Call it what you will – bombogeneis, Bomb Cyclone, Polar Vortex, the deep freeze – the lingering effects of this week’s Nor’easter wreaked havoc on the racing schedules for tracks in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The show goes on elsewhere and this week’s edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud ushers in the New Year with top racing from southern and western venues to keep you distracted while hunkered down on the couch.
Gulfstream Park rolls out another stakes-filled card featuring five races worth $75,000 to $100,000 while Santa Anita Park runs the Grade 3 Sham for 3-year-old would-be classic contenders and the Grade 2 San Gabriel for older horses on the grass. Aside from that it’s a fairly light rundown, with small stakes at Delta Downs and Fair Grounds in Louisiana.
Fear not, the weather forecast is calling for a warm-up early next week so look for Aqueduct and Laurel Park to spring back into action along with a Derby prep at Fair Grounds and opening weekend at Oaklawn Park.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, Jan. 6. Take care, stay warm and good luck.
Sandown. Race 1. 7:15. We Have A Dream looked strong in the Grade 1 Coral Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle but he has preference at Chepstow. Echo Wat should relish the testing ground.
Chepstow. Race 3. 8:35. Freak French-bred. We Have A Dream has stomped all rivals in two starts since joining Nicky Henderson’s arsenal. He makes it three in a row here.
Chepstow. Race 4. 9:05. The Racing Post described this one with the delicate words – True grit: National heroes among hardy souls set to tackle Chepstow slogfest. The Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase was postponed. The conditions have not improved as the stamina-laden legends stretch 3 5/8-miles over the big fences on heavy ground.
Sandown. Race 5. 9:25. Big. Strong. And fast. Kalashnikov is undefeated in three starts for Paul and Amy Murphy. He steps up the ladder in the Tolworth Novice’s Hurdle.
Sandown. Race 6. 10:00. A great initiative started in England a few years ago, the veterans’ division. There is no veteran in any sphere like Pete The Feat. The 11-time winner turned 14 on January 1. He won his most recent start, over the same course, on Dec. 8. Legend.
Chepstow. Race 7. 10:55. Gwalia wins the finale.
Gulfstream Park. Race 3. 1:05 p.m. Six entered for $75,000 Limehouse, open to 3-year-olds who haven’t won a stakes. Red Kan, Aequor, Piven and Dial One have come close.
Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:05. The $75,000 Glitter Woman features similar conditions to Limehouse, only for 3-year-old fillies. Others Will Follow, Cicatrix and Elevenses all exit blowout maiden victories.
Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:35. Full field of 3-year-olds for 1-mile maiden on the grass. The gang’s all here with offspring of Tapit, War Front, Malibu Moon, Distorted Humor and Medaglia d’Oro. Don’t sleep on Lisa Lewis’ Detroit George, first-time starter by Mizzen Mast.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 6. 2:55. It’s warm in Tampa, too, and there’s turf. Oh, the turf. Here’s a 1-mile maiden for 3-year-old fillies with a purse of $22,500 and runners from Chris Block, Graham Motion and Arnaud Delacour.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:05. Staying on the grass – what else? – for the $100,000 Kitten’s Joy. Flameaway, winner of the off-the-turf Grade 3 Bourbon to earn a spot in the field for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, looks to improve on eighth that day at Del Mar against the likes of Speed Franco, Fast Boat and Power Of Attorney.
Kempton. Race 6. 3:15. Gwafa looked like he could be any kind at one time. Waves of water have gone under and over his bridge since winning the Grade 3 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Haydock in 2016. The 7-year-old makes his return in this 2-mile handicap over the synthetic surface.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:35. Todd Pletcher unveils Uncle Mo firster Life’s A Parlay for owners Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable against what looks like solid group of 3-year-olds for 7-furlong maiden on the main track.
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:05. No Cacha Na, Chilean-bred filly by Johannesburg’s son Grand Daddy, makes U.S. debut for Tom Proctor in 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:06. Best of luck figuring out this puzzle, the $100,000 Ginger Brew for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:37. Winter weather up north certainly makes everyone dream about warmer weather and the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man will make most at least think for a little while about the spring classics. Eight sophomores look to get on the path to the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby in 1-mile test, including debut-winning Tapit colt Mask and the 2-for-2 Ellis Park Juvenile winner Dak Attack. And don’t count out two-time stakes winner Bal Harbour.
Tampa. Race 10. 4:55. Finale is second division of same 3-year-old filly turf maiden and it might feature an even stronger field.
Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 5:02. Ever So True returns to maiden ranks after close fifth in Grade 3 Jimmy Durante in late November at Del Mar. Son of Animal Kingdom finished second in 1-mile turf maiden two back and stretches out to 9 furlongs for this spot.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:05. Newly turned 3-year-olds go 1 mile on the turf. United Patriot and Ride A Comet will attraction attention in their grass debuts but Shared Value, maiden winner at the track and trip Nov. 23, is the one to beat.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 4. 5:19. Evening Jazz, second in four straight starts, looks to shed bridesmaid role in 1-mile maiden on the grass. Cinnamon Twist and In The Jeans ship up from Santa Anita looking to play spoiler.
Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:34. The first Kentucky Derby points race of 2018 – following the postponement of Aqueduct’s Jerome from New Year’s Day to Jan. 13 – is the Grade 3 Sham. McKinzie, winner via DQ in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, takes on stablemate Mourinho and five others.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:03. Rapid Rhythm puts 6-for-6 mark on the local turf course on the line in $50,000 Pan Zareta. Daughter of Successful Appeal won similar stakes in early December last time for Michael Stidham and must contend again with Contributing, Miss Gossip, Note Delite and Nobody’s Fault from same race along with a few from the other division of the same fixture.
Turfway Park. Race 1. 6:15. Racing was canceled in Northern Kentucky Friday; we’ll have to wait and see if the eight-race card goes Saturday night.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:38. Good group for the co-featured Grade 2 San Gabriel, including Isotherm making his first start for Phil D’Amato, distance specialist Itsinthepost, two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic participant Win The Space and the consistent Flamboyant.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:42. Fillies and mares go 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill in the finale.
Turfway. Race 5. 8:15. Precious Luck, daughter of Successful Appeal trained by Wesley Ward, makes her debut from post 12 in 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies.
Turfway. Race 6. 8:45. Lady Stardust, last seen breaking her maiden in April of her 2-year-old season, makes return in 6-furlong allowance for Wesley Ward. Daughter of Union Rags drew the rail in field of eight.
Delta Downs. Race 8. 9:55. Click over from the NFL wild card game between the Falcons and Rams for this 5-furlong allowance.
Delta. Race 9. 10:22. The night’s feature is the $65,000 B-Connected, a 1-mile event for Louisiana-bred 4-year-olds and up who have never won a stakes.