Royal Ascot in the books, the World Cup in full swing, Independence Day around the corner and a big slate of racing action as we prepare to cross into the second half of 2018 here on the final day of June.

The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud covers it all, from the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine to the Summit of Speed at Gulfstream Park, with United Nations Day at Monmouth, the Mother Goose at Belmont and a trio of stakes at Churchill led by the Grade 3 Bashford Manor thrown in the mix. Like we said, it’s a big slate.

Not only is it almost time for fireworks and picnics to celebrate July 4, it’s less than three weeks until Opening Day at Saratoga. Are you all set for the Spa? What about advertising? Something to promote? You need to be in The Saratoga Special to reach the right reader. Find out more right here.  

But first let’s not get too far ahead. One day left in June. Everything starts overseas well before the first World Cup knockout match and continues into the evening. Here’s your primer for Saturday. Take care and good luck.

Newcastle. Race 2. 7:55 a.m. The Group 3 Chipchase Stakes kicks off the action from across the pond.

Newmarket. Race 1. 8:10. Aptly named Impulsion drew off to win her debut by 5, she should get black type here for trainer Roger Varian. 

Newcastle. Race 3. 8:30. The Northumberland Vase offers a decent alternative prize for horses that don’t draw into the Northumberland Plate. There’s $101,500 up for grabs in this 2-mile puzzler.

The Curragh. Race 1. 8:40. Top-shelf juveniles kick off stellar card. Coolmore unleashes two American-breds, Mount Tabora, a son of Scat Daddy, and U S S Michigan, a son of War Front. Yowza.

Newmarket. Race 2. 8:45. Mankib makes his British debut, after winning twice in France, in the Group 3 Criterion Stakes.

Newcastle. Race 4. 9:05. Once one of our favorite races, the Northumberland Plate, now sends them 2 miles on the all-weather, instead of the turf. Bummer. Still a cool race, Prince Of Arran returns after finishing third in the Belmont Gold Cup. He takes on an eclectic mix of hurdlers, geldings, mares, young and old.

The Curragh. Race 2. 9:15. Funny enough, Coolmore unleashes two 3-year-olds in this one. American-bred sons of, you guessed it, Scat Daddy and War Front.

The Curragh. Race 3. 9:50. Ten-year-old veteran Gordon Lord Byron takes another crack at the Creekside Dash.

Newmarket. Race 4. 9:55. Hard-trying Second Step should wallop four rivals in the Fred Archer Stakes.

York. Race 4. 10:20. George Strawbridge has moved his big guns to England, but he still names them after America. Wissahickon, a tributary of the Schuykill River, aims at his third career victory. The son of Tapit should trounce handicap rivals here.

The Curragh. Race 4. 10:25. Alexios Komnenos traveled the world to only get beaten 4 lengths in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan. Four lengths, he finished 12th. He tries to right the ship in the Celebration Stakes. St Patrick’s Day, a brother of American Pharoah, tries again after being scratched at the gate in his first attempt at racing since leaving California.

The Curragh. Race 5. 11:00. Dawn Delivers drops a notch from Group 3 stakes for Godolphin and Jim Bolger, the 3-year-old daughter of Dawn Approach could win this fillies premier handicap.

Windsor. Race 5. 11:10. Oh This Is Us drops from the Queen Anne to the Midsummer Stakes. 

The Curragh. Race 6. 11:35. Canadian-bred 2-year-old Van Beethoven makes his fifth career start, clashing with seven rivals, including British raiders Certain Lad and Marie’s Diamond, in the Group 2 Gain Railway Stakes. 

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 11:55. Summit of Speed Day starts with two-turn $10,000 claiming race.

Woodbine. Race 1. Noon. First of 13 races that make up Queen’s Plate Day card is 1-mile optional on the grass.

The Curragh. Race 7. 12:15 p.m. Saxon Warrior tries to erase his first defeat (finishing fourth in the Investec Derby in June), taking on 11 rivals, including three stablemates, in the Irish Derby.

Woodbine. Race 2. 12:33. Mark Casse looks strong in this 5-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds with Soul Planet, third in her debut two weeks ago; and Limonaia, a $350,000 Lemon Drop Kid first-time starter for Stonestreet Stables.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:35. Yes, you read that correct. The first of two days of Tampa’s Summer Festival of Racing is Saturday.

Churchill Downs. Race 1. 12:45. Closing Day in Louisville and opener is 6-furlong claimer with a field of six.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:51. Starcloud found the water a bit deep in the Grade 1 Acorn last time; she’s back at more sensible level in $75,000 Azalea. Field of six 3-year-old fillies also includes Alter Moon, a 14 3/4-length winner last time and runner-up to Starcloud in restricted stakes two back.

Woodbine. Race 3. 1:06. The first of five stakes on the day is $100,000 Charlie Barley. Mark Casse sends out four of the seven entered in 1-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds, including the favorite Machtree with John Velazquez named.

Laurel Park. Race 1. 1:10. Peace Corps, a 2-year-old daughter of Violence (go figure) who cost $270,000 last summer at Saratoga, makes debut in 5 1/2-furlong maiden for Graham Motion and West Point Thoroughbreds.

Churchill. Race 2. 1:14. Myhotrodlincoln changed barns after runner-up in Kentucky Juvenile on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Son of Verrazano is now trained by Joe Sharp and looks to break maiden here going 5 furlongs.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:20. It’s been many years since Bob Umphrey passed but his legacy lives with the Summit of Speed and the Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint. Pay Any Price won this race last year and is 10-for-14 on the turf at Gulfstream. That’s good enough for us.

Belmont Park. Race 1. 1:30. Opener is state-bred maiden for 2-year-olds going 6 furlongs on the grass. Time to look for Saratoga clues.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:50. Ralph Nicks sends Sighted into open company and the $75,000 Carry Back after back-to-back wins against state-breds. He meets just six opponents, including stablemate Phantom Ro and War Giant in 7-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds.

Belmont. Race 2. 2:04. Eight fillies and mares entered – including two main-track only – for good 1-mile allowance on the grass. Dancing Breeze looks like deserving favorite off second in stakes last fall.

Churchill. Race 4. 2:13. Two-year-old fillies take their turn in 5-furlong maiden. Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr. team up with Kada for the Heiligbrodts, against stablemate Looking At You and Rumandice for Bret Calhoun.

Monmouth Park. Race 5. 2:52. Remember Brooklyn Bobby? Son of Frankel was the buzz of the stable area at Saratoga before his debut in August 2016. He finished sixth that day and is still a maiden seven starts and nearly two years later. He’s back on the grass going 9 furlongs here and might finally get it done.

Woodbine. Race 6. 2:53. Potential re-run of the Grade 2 Connaught Cup with the first three from that heat – Caribou Club, Tower Of Texas and Conquest Panthera – entered in Grade 2 King Edward, along with the comebacking Delta Prince and Fair Hill shipper Ring Weekend.

Belmont. Race 4. 3:09. Some in the prior allowance could have gone in here, the $100,000 Perfect Sting also at 1 mile on the grass. Neil Drysdale kept La Sardane in New York after her victory in the Grade 3 Intercontinental and she looks to make it three straight against six others led by Thais, Lido and In The Lee.

Churchill. Race 7. 3:50. Surely one of the main players for the Schuylerville at Saratoga will emerge from $100,000 Debutante.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:18. Older fillies and mares stretch 10 furlongs in Grade 2 Dance Smartly. Holy Helena, winner of last year’s Queen’s Plate over the boys, is just as good on the grass and returns to scene of her biggest win off close fifth in Grade 2 New York last time. Chad Brown puts two on the van from his Saratoga outpost in Inflexibility and Santa Monica.

Monmouth. Race 8. 4:23. The veteran Page McKenney showed he liked the Jersey Shore last time, winning the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, and he’s back for the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin. The 8-year-old owns 22 career victories, only 13 fewer than his six opponents combined.

Delaware Park. Race 8. 4:45. Field of six for featured allowance-optional on the main track. Afleet Willy and Unbridled Juan exit graded stakes tries Preakness Weekend, Hoffenheim ships in from New York and Charitable Annuity makes rare venture away from Charles Town.

Woodbine. Race 9. 4:51. Imprimis handled the extremely boggy conditions winning the Jim McKay Turf Sprint last time and takes step up the ladder in Grade 1 Highlander. Son of Broken Vow is 4-for-4 and not surprisingly meets strong cast in $250,000 stakes. The veteran Long On Value, California shipper Belvoir Bay, the filly Lady Alexandra and graded stakes winner Holding Gold are also entered.

Monmouth. Race 9. 4:55. Dream Awhile and Elysea’s World are strong 1-2 punch for Chad Brown in Grade 3 Eatontown, the former probably rating the edge off good third in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Don’t count out Lift Up or Special Event.

Laurel. Race 9. 5:10. Tam O’Shanter, a 2-for-2 son of Mineshaft, makes first start since Feb. 14, 2015 in two-turn allowance-optional for Arnaud Delacour and owner-breeder Catherine Wills. Now that’s a layoff.

Belmont. Race 8. 5:18. Midnight Bisou, third as the favorite last time in the Kentucky Oaks, makes first start for Steve Asmussesn in Grade 2 Mother Goose against familiar foes My Miss Lilly and Coach Rocks along with Road To Victory, Gio Game and Mo Smart.

Churchill. Race 10. 5:25. Three of the first four from the Grade 3 Aristides – Chief Cicatriz, Mr. Crow and Awesome Saturday – are back for $75,000 Kelly’s Landing going 7 furlongs. Warrior’s Club might find the company a bit better than the Grade 1 Met Mile last time. The talented City Zip colt C Z Rocket makes his second start of layoff for Al Stall Jr.

Monmouth. Race 10. 5:28. Nine fillies and mares set for the $75,000 Lady’s Secret. We’ll lean toward Total Control, first or second in her eight starts since transferring to Brian Lynch’s barn last fall. Granted, four of those starts came in maiden races.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:30. Seven fillies and mares try to topple Curlin’s Approval on her best surface in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney. Curlin’s Approval is 8-for-14 with three seconds at Gulfstream and she won this last year by open lengths. Ms Locust Point, My Miss Tapit and Rich Mommy figure to give her the best test.

Woodbine. Race 10. 5:36. Huge field of 16 for the $1 million Queen’s Plate is led by Mark Casse’s 1-2 punch of Telekinesis, runner-up in the Grade 3 Lexington and winner of the Plate Trial last time; and Wonder Gadot, runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks and Woodbine Oaks in her last two starts. Tough to discount any of the others, including Strike Me Down, Dixie Moon, Alternative Route, Say The Word, Rose’s Vision and Aheadbyacentury.

Churchill. Race 11. 5:56. Final stakes of the spring-summer meet is longtime fixture on the circuit in Grade 3 Bashford Manor. Monster field of 13 line up for the 117th edition, including Kentucky Juvenile winner Weiland, Tales Of Chaucer, Toothless Warrior, Shanghaied Roo and Sir Truebadour.

Monmouth. Race 11. 6:01. Chad Brown sends out four of the nine in the Grade 1 United Nations in Funtastic, Kurilov, Money Multiplier and Silverwave. Which one rates the best chance? Tough call. So we’ll go a different direction with One Go All Go and Profiteer, who both look like the longer the better.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 6:02. The Grade 3 Smile Sprint marks X Y Jet’s first start since coming up just short to Mind Your Biscuits in the Dubai Golden Shaheen March 31. He’s been first or second in nine of 11 starts at Gulfstream, amazingly never in this race.