Two weeks until Christmas, how’s that shopping list looking? We know the feeling, so what better way to distract a little more than taking in a busier-than-expected day of racing from coast to coast.
Gulfstream Park leads the way in its third weekend of the Championship Meet with a Saturday card topped by five stakes – four of them graded – while Aqueduct hosts the first of two $500,000 events for offspring of New York stallions. Yes, you read that right. Time to invest in one of those horses for sure.
Louisiana Champions Day goes at Fair Grounds, plus stakes at Los Alamitos, Tampa Bay Downs and Woodbine, and our annual Sunday sneak preview with the Grade 3 Valedictory topping the Closing Day card at Woodbine.
If you really need a second day of distraction – from the holiday season or NFL games – Woodbine is the place with 16 races on tap Sunday. Yes, 16. Hopefully no other racing office on the continent comes close to following suit anytime soon, or ever.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, Dec. 14. Take care, be safe and good luck.
Aqueduct. Race 2. 12:58 p.m. Decent optional for 2-year-old fillies draws first-off-claim Customerexperience for Linda Rice, Woodbine shipper Compensate for Team Casse and two-time winner Persian Queen for Carlos Martin.
Fair Grounds. Race 1. 1:00. Louisiana Champions Day opens with $100,000 stakes for 2-year-old Quarter Horses at 350 yards. Five fillies and seven colts and geldings.
Woodbine. Race 1. 1:05. Mike Trombetta ships Bells Of War, son of Declaration Of War who won at Woodbine Nov. 30, back from Fair Hill for 7-furlong optional.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 3. 1:14. The last two times Wildwood’s Beauty ran in restricted stakes company against fillies and mares she won. Daughter of Kantharos meets unbeaten J P’s Delight in $125,000 FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes.
Woodbine. Race 3. 2:04. Five 2-year-olds entered in $100,000 Display going two turns on the synthetic. Elusive Knight finished good second last time and Vanzzy ran second in Parx Juvenile. They’re the two to beat from the inside.
Tampa Bay. Race 5. 2:14. The 3-year-old males take their turn in $125,000 FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes. Jackson won two similar heats last spring at Tampa and holds edge over Well Defined, Gump, R Mercedes Boy and Cajun Firecracker.
Fair Grounds. Race 4. 2:27. First non-QH event of the day is state-bred maiden at 1 mile on the grass.
Gulfstream Park. Race 6. 2:30. The Grade 3 Sugar Swirl leads off the day’s stakes. Lady’s Island makes jump to graded company off four straight wins and with a 5-for-7 record at Gulfstream while Bronx Beauty and A Bit Of Both look to win back-to-back stakes.
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 2:56. Sebs Princess returns to state-bred ranks and Royal Priority and Vacherie Girl venture into stakes company for $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:00. Mitchell Road, Kentucky Derby winner Country House’s older half sister and Grade 3 winner, meets the likes of Altea, Munchkin Money , Joy Nidera and Na Pali Spirit in $100,000 My Charmer at 1 mile on the grass.
Aqueduct. Race 7. 3:18. Four of the seven in 6-furlong open-company allowance come off a win, from the inside out, Wicked Trick, Cerretalto, Ready To Escape and Somes Sound.
Laurel Park. Race 7. 3:20. Bunting, tenth in Safely Kept Nov. 30, should appreciate return to restricted allowance ranks for Rodney Jenkins.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:30. Tough to sort out field of 11 fillies and mares drawn for Grade 3 Rampart.
Parx Racing. Race 8. 3:34. Remember Shanghai Superfly? The maiden who finished last of six in Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby came back in his next start and won for $40,000 tag. He finished eighth again for $40,000 after that and runs in this 1-mile allowance coupled with Thundershook.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:46. The $500,000 Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Series drew a field of 14 – no surprise there – and a mix of maiden winners, stakes competitors and dreamers. Captain Bombastic cuts back to 7 furlongs after running record to 2-for-2 winning Sleepy Hollow on Empire Showcase card in mid-October while Dream Bigger stretches out following back-to-back stakes wins at 6 furlongs. They’re the two favorites but don’t discount Giant Shoes, Turbo Drive, Bank On Shea or Tercero.
Laurel. Race 8. 3:49. John Jones still going strong at end of 7-year-old season. He’s won 11 of 40 and looks tough again in featured 7-furlong optional that also draws Aveenu Malcainu, Old Time Revival, Senior Investment and Showalter.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 3:54. We wrote about Play Unified way back when the daughter of Exchange Rate was a 2-year-old. She’s 6 now and breaks from the rail in $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, where she finished fourth in 2017. Tall order with Grade 2 winner Minit To Stardom and multiple stakes winners Ours To Run and Midnight Fantasy in the field.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:00. Channel Cat, winner of the Grade 3 Bowling Green going 11 furlongs at Saratoga and seventh last time in the Breeders’ Cup Turf going 12 furlongs, cut back to 1 1/8 miles for Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale. Trained by Todd Pletcher, son of English Channel meets Flaviu and Instilled Regard from Chad Brown’s barn, Up The Ante, Cross Border and Admission Office. Strong event for $200,000.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:23. Chimney Rock, second in three straight stakes including the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, makes state-bred stakes debut in $100,000 Champions Day Juvenile.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:30. Prince Lucky couldn’t handle Maximum Security last time in 7-furlong Bold Ruler but should fare better in return to two turns in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday. Field also includes the legendary Bodexpress, who dumped rider in the Preakness but comes in off back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park West, along with War Story, Realm, Flowers For Lisa and Red Crescent.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 4:52. The $100,000 Champions Day Turf. Hunch players will like In The Navy right around the time the Army-Navy Game might be headed to the second half.
Los Alamitos Race Course. Race 4. 4:58. Speech switches to 6 furlongs on the dirt after decent third first time out on the grass at Del Mar.
Woodbine. Race 9. 5:10. Foxxy Belle pegged at even-money for 6 1/2-furlong optional. That seems short, even for filly coming off back-to-back wins against either others that include recent stakes runners Zestina and Charmaine’s Mia and Grade 3 winner Tiz Breathtaking.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 5:21. The headlining $150,000 Champions Day Classic drew a field of eight led by Underpressure, Trevilion and Mageez. Underpressure won it last year and comes in off win in prep at Delta Downs for Chris Richard.
Fair Grounds. Race 11. 5:50. Back to the grass for $100,000 Champions Day Ladies Turf.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 8. 6:15. Spitefulness takes her show on the road, again. Daughter of Palace Malice started her career at Presque Isle Downs, sold privately and showed up next at Ellis Park before a second in Arlington-Washington Lassie in early September. Seventh in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland and fifth in the Desi Arnaz at Del Mar, she makes start No. 7 here in 1-mile optional on the synthetic for trainer Phil D’Amato.
Fair Grounds. Race 12. 6:19. The stakes aren’t finished yet; here’s the $100,000 Champions Day Sprint featuring the veteran Monte Man, Flashy Brew, Classy John and Win Lion Win.
Golden Gate. Race 9. 6:45. Ten 2-year-olds entered in 1-mile maiden, including last-out runner-ups Ajourneytofreedom and Jive Talkin.
Fair Grounds. Race 13. 6:49. State-bred maiden for 2-year-old fillies closes the card. We’ve yet to mention Star Guitar or Custom For Carlos. They each have multiple runners in here – Star’s Dream and Star Prado for the former and Great In Red, Wildabout Audrey and She’saholyroller for the latter.
Los Alamitos. Race 8. 6:58. Cal-bred 2-year-old fillies go 1 mile in $100,000 Soviet Problem. The first four from Golden State Juvenile Fillies on Future Stars Friday at Santa Anita – Been Studying Her, Smiling Shirlee, Warren’s Showtime and Cholula Lips – are back.
Turfway Park. Race 3. 7:13. Mike Maker sends out two – Swanage and Misty Blue – in 1-mile optional for 2-year-old fillies with a purse of $48,000.
Golden Gate. Race 10. 7:15. The $75,000 Bear Fan, name for the Wesley Ward-trained multiple graded stakes winner who finished fifth in Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2005 and not supporters of the “Monsters of the Midway,” looks like perfect spot for Apache Princess to get back to the winner’s circle. Second last time in the Grade 3 Senator Ken Maddy at Santa Anita, she won the Grade 3 Sweet Life in February.
Los Alamitos. Race 9. 7:28. The simplest answer is often correct, or so says Occam’s Razor. How about the 3-year-old Square Eddie colt by that name, will he be good enough in 5 1/2-furlong state-bred optional for Doug O’Neill?
Turfway. Race 5. 8:12. Marsac, 3-year-old son of Proud Citizen who ran so-so in two starts on the dirt, should appreciate switch to synthetic for Ian Wilkes in 60-furlong maiden. The rail could be a concern in field of 12.
Penn National Race Course. Race 6. 8:23. Lula’s Roadrunner, close in two stakes for Eddie Coletti Jr., drops to allowance ranks and looks tough from rail. Solid group also includes her stablemate Triple Jump, Chilly Sky, Cullinan and Crazy Bea.
Turfway. Race 6. 8:42. Whoa Nellie makes synthetic debut and takes on older foes Red Dane, Temple Fur, In The Mood and Goiaba in 1-mile optional.
Turfway. Race 7. 9:12. Don’t hit the exit just yet, here’s a two-turn optional with a full field that includes Cairo Cat, Moon Over Montana, Convict Pike, Lionite and Lil Mateo. Cairo Cat won the Grade 3 Iroquois as a 2-year-old and hasn’t found winner’s circle since. He runs for $40,000 tag.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:46 p.m. Another day, another $500,000 stakes for 2-year-olds sired by New York stallions. Here’s the Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Series, for the fillies at 7 furlongs. Big Q rolled in the Key Cents last time for Gary Gullo, Classy Sadie drops from Grade 3 company for Gary Contessa and Time Limit tries to improve on close efforts in stakes for Mike Maker.
Woodbine. Race 9. 5:08. Ninth of 16 races on the card, the Grade 3 Valedictory at 1 3/4 miles always draws our attention. Cyril Murphy prepped Fearsome in Far Hills flat race and with works at Pimlico. He leads the shippers along with Surprise Twist, runner-up to Fearsome at Far Hills; High Noon Rider and Changi. Pumpkin Rumble won the Alphabet Soup two back and finished fifth in the Grade 1 Canadian International last time. He leads the locals.
Woodbine. Race 16. 8:38. Hats off to the gate crew and everyone else responsible for putting on the card, especially those outside in the elements. The season ends with 7-furlong claimer for $7,500 to $7,000 tags.