Hello February. One month in the books for 2020 and time to get down to business.
Three key Kentucky Derby preps – all Grade 3 and worth a combined $600,000 – will go Saturday within about a 90-minute span to undoubtedly shuffle and jumble the list of main contenders for the main event now about three months away.
The $250,000 Withers, featuring the return of Remsen winner Shotski, leads off from Aqueduct. Gulfstream Park goes next with the $250,000 Holy Bull, the starting spot for last year’s Champagne winner Tiz The Law. Santa Anita Park, which runs the $100,000 Robert B. Lewis, wraps up the trio and might feature one of the biggest classic contenders when finished in Thousand Words for trainer Bob Baffert.
Plenty of action is dispersed throughout the day, from Laurel to Fair Grounds and Oaklawn to Tampa. No Golden Gate Fields this week, however, after racing was called off in Northern California for a week due to issues with the track’s hot water.
The day starts as always overseas with some key jump races that will figure prominently in the run up to the Cheltenham Festival, now just a little more than five weeks away.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, Feb. 1. Enjoy and good luck.
Leopardstown. Race 1. 7:50 a.m. Grade 1 novice hurdle kicks off a stellar card at one of Ireland’s premier tracks. Gigginstown, as usual, comes loaded with a three-prong attack led by Fury Road.
Leopardstown. Race 2. 8:25. A Plus Tard wowed us at Cheltenham in March. He faces an acid test against Willie Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi, Cilaos Emery, Duc Des Genievres and Min in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase. Sadly, three trainers represent eight runners.
Lingfield. Race 3. 8:45. Kachy, rated 114, returns from a 224-day layoff to take on seven rivals in the Betway Cleves Stakes, a fast-track qualifier for the all-weather championships.
Sandown. Race 3. 8:50. Nothing like a Saturday card at Sandown. Call Me Lord towers above four foes in the Betway Contenders Hurdle. The French-bred 7-year-old owns three wins over the iconic track already.
Leopardstown. Race 3. 9:00. The Arkle Novice Chase. You’ll see several of these in the real Arkle in March. Bapaume, Melon and Fakir D’oudaries could be legends in the making.
Sandown. Race 4. 9:25. Mullins travels with Laurina for the Grade 1 Betway Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. A Cheltenham winner in 2018, the 7-year-old mare has won and pulled up in her two starts over fences this season.
Leopardstown. Race 4. 9:35. Paloma Blue snaps his losing streak here. Want a bomber? Or Jaune De Somaza at a price.
Wetherby. Race 4. 9:45. Dominateur aims for third win a row for Oliver Sherwood and Leighton Aspell. A fall is the only blemish in his last five starts. Six line up for this Grade 2 chase.
Lingfield. Race 5. 9:55. Bangkok goes even money in the Winter Derby Trial Stakes. There was a time when trainer Andrew Balding had America in mind for the dynamic son of Australia. “We’ll look at all our options and Bangkok might be a horse we look at for the American turf races – they’ve a new series of races there that might suit,” Balding told the Racing Post last summer. Maybe this summer…
Sandown. Race 5. 10:00. Big, competitive field rumble in this Grade 3 hurdle. A day earlier, Bold Plan, Golan Fortune, Ask Ben and Big Shark shared favoritism at 7/1.
Leopardstown. Race 5. 10:10. The hits keep on coming. Stop stirring the grits and watch Honeysuckle, 6-for-6 in her hurdle career. She should add the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle.
Musselburgh. Race 5. 10:15. Love the Nationals in Europe. Here’s the Edinburgh National and all our old friends. Carole’s Destrier, Wonderful Charm and the one and only Harry The Viking.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. Third straight monster Saturday card in South Florida starts with $6,250 claimer for fillies and mares at 1 mile.
Gulfstream. Race 2. 12:34 p.m. Kiaran McLaughlin sends out $800,000 Tapit colt Ajhar in 6-furlong maiden that also features $180,000 Will Take Charge colt Ellis Island from Todd Pletcher’s string, Edge Of Fire for Jimmy Jerkens and Conformity for Mark Hennig.
Laurel Park. Race 3. 1:22. One Eyed Jack ran well in two starts last summer in New York before faltering in the slop last time at Aqueduct. Uncle Mo colt ships down from Todd Pletcher’s winter string at Belmont and figures to take a beating in 9-furlong maiden with a short field.
Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:34. Fearless looks to make it 2-for-2 for Todd Pletcher in 1 1/16-mile optional, but Kid Bourbon ran well in same condition last time and will be the one to beat.
Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:04. A dozen plus a pair on the AE list for 9-furlong turf optional. We’ll go with Projected in his second start for Eddie Kenneally.
Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:34. The Grade 3 Forward Gal for 3-year-old fillies leads off the day’s five stakes and might feature the biggest favorite in Tonalist’s Shape for Saffie Joseph Jr. Daughter of Tonalist brings 3-for-3 record to 7-furlong stakes, including blowout victory over lesser in her last.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 5. 2:46. Dynadrive, part of Jonathan Thomas’ Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer, could make it 2-for-2 in Oldsmar running for $75,000 tag in 1-mile optional on the grass.
Laurel. Race 6. 2:51. Miss Tap Dance and Windy Lane won on debut and look to take the next step in 1-mile allowance for 3-year-old fillies.
Aqueduct. Race 5. 2:55. Brad Cox sends out Congrats first-timer Chasing Losses in 6-furlong state-bred maiden that also features debut runners for Jeremiah Englehart (Eloquent Speaker), Bruce Levine (Quality Stones) and John Kimmel (Homerun Honey).
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:04. Will you give $1 million Uncle Mo colt Palm Springs another chance in 1-mile maiden after he didn’t get it done at 3-5 last time? He broke from the rail that day but draws outside this time.
Tampa. Race 6. 3:19. Late-night “dining” fans in Lexington will be all over Tolly Ho in 6-furlong optional on the main track.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:25. Collegeville Girl’s form likes like on-again, off-again at first glance, but one of those off races came in Grade 1 Cotillion and the other in return to the Big A back in November.
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 3:26. Nice touch for management to offer $60,000 Randy P. Romero Memorial. Named for the late Hall of Fame jockey who fought several battles through the years, 1-mile stakes for 3-year-olds on the grass looks like good spot for Hieronymus to run record to 3-for-4.
Santa Anita. Race 3. 3:29. Auberge couldn’t handle stablemate Bast last time in Grade 2 Santa Ynez and shortens up for 6-furlong optional.
Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:30. Time to see if Quick lives up to her name in American debut for John Sadler in 5 1/2-furlong optional on the grass.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:34. She’s My Type and Moran Reasoning, 1-2 in the Ginger Brew, meet again in Grade 3 Sweetest Chant for 3-year-old fillies on the grass.
Laurel. Race 8. 3:49. Seven older fillies and mares for the optional finale at 7 furlongs. Bye Bye Bertie returned from more than 16 months on the sidelines to win last time out for Hammy Smith. No reason to think daughter of Alternation can’t do it again.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 3:55. Norm Casse claimed Dr. Hipp for $35,000 last summer and Saratoga and won back-to-back starts with the Uncle Mo gelding last fall in Kentucky. He bids for three in a row in optional at 1 mile and 70 yards.
Santa Anita. Race 2. 3:59. Clivetty, daughter of Into Mischief who cost $900,000 at last year’s OBS June sale, takes on My Happy Girl, daughter of American Pharoah out of graded stakes winner My Happy Face, and Eyes Open in 7-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:04. Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner Green Light Go, who Jimmy Jerkens said “looks a little clunky, but he’s anything but,” in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer, makes first start since finishing second in the Champagne in early October to Tiz The Law in Grade 3 Swale at 7 furlongs.
Tampa. Race 8. 4:19. Fans of the Netflix series “The Last Kingdom” will be on board Uhtred in 9-furlong turf allowance. Son of English Channel merits his own consideration beyond the name play off two good efforts in turf events for Christophe Clement.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:24. Gifted Talent gets addition of blinkers in fourth try in the maiden ranks and third attempt on the grass.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:25. The Grade 3 Withers. Shotski scored mild upset in Grade 2 Remsen at same track and trip last time and looks to add second graded stakes win for Jeremiah O’Dwyer against Parx shipper Monday Morning Qb, Todd Pletcher’s Tapit colt Portos for the Wertheimer brothers and last out maiden winner Max Player for Linda Rice.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:34. Big field of 3-year-olds for the $100,000 Dania Beach at 1 mile on the grass. Several to choose from. We’ll go with the American Pharoah colt Homeland for Bill Mott.
Oaklawn Park. Race 6. 4:39. How good is Taraz? Juddmonte homebred daughter of Into Mischief looked awesome winning back-to-back starts at Churchill and Fair Grounds for Brad Cox and takes the next step in $150,000 Martha Washington at 1 mile.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:53. Verb, off since finishing third in Grade 3 Bashford Manor in late June at Churchill Downs, returns to the maiden ranks and meets six others going 6 furlongs.
Santa Anita. Race 4. 4:59. Divine Armor ran well stretching out to 1 mile last time and tries again at same trip for John Sadler and Joel Rosario.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:04. The Grade 3 Holy Bull. Tiz The Law could have possibly locked up the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old male before third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in late November at Churchill Downs. That wasn’t the end game for the son of Constitution, with his Kentucky Derby-winning connections looking way down the road at that point. One spot they looked at was the Holy Bull, where he’ll meet Toledo and Ete Indian out of good optional, Louisiana-bred stakes winner Relentless Dancer and the 3-for-3 Uncork The Bottle.
Oaklawn. Race 7. 5:09. Fluminense, off since distant seventh in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, returns in 6-furlong optional from the outside post for Steve Asmussen.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:22. Brittlyn Stable’s Summer Front colt Nomo d’Oro upset field of maidens at 19-1 last time at Delta Downs and figures to improve moving to the grass.
Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Older fillies and mares go 6 furlongs in $125,000 American Beauty. Amy’s Challenge won it last year and is back for Mac Robertson off sizable layoff.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:00. The Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis. Thousand Words ran record to 2-for-2 winning the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity and meets stablemate High Velocity, Tizamagician and Encoder here in 1 1/16-mile stakes.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. John Sadler dispatched Sigalert to Hot Springs after fourth in Santa Anita allowance he son of Street Sense looks tough in 6-furlong allowance to close the card.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:31. United just missed in last two starts – Breeders’ Cup Turf and Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup – and looks to make amends in Grade 2 San Marcos at 10 furlongs on the grass.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:02. Ten entered for the Grade 2 San Pasqual, including Roadster off runner-up finish to Omaha Beach in the Grade 1 Malibu and King Abner and Midcourt off second and third, respectively, in the Grade 2 San Antonio last time.
Turfway. Race 7. 9:12. We mentioned a horse named for a lead character from a TV show above but there’s no better than Thomas Shelby, son of Curlin who makes return in 1-mile allowance for Wesley Ward.