There are big days in racing and there are huge days in racing. Put Saturday, April 6 in the latter category with major Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks preps from coast to coast and strong supporting stakes to compliment the headliners.
The Derby preps come in the form of the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park. Each of those tracks hosts a major Oaks prep, with the Gazelle, Ashland and Santa Anita Oaks no doubt helping clear the up picture somewhat in the 3-year-old division’s first major test of the season come May 3.
The action is by no means restricted to those six races with the rescheduled Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on the West Coast and Grade 1 and other graded stakes on the supporting cards at Keeneland and Aqueduct. Like we said, it’s a huge day for sure. We start in Europe with the Grand National at Aintree and action from Leopardstown and Chepstow.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, April 6. Take care, be safe and enjoy.
Leopardstown. Race 1. 8:40 a.m. Hunch play of the day, back Rehoboth Beach to win the opener. The 3-year-old colt takes on Scat Daddy sons Phoenix Reach and Zarandi.
Aintree. Race 1. 8:45. Grand National Day starts here. Sire Du Berlais, winner of the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham, returns for the Gaskells Handicap Hurdle. Apprentice Jonjo O’Neill Jr. takes the call on the highweight for Gordon Elliott. We’ve always liked Canyon City, he’ll be a big price.
Leopardstown. Race 2. 9:10. Whew, here’s a runner. Madhmoon won his debut and followed it up with a Group 2 over this course in September. The son of Dawn Approach makes his 3-year-old debut in the 2,000 Guineas Trial.
Chepstow. Race 1. 9:15. For some reason we think Stephanie Sunshine is rounding into form, bet her and breakfast is free.
Aintree. Race 2. 9:25. Angel’s Breath failed to fire at Cheltenham, the 5-year-old comes right back for the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle. Chosen Mate skipped Cheltenham and should land this. Umbrigado is undefeated in three tries.
Leopardstown. Race 3. 9:45. Iridessa won a Group 1 stakes to finish her 2-year-old season, the daughter of Ruler Of The World leaps back into action in the 1,000 Guineas Trial.
Aintree. Race 3. 10:00. Lalor has gone the wrong way since landing a Grade 2 at Sandown in November. Kayley Woollacott’s trainee tries to right the ship in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase. Champion jockey Richard Johnson hasn’t lost faith.
Aintree. Race 4. 10:40. Sam Spinner bounced back to form in the Sun Racing Stayers at Cheltenham, he comes right back for more in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree. Paisley Park, dominant winner that day, takes a rain check while Apple’s Jade, favorite for the Champion Hurdle, tries to rebound from a lackluster effort at Cheltenham.
Leopardstown. Race 5. 10:50. Broome should sweep the P.W. McGrathy Memorial Ballysax Stakes. Sorry, too easy.
Aintree. Race 5. 11:20. Debece. Go to the window.
Aintree. Race 6. 12:15 p.m. The big one. The Grand National. Forty horses line up for the biggest one of all. $1.28 million and immortality. Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly lost his jockey Barry Geraghty to a broken leg Friday, Mark Walsh hops off Regal Encore and onto the top weight. Tiger Roll carried 153 pounds to win it last year, he comes back carrying 159. Can Minella Rocco turn back time? Ruby Walsh chooses Rathvinden, winner of the Bobbyjoe Chase in February. Richard Johnson searches for the last prize still out there, he rides Rock The Kasbah. Gordon Elliott sends out 11 runners. We like Vintage Clouds.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 12:45. The Championship Meet in the books, Day 3 of the spring-summer meet starts with $12,500 claimer on the grass.
Aqueduct. Race 1. 1:00. Wood Memorial Day starts with 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds and up. Vehement, a son of War Front for Bill Mott, looks like logical graduation candidate after wintering in Florida.
Keeneland Race Course. Race 1. 1:05. Day 3 of the spring meeting begins with a 7-furlong optional for 3-year-olds. A couple are entered for the $100,000 tag and look up against it with unbeaten Preamble, Topper T and Thomas Shelby in the field.
Aintree. Race 7. 1:20. Pull the curtain with the Pinsent Masons Conditional Handicap Hurdle.
Keeneland. Race 2. 1:40. Big field of 13 for 7-furlong maiden. Honest Mischief did everything right in debut before finishing second as the favorite. Son of Into Mischief out of Honest Lady should graduate for Chad Brown and Juddmonte. Shared Legacy, full brother to champion Shared Belief, makes belated debut.
Keeneland. Race 3. 2:15. Covfefe makes her first start since dull fourth behind eventual champion Jaywalk in 6 1/2-furlong optional. Daughter of Into Mischief won easy in her debut and can handle this group.
Keeneland. Race 4. 2:50. Wild Shot upset the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile in 2017 down the road at Churchill Downs but is winless in five starts since with a long layoff in there to boot. The drop to 6-furlong optional might do the trick in his return.
Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:00. Two-turn turf optional for older females opens Santa Anita Derby Day card.
Mahoning Valley. Race 7. 3:02. We’ve said it before; it might pay to have an Ohio-bred. Consider this Saturday feature, a 6-furlong allowance worth $32,700.
Aqueduct. Race 5. 3:06. Turf racing is back in New York – hopefully – and here’s a $25,000 claimer with a full field going two turns.
Keeneland. Race 5. 3:25. First grass race of the day is 9-furlong allowance for older fillies and mares. Time to see how the form at Tampa, Gulfstream and Fair Grounds holds up.
Santa Anita. Race 2. 3:30. Nine Cal-bred fillies and mares for $200,000 Evening Jewel. Speaking Out is short price on the morning line off easy win in open company last time out on synthetic at Golden Gate Fields.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:38. Grade 1 winner Mind Control and California shipper Much Better, second and fourth, respectively in the Grade 3 Gotham cut back to 7 furlongs for the Grade 3 Bay Shore. Strong race also draws multiple graded stakes winner Call Paul and Hopeful runner-up Mucho.
Laurel Park. Race 6. 3:42. Velocity Brillante back in for a tag ($35,000) in 5 1/2-furlong optional after fifth last time in state-bred stakes. She’d won three in a row prior to that run, all at Laurel.
Santa Anita. Race 3. 4:00. The Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks goes through Bellafina, no doubt about it. She’s 5-for-7, including 3-for-3 mark at Santa Anita, and comes off two odds-on scores in graded stakes leading up to this. Chasing Yesterday, whose only blemish was seventh in Grade 1 Spinaway last summer at Saratoga, looks to solidify her stock for the Kentucky Oaks.
Keeneland. Race 6. 4:00. Limousine Liberal continues to be one of the many constants at Keeneland in the spring and fall. Amazingly he’s only 1-for-7 at his home track but was second in the Grade 3 Commonwealth last year and is among those to beat in this year’s renewal. Tim Keefe treks down to Maryland with Still Having Fun – we know the ship doesn’t bother him – where a field of 14 that also includes defending champ Warrior’s Club, Recruiting Ready, Uncontested, Copper Town, New York Central and Bobby’s Wicked One await.
Aqueduct. Race 7. 4:11. Older horses take their turn going 9 furlongs in Grade 3 Excelsior. Discreet Lover, winner of last year’s Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, makes 2019 debut and title defense in the race for Uriah St Lewis. Life’s A Parlay, winner of three of five for Todd Pletcher, could make impression on division despite late arrival to the party.
Keeneland. Race 7. 4:35. Back to the grass for the Grade 2 Shakertown. Bound For Nowhere won it last year and nearly used as a successful steppingstone to a win at Royal Ascot. He’s back against familiar foe Disco Partner, third last year. Strong field also includes Imprimis, Will Call, Chaos Theory and Richard’s Boy.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:47. Points for the Kentucky Oaks on the line in Grade 2 Gazelle, which looks like battle between Busher winner Espresso Shot, Busanda winner Always Shopping and Demoiselle winner Positive Spirit.
Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:06. Vasilika is a win machine, no bones about it. She’s 15-for-30 in her career and the winner of 11 of her last 13. Tough to see her losing Grade 2 Royal Heroine at same 1-mile turf trip she won the Grade 3 Megahertz and Grade 2 Buena Vista in her two most recent starts.
Keeneland. Race 8. 5:10. Shamrock Rose ran better in the Grade 2 Azeri going two turns than her debut in the slop going 7 furlongs in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. She’s back on the same ground where she won the Grade 2 Raven Run en route to the female sprinter championship and looks tough from the outside in the Grade 1 Madison. Late Night Pow Wow won’t let her nine-race win streak go down easy though.
Aqueduct. Race 9. 5:22. First Grade 1 of the year on the NYRA circuit, the 7-furlong Carter figures to provide some juice for the Met Mile and other major sprint stakes down the road. Vino Rosso loves the Big A – he’s 3-for-3 with stakes victories in last year’s Wood Memorial and last time out in the Sytmie – and he cuts back to 7 furlongs for the first time since his debut victory. He figures to give favorite World Of Trouble, who wins a lot but often in state-bred, turf or off-the-turf stakes, all he can handle.
Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 5:26. Ultimate Mo drops in class and back to sprinting after sixth in Grade 3 Honeybee. Daughter of Uncle Mo won’t get it easy with Lady Of Luxury, Atchata, Savvy Ally and Headland also in the field.
Keeneland. Race 9. 5:45. Strong field for the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland, led by champion Jaywalk, unbeaten Forward Gal winner Feedback, Honeybee winner Chocolate Kisses and last year’s Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades winner Restless Rider.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:50. More Cal-breds here for the $200,000 Echo Eddie. Looks like the race goes through the middle of the field with Listing, Foster Boi, Lieutenant Dan and Tap The Wire in a line.
Aqueduct. Race 10. 6:00. First of three major Derby preps, the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets offers 100 points to the winner, 40 to second and 20 to third toward a spot in the starting gate for the first Saturday in May. The day’s other preps offer the same, and would-be starters need those points. Haikal and Tacitus ranks eighth and ninth, respectively, on the list with 50 points apiece and they’re in the field along with Outshine (22nd, 20 points), Tax (25th, 12 points) and Not That Brady (44th, 4). Hoffa’s Union definitely the X factor, coming off blowout maiden win at Laurel, private purchase and transfer to Mark Casse’s barn.
Keeneland. Race 10. 6:23. The featured Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass drew full field of 14, all seeking a spot in the starting gate for the Derby next month. Vekoma is 9-5 on the morning line off third in Grade 2 Fountain of Youth for George Weaver but he’s no cinch against Signalman, Dream Maker, Win Win Win and Somelikeithotbrown. The latter just took down champion New York-bred honors and makes first start on the main track since debacle in the slop in his debut back in July at Saratoga.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:30. Mia Mischief prepped for $150,000 Carousel with easy win in optional March 3 and takes on very formidable Amy’s Challenge, winner of her last two in Hot Springs for Mac Robertson.
Keeneland. Race 11. 7:00. Stick it out for the finale, a maiden for 3-year-old fillies on the grass. Don’t hit the exit too soon for the Final Four, the Santa Anita Derby is coming up.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:14. Pretty late post on the East Coast for a Derby prep but they’re clearly going to roll how they want to roll in California. Game Winner stands out in this group, despite some thoughts it comes down to him, stablemate Roadster and Instragrand. He’s on a different level and figures to be much the best, stamping himself as the favorite for Louisville in four weeks.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:50. The stakes aren’t finished yet, not even close. Ten 3-year-old fillies line up for the Grade 3 Providencia going 9 furlongs on the grass.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 8. 8:05. Alliford Bay brings five-race win streak – all stakes at Hastings, Emerald Downs, Sacramento and Zia Park – to featured 5 1/2-furlong allowance.
Santa Anita. Race 10. 8:20. At long last, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. Postponed during the shutdown in March and rescheduled to now, one of the West Coast’s major fixtures attracts just a field of six for the $600,000 pot. McKinzie, runner-up to the ill-fated Battle Of Midway last time in the San Pasqual, deserves slight favoritism over San Antonio winner Gift Box. The others? Well, take your shot.
Santa Anita. Race 11. 8:50. Now you’re free to go, after this 1-mile turf optional of course.