A Kentucky Derby prep and the return of a champion at Tampa Bay Downs, a Grade 1 turf stakes at Gulfstream Park and another champion in action at Santa Anita Park headline a monster day of action previewed in this week’s edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.
The Sam F. Davis is the key Derby prep of the weekend at Tampa, with Catholic Boy looking to show his early December win in the Remsen in his main-track debut was no fluke. Elsewhere in Florida older middle-distance specialists chase an elusive Grade 1 in the Gulfstream Park Turf; a rare opportunity to avoid champion World Approval as he returns at Tampa.
Out on the West Coast it’s Unique Bella stretching back out to two turns against an overmatched field in the Santa Maria. She’s less than two weeks removed from being named champion female sprinter but don’t forget she’s won going a route of ground on two occasions.
The day also features stakes action at Aqueduct, Oaklawn and Golden Gate and everything starts early with jump racing overseas. By our count we’ve previewed nearly 60 races, all in less than 2,300 words. We even included the mandatory races for the 2018 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship and Tito’s Charity Challenge, where The Saratoga Special’s John Shapazian, Sean Clancy, Joe Clancy and Tom Law are in the field. Good luck and enjoy.
Newbury. Race 2. 8:50 a.m. The sky was once the limit for Barters Hill. The once prolific hurdler tries to get back in the air here, returning for his first start since 2016.
Newbury. Race 3. 9:25. Newbury struggled with quantity but not quality. Native River makes his first start since finishing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He takes on two rivals.
Warwick. Race 3. 9:40. Solid Saturday card at Warwick. This Grade 2 novice chase attracts the promising Saint Calvados who should handle North Hill Harvey, Diego Du Charmil and Drumcliff.
Newbury. Race 4. 10:00. Just three line up here, but, wow what a three. Altior, the Arkle winner. Politologue , the Tingle Creek winner. And Valdez, the house horse.
Warwick. Race 4. 10:15. Seven tough chasers clash in this handicap chase. Kylemore Lough has chased the likes of Un De Sceaux, Splash Of Ginge, Fox Norton and Many Clouds in his last four.
Newbury. Race 5. 10:35. The Race of the Day. The Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle. Awesome renewal of an always-scintillating race. We’ve been fans of Kalashnikov since his bumper win. Use Silver Streak in your exotics.
Lingfield. Race 6. 11:05. Improving group of 3-year-olds sprint in this handicap.
Warwick. Race 6. 11:20. Tragic. Grade 3 winner Fountains Windfall looked like a lock in this novice chase, but the 8-year-old died while schooling Friday morning. It’s not how you want to become a favorite in a race, but Solighoster, owned by The Colony Stable and Dajam LTD, became the 1-6 favorite. Tough game.
Newbury. Race 7. 11:40. Keep an eye on Thistle Do Nicely in this deep bumper.
Warwick. Race 7. 11:50. We scored with Vado Forte in January. He was 14-1 that day. He’s 8/5 Saturday. We’ll watch.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 2. 12:44 p.m. Early allowance on the grass features interesting group that includes Puerto Rican import Deland, ex-graded stakes competitor Rafting, Twocubanbrothersu and Gorgeous Bird.
Naas. Race 7. 1:55. The quality of racing in Ireland takes a dramatic downturn after the Festival last week, but take a good long look at this bumper. We like Feelin’ Groovy, especially if the ground isn’t too heavy. Of course, it’s raining.
Tampa. Race 5. 2:15. The Trump Way, a gelding by Exclusive Quality, makes debut against Mau The Great in 6 1/2-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds. We’ll just leave it at that.
Wolverhampton. Race 4. 2:15. The Belmont Stakes, the test of stamina. Well, here’ an opportunity for 3-year-olds to stretch 12 furlongs. In February.
Aqueduct. Race 4. 2:26. Rudy Rodriguez gives Summer Revolution a bit of a class break in 6-furlong allowance after back-to-back tries in Grade 1 Cigar Mile and Grade 3 Toboggan.
Wolverhampton. Race 5. 2:45. Class 2 handicap offers $61,000 to the likes of Kimberella and Boom The Groom.
Tampa. Race 6. 2:46. The first mandatory race for the 2018 NTRA National Horseplayers Champions and the Tito’s Charity Challenge – where four members of The Saratoga Special are in the field – is 1 1/16-mile allowance on the turf course.
Gulfstream Park. Race 7. 3:04. Team Casse hoped for improvement out of He Takes Charge once the son of Tapit was stretched out around two turns. He showed some last time and will need more in this 1 1/16-mile maiden.
Tampa. Race 7. 3:16. The first of four stakes on the card is $150,000 Suncoast for 3-year-old fillies. Blonde Bomber is back in Florid after fourth in Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds as Grade 3 winner Daisy makes her sophomore bow after finishing fourth last time in Grade 2 Demoiselle.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:30. Time to see how well these contest players know state-breds as second mandatory race in NHC and Tito’s Charity Challenge features field of 10 4-year-olds and up going 7 furlongs.
Fair Grounds. Race 4. 3:34. Take a look at this turf maiden for 3-year-old fillies. Pick the winner and you’ve earned the money.
Tampa. Race 8. 3:45. Dominance could get day rolling for Jonathan Thomas and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in 7-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds. Daughter of Violence cost $235,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July.
Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 4:00. One-mile allowance-optional on the grass is the third mandatory race in the NHC and Charity Challenge and first of two from Santa Anita.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:10. The lone Grade 1 of the day is Gulfstream Park Turf going 9 furlongs. Canadian classic winner Channel Maker came close to winning a Grade 1 in Hollywood Derby last fall at Del Mar. Same for Heart To Heart, runner-up in two Grade 1s last year at Keeneland.
Tampa. Race 9. 4:20. Dona Bruja the slight favorite for Grade 3 Lamholm South Endeavour at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. She ran in back-to-back Grade 1 stakes to close her 2017 campaign, finishing a close second in the Beverly D. at Arlington and fourth in First Lady at Keeneland. La Coronel should be right there in her 4-year-old debut after very strong finish to 2017 season.
Santa Anita. Race 4. 4:30. Champion female sprinter Unique Bella stretches back out to two turns for Grade 2 Santa Maria. She won the Grade 2 Las Virgenes at 1 mile and Grade 3 Santa Ysabel at 1 1/16 miles last season and she should handle her four opponents in $200,000 stakes.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:35. Another good puzzle going long on the grass.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:35. Jumpmaster, A Different Style, Smooth B and Global Citizen represent the Mid-Atlantic in $150,000 Jimmy Winkfield.
Turf Paradise. Race 5. 4:43. Cleverly Beverly likes the turf course in Phoenix – eight of her 11 wins have come there – and she renews rivalry with Comet Sixty Two and McKenzie Honey in $30,000 Sun City Handicap.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:43. The Grade 3 Suwannee River, the fourth mandatory race in the NHC and Charity Challenge.
Tampa. Race 10. 4:52. Remsen winner Catholic Boy does not get an easy spot for his 3-year-old debut against the 2-for-2 Vino Rosso, multiple stakes winner Flameaway, Hollywood Star and Vouch in Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. The race offers $250,000 and 10 points to the winner toward at spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:00. Blackjackcat, third behind World Approval in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, returns for 5-year-old campaign and gets things started in Grade 3 Thunder Road. Small but good field awaits with Om and Bowies Hero the biggest threats.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:05. We wrote about Silver Dust in the Jan. 27 edition of The Saturday Special when he was set to make first start for Bret Calhoun. He didn’t get the chance that day as races were called off due to poor track conditions after the third race.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:16. Right back to South Florida for the fifth mandatory race in the NHC and Charity Challenge, a 1 1/16-mile allowance on the grass for 3-year-olds.
Tampa. Race 11. 5:25. Back to the grass for Grade 3 Tampa Bay and the 2018 debut of champion and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner World Approval. Everyone knows how good he is – 11-for-24 lifetime and nearly $3 million in the bank – and he’s 2-for-2 at Tampa to boot.
Sunland Park. Race 8. 5:29. Mt Veeder and Concord Fast were 1-2 in KLAQ Handicap last time and probably will be again in $75,000 Budweiser Handicap.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:30. All Out Blitz shortens up to 7 furlongs for Grade 2 San Vicente off runner-up in Grade 3 Sham and waiting are the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Ax Man and Nero.
Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 5:38. Fairly even group of six 3-year-old fillies for the $125,000 Martha Washington. We’ll give the edge to Sassy Sienna, she won in Hot Springs last month and has faced better in her career.
Turf Paradise. Race 7. 5:47. Strange to see a race known as a Gold Cup to be at 6 furlongs but that’s what we get with the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup. David Jacobson sends multiple stakes winner Chief Lion from New York while Aristocratic comes in from Southern California. They all might be chasing last year’s winner Chief Cicatriz.
Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:49. Here’s the sixth mandatory race in the NHC and Charity Challenge, a $16,000 claimer going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Sunland. Race 9. 5:55. Fillies and mares take their turn in $75,000 El Diaro Handicap. Proper Discretion holds the class edge; she’s run in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and Grade 3 Las Cienegas in her last two, albeit sound defeats. K P Wildcat holds the edge on recent form with four straight wins. We’ll go with the form.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Wonder how Gettysburg feels now that his former workmate Gun Runner is enjoying the life at Three Chimneys Farm? No retirement yet for Gettysburg, who starts from the rail in 1 1/16-mile allowance in his first start since early September.
Turf Paradise. Race 8. 6:17. Inside Straight, three races removed from running in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, is the one to beat in the $30,000 Turf Paradise Handicap on the grass. Sycamore Lane joins stablemate Chief Lion on the trip from New York for trainer David Jacobson.
Delta Downs. Race 1. 6:20. Louisiana Premier Night opens with state-bred maiden for 3-year-old fillies.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 6:45. The $50,000 California Oaks, also the seventh of eight mandatory races in the second day of the NHC and the Tito’s Charity Challenge.
Delta. Race 2. 6:50. Forerun returns to the starter ranks after good second in open stakes last time in $60,000 Louisiana Premier Night Ragin Cajun Starter going 5 furlongs.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:00. The final mandatory race of the second day of the NHC and Charity Challenge is 7-furlong starter allowance with a field of 12.
Golden Gate. Race 8. 7:15. We’re Just Sayin just missed in similar 1 1/16-mile allowance last time, and also finished just ahead of River Of Champagne. They’re both back in this spot going 9 furlongs.
Delta. Race 3. 7:20. Salty Martini comes in with the best form of the 10 older females entered in $70,000 Louisiana Premier Night Ladies Starter.
Santa Anita. Race 10. 7:30. Phoenix Fire, a Tapit colt who wrote about in 2016 after he sold for $1.25 million on the second night of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, makes debut in 6 1/2-furlong turf maiden on the downhill course for trainer Bob Baffert and owners Stonestreet Stables, Saeed Abdullah Almaddah and Susan Magnier.
Delta. Race 4. 7:50. Back to 5 furlongs for the $60,000 Louisiana Premier Night Bon Temps Starter.
Delta. Race 5. 8:20. The first of the big state-bred stakes is the $120,000Louisiana Premier Night Starlet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile. Minit To Stardom brings 2-for-2 record from Fair Grounds and should get it done against this group.
Delta. Race 6. 8:50. Back to starter conditions for a moment with $70,000 Louisiana Premier Night Gentleman.
Delta. Race 7. 9:20. Doug O’Neill ships Gracida from Southern California via Oaklawn Park for the $120,000 Louisiana Premier Night Prince Stakes. Son of Custom For Carlos cost $400,000 as a 2-year-old last year and hasn’t been out since distant seventh behind Bolt d’Oro in Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity.
Delta. Race 8. 9:50. Another full field of 10 for the $120,000 Louisiana Premier Night Sprint Stakes. Forerun won four straight for Tom Amoss before runner-up in open stakes last time. He’s 6-for-19 at Delta. Monte Man is a throwback to our first year doing the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour, back when son of Custom For Carlos was with John Terranova at Saratoga.
Delta. Race 9. 10:20. The headlining $170,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship Stakes looks like perfect spot for Mobile Bay to collect his fourth straight win. He won this race last year and has only been out once since – winning the Louisiana Champions Day Classic in December at Fair Grounds.
Delta. Race 10. 10:50. You know you’re still going strong, so why not check out the $120,000 Louisiana Premier Night Matron Stakes? My Miss Chiff, who ran in back-to-back graded stakes in the spring for Al Stall Jr., exits back-to-back wins over Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds.
Delta. Race 11. 11:20. The final stakes of the night is the $145,000 Louisiana Premier Night Distaff.