Our sincerest sympathies go to all affected and our admiration to those who helped in any way during the horrific events that played out at San Luis Training Center Thursday into Friday. Hopefully the continuation of racing in California and beyond will provide some respite from the tragedy. A busy day is on tap and The Saratoga Special presented by Pin Oak Stud sets the stage.
The day’s action includes a pair of Grade 1 stakes for 2-year-olds at Los Alamitos – the CashCall Futurity and Starlet – along with first Clasico del Caribe outside the Caribbean and six additional stakes at Gulfstream Park, Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds, four stakes at Laurel Park and closing weekend action at Woodbine. The jumpers lead off overseas, as always this time of year, and we tacked on a little extra with an old favorite from Woodbine and the Hong Kong International Races card from Sha Tin.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, Dec. 9. Be safe and enjoy.
Navan. Race 1. 7:20 a.m. Contentious maiden opens the card.
Aintree. Race 4. 8:30. Now that was a prep. The Last Samuri reverted to hurdles and finished second at Kempton. He carries 166 pounds in the Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase.
Sandown. Race 4. 8:45. Another solid card at Sandown. Brain Power relished his chase debut, winning by 28 lengths, under David Mullins. They go stakes hunting here and the water is way deeper as they take on the likes of Finian’s Oscar, Sceau Royal, North Hill Harvey and Capitaine, who have combined to win eight of their last eight starts.
Navan. Race 4. 9:00. Tombstone looks home and hosed for Gigginstown, Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy in the Klairon Davis Novice Chase.
Aintree. Race 5. 9:05. Malaya trounced the boys at Wetherby, she returns against juvenile fillies for this listed contest.
Sandown. Race 5. 9:20. The ever-crafty Arthur Moore goes on the road with Crossed My Mind for this listed handicap hurdle.
Aintree. Race 6. 9:35. Take a moment and remember the gallant Many Clouds. Here’s his race, a Grade 2 chase that attracts a group he would have loved. Alpha Des Obeaux, Definitly Red, Cloudy Dream and Flying Angel will try to climb the ladder.
Sandown. Race 6. 9:55. One of the best races of the season, the Tingle Creek Chase. Named after the American wunderkind who took his game on the road, this is a classic renewal of the 2-mile chase as Fox Norton, Charbel and Politologue clash.
Navan. Race 6. 10:05. Acapella Bourgeois was the gamble of the day at Navan in November, he fell early. He tries to recoup the punters money here.
Sandown. Race 7. 10:30. Sugar Baron wins this. Go to the window.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 11:50. Clasico del Caribe card starts with the first of six $75,000 stakes, the Hut Hut for 2-year-old fillies going 1 mile. My Favorite Gift blasted a field of maidens in off-the-turf race at Gulfstream Park West and cuts back to two turns for Gustavo Delgado. Sure signs of winter with Mark Casse and Todd Pletcher with major players in the field.
Gulfstream. Race 2. 12:17 p.m. Two-year-old fillies take the turf for 1-mile Wait A While. Stainless, runner-up to Rushing Fall in Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland, returns to the grass after distant 10th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar.
Aqueduct. Race 1. 12:20. State-bred maidens go 1 mile in the opener. No more inner track at the Big A; nice to see variety of distances available in the winter months.
Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:44. Mojovation takes step down the ladder for $75,000 Buffalo Man after tries in Grade 1 Hopeful and Grade 3 Futurity in New York for Todd Pletcher. Son of Quality Road broke his maiden first out at Saratoga and looks tough in 6-furlong heat.
Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:12. Courageous Queen and Take Charge Paula look tough from outside posts in $75,000 House Party for 2-year-old fillies.
Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:40. Todd Pletcher sends out two – Sapling winner Bal Harbor and the 2-for-3 Coltandmississippi – in $75,000 Smooth Air going 1 mile.
Fair Grounds. Race 1. 2:00. Louisiana Champions Day starts with the Grade 2 Champions Day Quarter Horse Classic going 440 yards.
Laurel Park. Race 4. 2:00. Clever Mind ran huge breaking his maiden in debut in Maryland Million Nursery and son of Buffum looks to lock of state-bred title in $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity.
Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:09. Maraud just missed when third in Grade 3 Pilgrim and looks tough in $75,000 Pulpit going 1 mile on the grass. Field also includes Pont Du Gard, who should come from well back off good back-to-back races in Kentucky for Ignacio Correas IV and Diane Perkins.
Woodbine. Race 4. 2:26. The training title locked up, now the only question for Mark Casse is how close will he get to 100 wins at the meet? He went into Friday with 93 and with runners in seven races the final three days it most likely won’t happen. Still a great accomplishment and he goes for another here with Think Magic and Blissful Breeze (on the AE list) in 1 1/16-mile maiden for 2-year-old fillies.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 5. 2:35. High-profile connections compete for small purse in turf allowance; so what else is new? Phipps, Godolphin, The Elkstone Group among owners with entries in 1 1/16-mile event.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:39. Opening stakes of the proper portion of the Clasico del Caribe card is the $124,000 Lady Caribbean Cup.
Wolverhampton. Race 5. 2:45. Sound And Silence, fresh off a runner-up effort in the Qatar Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes at Del Mar, returns for his 10th start this year. Yes, 10th start.
Laurel. Race 6. 3:00. What do you get when you put three Kentucky-breds, two Maryland-breds, an Oklahoma-bred, New Jersey-bred, New York-bred and Ontario-bred in the same race? The $100,000 Willa On The Move of course.
Laurel. Race 7. 3:30. Limited View seemed to overcome her paddock troubles from Saratoga with back-to-back victories back home in Maryland, including win last time in Maryland Million Lassie. Daughter of Freedom Child is one of the key players in $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship.
Parx Racing. Race 8. 3:34. Ostrolenka continues to go strong late in 5-year-old campaign. New York-bred has put together record of 2-4-2 and earnings of nearly $200,000 from 10 starts heading into 6 1/2-furlong allowance.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:47. Quezon, entered and scratched for the second straight year out of the Keeneland November sale, renews rivalry with Absatootly in $100,000 Garland of Roses. Those two finished 1-2, with Absatootly a half-length in front, last time in Iroquois on Empire Showcase Day. This time it’s open company.
Laurel. Race 8. 4:00. Lewisfield brings three-race win streak – two at Laurel – back to Maryland for $75,000 Howard M. Bender Memorial.
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:05. Andthebandplayedon is the first of three offspring of Star Guitar to go on the card for Al Stall Jr. She’s 7-2 on the line for the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie, with Mint To Stardom and Yes Gorgeous the main opposition.
Hawthorne Race Course. Race 6. 4:25. Illinois-bred 2-year-olds stretch 1 1/16 miles for $50,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity. Pass The Gravy won the prep for Larry Rivelli and should handle the added distance.
Woodbine. Race 8. 4:26. Penultimate stakes of the season is $125,000 Kingarvie (see below for special bonus on the final stakes). Sovereign Award might be in the balance for Be Vewy Vewy Quiet, Silent Sting, Royal Laser and a few others in 1 1/16-mile event restricted to Ontario-sired 2-year-olds.
Los Alamitos Race Course. Race 3. 4:28. Field of five relegates $300,000 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity to early on the card. One of final Grade 1s of the year will receive a bit more exposure on the East Coast, not that there’s any championships on the line. Solomini, second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and McKinzie, an impressive maiden winner Breeders’ Cup Week, look to provide Bob Baffert fourth straight win and 10th win overall in the race. Some of his other winners – Real Quiet, Captain Steve and Point Given among them – came when it was the Hollywood Futurity.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:35. Inveniam Viam and Dontmesswithjoanne, 1-3 in small stakes in mid-November, meet again in $100,000 Champions Day Ladies going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:45. The feature race of the day is $300,000 Clasico del Caribe, open to 3-year-olds bred in a representative country of the Confederacion Hipica Del Caribe. The race, featuring Puerto Rico Triple Crown winner Justiciero, will be run for the first time outside of Latin America and the Caribbean since its inception in 1966.
Los Alamitos. Race 4. 4:58. The 2-year-old fillies take their turn in $300,000 Starlet and not surprising that Bob Baffert holds strong hand in this one, too. He sends out unbeaten Dream Tree, winner of the Desi Arnaz last time at Del Mar, against Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies fifth Piedi Bianchi and sharp debut winner War Heroine in 1 1/16-mile tilt.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:35. Fort Pulaski, Trust Factor and Extra Credit finished 1-2-4 in the Mr. Sulu and they’re back for more in $100,000 Champions Day Turf.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:05. Divine Bean rolled in debut at Fair Grounds Nov. 18 and looks to give Star Guitar and Al Stall another winner in $100,000 Champions Day Juvenile. Another Star Guitar, Aceguitar, should not to be tossed.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 6:15. Looks like even field for $75,000 Bear Fan for California-bred fillies and mares.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 6:35. Extra Credit – entered in Champions Day Turf – would return to the main track is he goes in $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic for Brad Cox. Underpressure, Grande Basin, Mobile Bay and Mageez would vie for favoritism if he doesn’t go. Mobile Bay comes off lengthy layoff in title defense.
Fair Grounds. Race 11. 7:05. Stand Him Up, 4-for-6 in New Orleans and on a two-race win streak, is one of 10 entered in $100,000 Champions Day Sprint.
Fair Grounds. Race 12. 7:35. My Miss Cliff, third two starts back in Grade 3 Miss Preakness and winner of the Happy Ticket last time locally, meets familiar foes Wheatfield, Look Into My Eyes, Fairwell Tax Break in $100,000 Champions Day Ladies Sprint.
Fair Grounds. Race 13. 8:05. The day isn’t over yet, stay tuned for state-bred 2-year-old maidens going 6 furlongs.
Because we can’t get enough, we tacked on a few extra races. Enjoy!
Sha Tin. Race 4. 1:00 a.m. Clash of the last two Breeders’ Cup Turf winners – 2016 winner Highland Reel and 2017 winner Talismanic – in the $2,318,542 Longines Hong Kong Vase. The first of four Group 1s, the Vase is also the longest at 12 furlongs on the grass. Don’t count out Sir Michael Stoute with the mare Smart Call.
Sha Tin. Race 5. 1:40. Stormy Liberal, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at 31-1 last month, carries the flag for the U.S. and fire-ravaged California in the $2,382,946 Longines Hong Kong Sprint. Stormy Atlantic gelding is the lone American-based runner on the card; that seems strange since it used to be a fairly frequent travel spot.
Sha Tin. Race 7. 2:50. Lancaster Bomber tries to improve on second in last month’s Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar for trainer Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore team in the $2,962,581 Longines Hong Kong Mile. Ryan Moore takes over for Seamus Heffernan, who rides the 3-year-old filly Roly Poly. Hugh Bowman, crowned with the Longines World’s Best Jockey Award Friday, rides Satonoa Aladdin for Japan.
Sha Tin. Race 8. 3:30. Set the alarm or stay up late for the featured $3,220,197 Longines Hong Kong Cup. The Europeans are well represented in 1 1/4-mile test with War Decree, ninth in Breeders’ Cup Classic; Blond Me, winner of the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor at Woodbine in October; and Poet’s World, the remarkably consistent runner-up in the Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot for Sir Michael Stoute.
Woodbine. Race 10. 5:40 p.m. The Grade 3 Valedictory brings the meet to a close in Toronto. Always one of our favorites, the 1 3/4-mile stamina test is a rematch of last year’s superfecta with Bangkok, Melmich, Ethical Funds and English Illusion. Motivational returns to the synthetic off prep at the Montpelier Hunt Races, while Leavem In Malibu and Kasseopia give Mark Casse a strong hand.