Kentucky Derby Fever in full swing and now only a week to go until the race that almost stops our nation. It’s a big weekend of racing from coast to coast here in North America with Opening Day at Churchill Downs revving up the Derby excitement and the first Saturday of the Belmont Park spring-summer meeting giving off a feeling of big days down the road.
A couple of graded stakes are set for California, the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile anchoring the Gold Rush program at Golden Gate Fields and the Grade 2 Santa Margarita headlining the action at Santa Anita Park.
The flat racing season is revving in Europe, bridging the end of major National Hunt racing across the Atlantic. We’ll start overseas per usual. Here’s your primer for Saturday, April 27. Good luck.
Belterra Park. Race 1. 12:35. Ohio-bred 3-year-old maidens start the card at 6 furlongs.
Finger Lakes. Race 1. 1:10. Racing returns to Central New York and the opener is 5 1/2-furlong $5,000 claimer. P.S., every race on the card is at 4 1/2 furlongs.
Belmont Park. Race 3. 2:34. Optional going 7 furlongs on the Widener course looks like good re-start spot for Pagliacci, Dowse’s Beach and Vici.
Belterra. Race 6. 3:01. Wesley Ward sends Infinite, winner of 6-furlong maiden last time on Polytrack at Turfway, for 1-mile allowance on the grass.
Belmont. Race 4. 3:08. Riot, filly by City Zip who cost $325,000 at 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, makes debut in 6-furlong state-bred maiden for Jeremiah Englehart and LNJ Foxwoods.
Belterra. Race 7. 3:30. The three on the inside – Brown Buckeye, Magna Man and Altissimo – look tough in field of six state-breds for $75,000 Edward Babst/Albert Palacios Memorial Handicap.
Belmont. Race 6. 4:12. Chad Brown sends out Mutakatif, second in American debut in mid-March at Gulfstream; and Prognostication, off since early October, in 1-mile allowance on the grass.
Finger Lakes. Race 8. 4:19. Here’s the $35,000 Red Socks for Mass-bred 3-year-olds and up going 4 1/2 furlongs. Saint Alfred won two races like this last fall, albeit at 1 mile.
Oaklawn Park. Race 5. 4:22. Still rolling in Hot Springs and a field of nine 3-year-old fillies for 1-mile maiden.
Woodbine. Race 7. 4:23. Shakhimat, seventh last time out in the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland and third two back in optional at Gulfstream, goes back to the synthetic for 7-furlong optional that also draws last year’s Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales runner-up Aheadbyacentury.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 4. 4:45. The $75,000 California Oaks is first race on the Gold Rush card. Sold It and Apache Princess show graded stakes on their forms. Give the edge to the latter.
Oaklawn. Race 6. 4:55. Six Shooter goes from Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at 9 furlongs to starter optional at 6 furlongs.
Woodbine. Race 8. 4:56. Yes I Am Free won the Texas Glitter at Gulfstream and finished seventh in in Palisades Turf Sprint at Keeneland in last two starts. Son of Uncaptured stands out in $100,000 Woodstock at 6 furlongs on the synthetic.
Gulfstream Park. Race 9. 5:01. Up The Ante, off since runner-up finish in Grade 3 Saranac on final weekend of 2018 Saratoga meet, makes return for Christophe Clement in 1-mile optional on the grass.
Golden Gate. Race 5. 5:15. Zaffinah should appreciate slight drop in class for $75,000 Golden Poppy after back-to-back graded stakes tries at Santa Anita.
Belmont. Race 9. 5:51. Therapist, unbeaten in three starts on the turf at Belmont, starts his 2019 season in $125,000 Elusive Quality against Kentucky shipper Emmaus, Grade 3 winner Krampus and stakes winner Big Handsome.
Churchill Downs. Race 1. 6:00. Spring meeting opens with 1-mile maiden claimer on the main track.
Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 6:00. The $100,000 Crystal Water at 1 mile on the turf course marks return of multiple Cal-bred stakes winner Soi Phet. Off since a sixth in state-bred stakes in early September at Los Al, 11-year-old son of Tizbud owns 15 wins and two on the grass in Arcadia.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 6:04. Fools Gold looks like the one to beat in $75,000 Powder Break.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:28. Solid field of eight for $150,000 Bachelor, the final stakes of 2019 in Hot Springs. Classy John and Ninth Street exit the Grade 2 Rebel, Gray Attempt comes out of Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and Nitrous returns after fourth in the Gazebo. Landeskog and Frosted Ice might be the two to beat.
Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:39. Field of nine for featured event of the meet, the $75,000 Bosselman Pump and Pantry Gus Fonner Stakes. Sponsorships come in all forms, with even convenience store chains in on the act.
Golden Gate. Race 8. 6:45. Anyportinastorm returns home, where he’s 3-for-5 with two thirds, for $75,000 Lost In The Fog Stakes.
Golden Gate. Race 9. 7:15. Kingly came close – if 7 lengths counts for that – in El Camino Real Derby and returns north for $100,000 California Derby. More Ice chased Derby-bound duo of Roadster and Game Winner in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and also returns home for 1 1/16-mile stakes.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:30. Grade 1 winner Paradise Woods tries again for John Shirreffs in Grade 2 Santa Margarita against the likes of Withholding Info, La Force and Exuberance.
Golden Gate. Race 10. 7:45. River Boyne, fourth in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile and winner of the Grade 3 Mathes Brothers Mile Opening Day at Santa Anita, among field of 10 for Grade 3 San Francisco Mile. Jerry Hollendorfer goes with Grecian Fire and Choo Choo.
Churchill. Race 6. 8:30. Firey Speech, a late-running fourth in 1-mile allowance on the grass Opening Day at Keeneland, could be a big price in similar 1 1/16-mile optional on the grass.
Churchill. Race 8. 9:39. Bulletin, winner of inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint last year and the Palisades Turf Sprint Opening Day at Keeneland, puts unbeaten mark on the line in $125,000 William Walker. Abyssinian and Uncapped were third and fifth, respectively, to the favorite last time and try again.