Race 5. 9:25. Charli Parcs makes his first start since finishing sixth in the Triumph Hurdle in March. Good to see Alex Ferguson plying his trade, we’ve always liked High Bridge.
Newbury. Race 6. 10:00. Coneygree tries to rekindle his flickering flame in the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy Chase. You’ll count out Whisper once, twice, three times but he always picks himself up off the floor. American rides a three-race win streak. A Genie In Abottle travels for Gigginstown, Noel Meade and Sean Flanagan. Total Recall travels on the Mullins train. Wow, what a 21-horse thriller.
Fairyhouse. Race 7. 10:40. Ho hum. Willie Mullins has the favorite for the bumper. Minella Encore is a sure thing.
Aqueduct. Race 1. 11:30. What’s better than turf racing in New York in December? Cigar Mile Day starts with 9-furlong turf allowance.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. The meet begins with 7 1/2-furlong maiden on the grass for 2-year-old fillies. Todd Pletcher, bidding for an unprecedented 15th straight training title, needs help to get off to early lead with Shanghai Jewel on the also-eligible list.
Laurel Park. Race 1. 12:30 p.m. Sherini, last seen finishing fifth in 10-furlong turf allowance at Belmont in September 2016, makes return against No Picnic in 1 1/16-mile allowance on the main track.
Gulfstream. Race 2. 12:30. The first Claiming Crown event is the $110,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares who started for $12,500 or less since Jan. 1, 2016. Delusional K K makes first start off $25,000 claim for Mike Maker and the king and queen of the Claiming Crown, Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
Gulfstream. Race 3. 1:00. Who says horses don’t run as much as they used to? Pete Marwick makes start No. 9 of 2017 in 7 1/2-furlong maiden on the grass, while City Edition makes seventh out of the year.
Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:30. The $110,000 Claiming Crown Express is 6-furlong event for horses who ran for $8,000 or less lifetime. Blings Express, who is 21-for-74 lifetime with 23 seconds and six thirds, brings back-to-back victories in allowance-optional heats at Gulfstream Park West.
Fair Grounds. Race 1. 2:00. Joe Sharp sends out formidable entry of Wyeth and Aktabantay in the opener, a 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance. The former was claimed for $62,500 last time at Keeneland while the latter comes off good third in similar race on soft ground in Lexington.
Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:00. Time for the turf with the $110,000 Claiming Crown Distaff Dash going 5 furlongs. A little richer group, those who started for $25,000 or less since last year are eligible. We’ll go with Eila, 5-for-6 in the exacta on the grass at Gulfstream for Ralph Nicks.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 2:06. Highway Star looks to rebound from 11th in Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint against the Chad Brown-trained duo of Jamyson ‘n Ginger and Going For Broke in Grade 3 Go For Wand. Field of seven for 1-mile event also includes Verve’s Tale, runner-up in Grade 3 Turnback The Alarm; and Grade 2 winner and last-out stakes winner Lucy N Ethel.
Mahoning Valley Race Course. Race 5. 2:06. Nine Ohio-bred 2-year-olds for the $75,000 Joshua Radosevich Memorial. Named for the young jockey killed in a spill at Beulah Park in 2005, 6-furlong stakes is a puzzler with four maidens and morning-line favorite – Rosco P. Coltrane – named for a bumbling character in the Dukes of Hazard television series.
Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:30. One of the favorites, the $110,000 Claiming Crown Iron Horse for older horses who started for $8,000 or less lifetime. This group has certainly been around the block. Chepstow won it last year for Ralph Ziadie, while Rich Daddy comes in off victories in two of his last three at Saratoga and Churchill for Eddie Kenneally.
Mahoning Valley. Race 6. 2:34. Second of two Ohio-bred stakes on the card is $75,000 Bobbie Bricker Memorial, named for the late member of the Ohio HBPA.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 6. 2:52. March, winner of the Grade 2 Woody Stephens and Grade 3 Bay Shore as a 3-year-old in 2015, makes first start for Jonathan Thomas and first since last January in 5-furlong turf allowance-optional. Four of his six opponents are for the $100,000 tag.
Hawthorne Race Course. Race 3. 2:55. State-bred 2-year-old fillies stretch out in $50,000 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante. Richie’slilwildcat is heavy favorite on the line off victory over each of her five opponents in state-bred stakes going 6 furlongs. Can anyone turn the table? How about Cowgirl Callie, daughter of Cowboy Cal who finished third last time and might appreciate the extra ground.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:12. John Servis sends out a pair of fillies who are 2-for-2 to start their careers in Daisy and Maurer Power against Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies sixth Wonder Gadot in the Grade 2 Demoiselle. Indy Union figures to like the added ground off maiden win going one-turn mile at Belmont.
Parx Racing. Race 8. 3:34. Quick, name the last winner of the Pennsylvania Nursery to win the Kentucky Derby. All right, maybe that was an easy one. The 2017 renewal, worth $100,000, looks like good spot for Prince Lucky to land first stakes victory. Still stumped? It was Smarty Jones.
Fair Grounds. Race 4. 3:34. First division of the $50,000 Richard Scherer Memorial. Nice tribute for the track to name a race for a great guy.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:00. The $110,000 Claiming Crown Canterbury, a 5-furlong turf event for older horses who ran for $25,000 or less since last year, is nod to original home of this event. Pay Any Price looks like class of the group, which two stakes wins this season, and he should be fresh off five-month layoff.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:30. Remember Cautious Giant? The rabbit for the Whitney who lost a shoe that wound up stuck in the tail of eventual winner and probable Horse of the Year Gun Runner is one of 14 entered in the $110,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit.
Woodbine. Race 6. 3:36. Sovereign Award implications in the $100,000 Display for 2-year-olds. Archaggelos, winner of the Grade 3 Grey in October, returns from Maryland for Michael Dickinson, while Sable Island and Admiralty Pier try to put their names in the mix off 1-2 finish in local allowance.
Aqueduct. Race 9. 3:45. Avery Island looks to add Grade 2 Remsen to score last month in the Grade 2 Nashua. Son of Street Sense again faces Biblical, after beating that foe two back in Belmont maiden race. Chad Brown won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a maiden and tries to win this $250,000 stakes with another, the Tapit colt Alkhaatam. Mid-Atlantic shippers Tap Rap Strike and Vouch also merit respect off strong maiden scores.
Tampa Bay. Race 8. 3:52. Jaunt, winless in 10 starts at Saratoga, Aqueduct, Belmont, Gulfstream, Keeneland and Churchill, takes show to Oldsmar for 1-mile maiden. We’ll say it a lot this winter, small purses with good fields in grass races at Tampa.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:00. A dozen entered in $125,000 Claiming Crown Tiara, a 1 1/16-mile turf event for fillies and mares who started for $25,000 or less since last year. Dynatail ran in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks four starts back and was stakes-placed at Parx two starts back. Martini Glass finished second last time in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland, and Sharship Jubilee won the Grade 2 Dance Smartly and Grade 2 Nassau this season at Woodbine. Several others – Temple Fur, Valedictorian, Arthemisa, Judy’s Chance, Vendita, Flattermefabulous, Quebec and Gianna’s Dream all sport stakes experience this year.
Aqueduct. Race 10. 4:16. The day’s feature, the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap attracts a field of 10 that includes Sharp Azetca and Practical Joke, second and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and Mind Your Biscuits, third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Tom’s Ready ships in from Kentucky for Dallas Stewart while Mark Hennig tries to keep Beasley on track after a third in Grade 3 Bold Ruler.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:30. The thing about Black Tide is what you see is what you get. He likes to wing it on the front end and no doubt will try again in the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald for Dave Cannizzo. New York-bred son of Hold Me Back won the Mohawk last time that way and is 5-for-9 on the year.
Woodbine. Race 8. 4:42. Mr Havercamp, one of our favorites from the summer at Saratoga, returns to the main track for $125,000 Sir Barton after back-to-back stakes wins on the grass. Fifth in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga, son of Court Vision handled synthetic in debut back in July.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:00. The featured $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel, for older horses who started for $35,000 or less since last year is also a collection of stakes winners and proven stakes competitors. Gigantic Breeze ships in from Woodbine with a 5-for-7 record this year, including victories in the Presque Isle Mile and Grade 2 Autumn in last two starts. And don’t count out Turco Bravo, who makes third start off the claim for Dave Cannizzo. He’s a stakes winner, but might want more than the 9 furlongs on tap.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:35. Don’t let Contributing go at a price close to her morning-line odds of 12-1 in the second division of the Richard Scherer Memorial.
Turfway Park. Race 1. 6:15. Now this is a drop. Hep To Go, off the board in two maiden special weight races at Keeneland and Churchill, runs for $7,500 in 6-furlong opener.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 6:45. Not too early to start thinking about the Northern California classic preps and it all starts with the $75,000 Gold Rush going 1 mile. Ayacara and City Plan were no match for Bolt d’Oro in the Grade 1 FrontRunner and ship in from Santa Anita looking for an easier spot.
Charles Town Races. Race 8. 10:19. We told you there was a stakes at Charles Town. If you’re still going strong take a gander at the $50,000 Eleanor Casey Memorial for state-bred 2-year-olds going 7 furlongs. The Casey family is represented by three entrants – 6-5 favorite Bound To Windsor, B’s Wild Cork and Imagoodchatterbug.