The unrelenting winter of 2018 continued this week but the show goes on in warmer climes – and maybe some cold ones, too – with another busy day of racing previewed in The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.
Fair Grounds takes top billing this week with a slew of stakes on its Saturday card, led by the Grade 3 Lecomte for would-be Kentucky Derby hopefuls and the Silverbulletday for those looking at the Kentucky Oaks. Gulfstream, Tampa and Santa Anita, where snow and ice isn’t a factor, also present strong cards while Laurel and Aqueduct look to get into the mix after losing some days to start the year.
Charles Town Races is a no-go with management already scrapping the Saturday card Friday morning. Whether Turfway, Mahoning Valley and even Aqueduct can give it a go might depend on, ahem, the weather. The jump season is in full swing overseas and we’re pretty confident there won’t be a cancelation on that front.
Anyway, here’s your primer for Saturday, Jan. 13. Enjoy, stay warm and good luck.
Kempton. Race 1. 7:20 a.m. Redicean romped in his hurdle debut, he tries to throw his hat into a narrow ring of quality juveniles in Britain.
Punchestown. Race 2. 8:00. You think America has super trainers? Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott account for six out of the seven starters in this Grade 3 chase. Rachael Blackmore gets a rare opportunity from Mullins, she rides Arbre De Vie.
Kempton. Race 4. 9:05. Oh, the veterans – Josses Hill, Smad Place, Ballybolley and Art Mauresque take on the youngster, Waiting Patiently. He’s 7(!) and riding a five-race win streak.
Punchestown. Race 4. 9:10. Mengli Khan ran through the wing when favored at Leopardstown in December. With Davy Russell aboard, he’ll be straight and true here.
Kempton. Race 5. 9:40. No trainer is as dangerous as Dr. Richard Newland. He unveils Le Patriote, a two-time winner in France, for his British debut in this handicap hurdle.
Warwick. Race 5. 10:00. No trainer is loaded like Nicky Henderson. He sends out the undefeated Mr Whipped in this Grade 2 novice hurdle.
Warwick. Race 6. 10:35. Nigel Twiston Davies is loaded, sending out Cogry and Ballycross in the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Handicap Chase. On The Road could make up for his blunder in the Coral Welsh National.
Aqueduct. Race 1. 12:20 p.m. Racing resumed in New York briefly Friday – it was canceled after the second due to fog – after an extended dark period due to the weather. Saturday’s opener is a 10-furlong claimer for $12,500 tags.
Laurel Park. Race 1. 12:30. The action also returned to Laurel Sunday after a few cancellations and three days went off without a hitch before Saturday’s nine-race card that starts with a $10,000 maiden claimer.
Turfway Park. Race 1. 1:15. Seems unlikely they’ll run in Northern Kentucky after Friday’s wintery mess in the area, but stranger things happen this time of year.
Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:20. Flash Trading exits solid win going 7 furlongs and meets Pioneer Spirit on step up the ladder in 1-mile allowance.
Laurel. Race 3. 1:30. Horacio DePaz struck at a 25.2-percent clip in 2017. He looks for first win from third start of 2018 with Dictate Cool, 3-year-old son of Curlin who makes debut in 5 1/2-furlong maiden.
Fair Grounds. Race 1. 2:00. Big day starts with 1-mile maiden on the grass for 3-year-olds.
Aqueduct. Race 5. 2:20. State-breds finally get their chance in $100,000 Say Florida Sandy. The first four from the Hudson – Ostrolenka, Eye Luve Lulu, Pat On The Back and Celtic Chaos – are back along with My Boy Tate. Late-developing son of Boys At Tosconova comes in with three blowout victories in last three for Michele Nevin.
Fair Grounds. Race 2. 2:32. Another big field awaits in 1-mile allowance on the grass for fillies and mares. How good is Magic Joan? She’ll find out in this spot breaking from post 12 against 11 others.
Gulfstream Park. Race 7. 3:00. Jeremiah Englehart was high on the Maclean’s Music colt Dirty before he made his debut late in the Saratoga meet and he’s run well in his first two starts, including last time against the graded stakes-bound Mask in a Belmont maiden. He shortens up just a touch for 6-furlong maiden here against the likes of Magnum Moon, Big Zillion and Raising The Flag.
Laurel. Race 6. 3:00. Too Awesome was just that in debut in September 2016 then not so much in first start in more than a year in December. Awesome Again colt looks to redeem from outside post in 1-mile allowance.
Fair Grounds. Race 3. 3:03. Tapability, son of Tapit and the first foal out of champion Groupie Doll, makes debut for Mandy Pope and Buff Bradley going 6 furlongs.
Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:30. Weather, what weather? The opener in sunny (most likely) California is 1-mile turf maiden for older females.
Fair Grounds. Race 4. 3:34. Ron Moquett is a fan of Anthony’s Cross. He talked up one colt last summer at Saratoga in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour and runs another, Messiah, in this 1-mile maiden on the grass. John Velazquez takes the mount.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50. Would-be Gotham and Wood Memorial hopefuls step up for $150,000 Jerome. No longer a graded stakes, the 1-mile race does offer 10 points to the winner for a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Firenze Fire, winner of the Grade 1 Champagne and Grade 3 Sanford last year for Jason Servis, is the name horse in the eight-horse field while Seven Trumpets and Coltandmississippi ship in from Florida in search of points.
Laurel. Race 8. 4:00. Sagamore Farm homebred Shoe Loves Shoe, gelded since his last appearance in Jimmy Winkfield Stakes last February at Aqueduct, returns in restricted 6-furlong allowance.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:00. Dream Dancing, 2-for-2 on the Gulfstream turf last year, makes first start against older in 2018 debut in the Grade 3 Marshua’s River. Gianna’s Dream, Abbreviate and Ultra Beat look like the main threats.
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:05. First stakes of the day is $75,000 Duncan F. Kenner. Yockey’s Warrior handled some of these in Thanksgiving Handicap in November and looks tough again.
Oaklawn Park. Race 5. 4:08. Racing is back in Hot Springs and so is Ezmosh, sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and sixth as the favorite in the restricted Spendthrift Juvenile last fall in Kentucky. Son of Tizway draws rail for 1-mile allowance that also attracts Breeders’ Futurity runner-up Bravazo and Dream Baby Dream.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 9. 4:25. Can’t let an allowance on the grass slip past, even if it’s not the best one you’ll see this winter.
Santa Anita. Race 3. 4:30. Bob Baffert sends out three – Curly’s Rocket, Botero and Nero – of the eight entered in 5 1/2-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds. Nero, a $950,000 Pioneerof The Nile colt from the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, just lost in debut after opening up in the stretch.
Turfway. Race 7. 4:32. Now here’s an interesting entry. Silentio, a multiple graded stakes winner who finished third in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile behind Wise Dan and Za Approval, runs for $40,000 tag in 1-mile allowance-optional. He showed up locally last month, finishing sixth for a $50,000 tag in his first start in nearly two years.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:35. Fillies and mares go 1 1/16 miles on the grass in $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial. Again, clues might come from prep late last year. Giada Vegas won her fourth straight in Blushing K D and looks to handle Joyous Thunder, Shes A True Beauty, Vagabond Princess, Princess Erindelle and Majestic Angel again.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:00. The Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale marks the 2018 debut of the popular Heart To Heart. Brian Lynch said last fall he hopes to “bang one out one way or another before it’s over,” referring to a Grade 1 stakes for the 7-year-old son of English Channel. They tried in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, losing by just 3 lengths when 10th in his last start. Shining Copper and Shakhimat also like it on the front end so it might set up for a closer like All Included.
Santa Anita. Race 4. 5:02. Gio’s Calling makes first start for George Weaver after racing exclusively on the East Coast and in his most recent start at Del Mar for Brian Lynch. Son of Gio Ponti draws inside for 9-furlong turf allowance led by A Red Tie Day, who is 5-for-10 on the course.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:05. Connections of Wonder Gadot entered Medaglia d’Oro filly in this spot – the $150,000 Silverbulletday – and against the boys in the Grade 3 Lecomte later on the card. Looks like they’ll go against the fillies off workmanlike victory in Grade 2 Demoiselle last month at Aqueduct. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies third Blonde Bomber, stablemate Heavenly Love and America’s Tale look like the main opposition.
Oaklawn. Race 7. 5:09. Second division of split 1-mile allowance for 3-year-olds looks like good spot for New York Central’s first start against winners after easy win on the final day of Churchill Downs fall meet.
Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:30. Star Wars fans will like Eye Of A Jedi, son of Eye Of The Leopard, in 1 1/16-mile grass allowance for 3-year-olds. He’s 20-1 and it looks like Maraud is the one to beat off back-to-back thirds in stakes.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:35. The ageless Dimension, a stakes winner at 5, 6, 8 and 9, looks to become rare 10-year-old stakes winner in $125,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap.
Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Terra Promessa, part of the thrill-fest that was the three-horse Grade 3 Shuvee last summer at Saratoga, meets Farrell, Streamline, Ever So Clever and seven others in $125,000 Pippin Stakes.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:03. The big race of the day is the Grade 3 Lecomte, which offers $200,000 and 10 points to the winner toward the Kentucky Derby. Not surprising there’s a full field of 14 – with Trigger Warning likely to draw in with the expected scratch of Wonder Gadot. Jerry Hollendorfer ships Instilled Regard, put up to third in Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity last time, from California to meet the Larry Jones-trained trio of Kowboy Karma, Believe In Royalty and Prince Lucky. Principe Guilherme, son of Tapit out of graded stakes winner Aubby K, ran to his pedigree in only two starts and might be the best of the group.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Always look for hints in the 3-year-old maiden races that frequently close the Saturday cards in Hot Springs.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 6:34. Because what’s better than another stakes after the main event? Here’s the $75,000 Louisiana for 4-year-olds and up.
Fair Grounds. Race 11. 7:04. They’re not done yet in New Orleans. Conquistador should relish chance to stretch out in 1-mile and 70-yard maiden for Coolmore, trainer Mark Casse and new American citizen Julien Leparoux.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:10. Mopotism chased Unique Bella and Paradise Woods last time in the Grade 1 La Brea. She won’t face the likes of those two in Grade 2 La Canada. It’s still a decent field with Majestic Heat, Mended and Union Strike in the mix.
Fair Grounds. Race 12. 7:34. Eight state-bred fillies and mares for 6-furlong allowance in penultimate race of the day.
Fair Grounds. Race 13. 8:04. The one you’ve been waiting for all day, state-bred $10,000 maiden claimer.