Time for a deep breath. Most need it after a big few days last week and an even bigger weekend up ahead.
Before diving into next week’s Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth and the strong supporting card at Gulfstream and the inaugural Saudi Cup we need to wade through Saturday’s slate. The lack of a major Kentucky Derby prep on the weekend – sorry to Sunland Park, which runs the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby Sunday – doesn’t mean the absence of top-shelf racing.
Gulfstream hosts a strong card that features two stakes including the Grade 3 World Of Trouble, Sam Houston rolls out four Texas-bred stakes for its Saturday slate and Santa Anita runs the Grade 2 Buena Vista on the grass for older fillies and mares. A little bit of this and a little bit of that from coast to coast.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, Feb. 22. Enjoy and good luck.
Kempton. Race 1. 7:40 a.m. Here’s your hub for the morning, base yourself here and enjoy. Handicap hurdlers kick off the star card at Kempton.
Kempton. Race 2. 8:15. Hardhitters Commanche Red, Southfield Stone and Who Dares Wins try to upend Master Tommytucker, who tends to be up or ends (three wins, two falls in five career starts) in the Betway Pendil Novices’ Chase.
Kempton. Race 3. 8:50. Is there still time to get to Cheltenham? Maybe we should enjoy a strong Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle without those questions. Solo is 7-5, he makes his first start since crushing French Juvenile hurdlers in November. Hard to fault Fujimoto Flyer, undefeated in two hurdle starts.
Lingfield. Race 2. 9:05. Good Effort rides a three-race win streak into this listed stakes.
Fairyhouse. Race 2. 9:17. Cheltenham clues? Juvenile hurdlers aim at a Grade 3 stakes and, maybe, a ticket to Cheltenham.
Kempton. Race 4. 9:25. Short but stout field of five line up in the Grade 2 Betway Kingwell Hurdle.
Newcastle. Race 3. 9:45. Big purse. Many miles. Handicap chasers slog 4 1/8 miles for over $100,000.
Kempton. Race 5. 10:02. Nicky Henderson needs to juggle his star novices. One way is unleash Buzz here in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.
Lingfield. Race 4. 10:15. Andrew Balding could have a big day. He sends out Bangkok in the Betway Winter Derby. The three-time winner will need to be sharp to tangle with Dubai Warrior.
Kempton. Race 6. 10:35. Black Corton, a 14-time winner, needs to snap a long losing streak while competing against some of the best. This is easier on paper.
Newcastle. Race 5. 10:55. Australian Big Blue hasn’t been competitive in two European tries, he drops to the handicap ranks here.
Fairyhouse. Race 5. 11:02. Anybody remember Bobbyjo? Well here’s the chase named after the venerable chaser. Bellshill, a mainstay at Cheltenham over the years, should relish the drop in class from a string of Grade 1 chases.
Kempton. Race 7. 11:10. That’s the end of the stakes but nothing wrong with a strong handicap chase, led by Ibleo, dominant winner of his last two for Venetia Williams.
Kempton. Race 8. 11:45. Bumpers pull the curtain. Solid prospects learn the ropes.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. Maiden turf sprint opens the card and – surprise, surprise – Wesley Ward sends out one of the top threats in the American Pharoah second-time starter American Goddess.
Mahoning Valley Race Course. Race 2. 12:42 p.m. Nine-time winner Small Town Hero should be tough in two-other-than allowance from the rail. And he’s coupled with eight-time winner Cumber.
Gulfstream. Race 3. 1:04. Liam’s Point, a $185,000 RNA as a weanling and yearling, makes debut for Todd Pletcher in 7-furlong maiden. Pletcher also sends out the Will Take Charge firster Ellis Island, a $180,000 buy at Keeneland September in 2018.
Laurel Park. Race 3. 1:22. Lacey Gaudet drops John Jones back to optional ranks and in for a $50,000 tag after good second to Alwaysmining in the Jennings. Veteran won’t meet any like that in this spot.
Chelmsford City. Race 3. 1:30. Pivoine, fourth in the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International in October, should handle a strong group of handicap horses.
Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:34. Jimmy Jerkens sends out Reliability, son of Tapit out of Grade 1 winner Announce, in 1-mile turf maiden against solid group that includes Time For Trouble, Vintage Print and Voodoo Zip.
Fonner Park. Race 1. 2:30. Racing returned to the Cornhusker State Friday and here’s the opener on the first Saturday card of the season, a half-mile starter allowance worth $4,300.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:04. Battalion woke up in second start and after switch to the grass for Bill Mott. Son of Tiznow goes on the turf again in 1-mile maiden.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 6. 3:15. Brendan Walsh ships multiple stakes winner Extravagant Kid over from Palm Meadows for $100,000 Turf Dash. He’s won 13 of 40, including six at the 5-furlong turf trip.
Laurel. Race 7. 3:20. How good was Feb. 1 allowance that saw Miss Tap Dance, Omni Diva and Dancer’s Melody chase runaway winner Princess Cadey? We’ll find out in two-turn allowance that features the first three mentioned above.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:34. Silver Ratio and Violent City both impressed winning separate divisions of 6-furlong maiden races Jan. 11. They’re back for start No. 2 in 7-furlong allowance that might go through Cost Basis, Americanus and Bad Little Beast.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:04. Lasting Legacy comes off back-to-back starts in stakes named for Mr. Prospector – go figure – and looks tough in Grade 3 World Of Trouble Sprint. Jason Servis trained the race’s namesake and conditions Tapizar, along with another contender in Admiral Lynch.
Tampa. Race 8. 4:15. Fillies and mares take their turn in $100,000 Lightning City going 5 furlongs on the grass. Looks like a rematch between Jean Elizabeth and Girls Know Best, 1-2 in their last two starts.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:34. Award Winner, sixth in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga for Brian Lynch, makes return in 1-mile optional that also marks the next step for the lightly raced Largent.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:50. Mr. Buff, a finalist for New York-bred champion older dirt male honors, comes into $100,00- Haynesfield Stakes off a 5-length win against open company in Jazil and 7 1/2-length victory over state-breds in Alex M. Robb. He meets five fellow New York-breds in 1-mile stakes including the comebacking Syndergaard.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:53. Big field of 11 fillies and mares for 1-mile optional on the grass that goes as the feature. Amazima got up just in time in allowance at the same trip last out for Brendan Walsh while Rosebud’s Hope ships in from Tampa for Michael Stidham.
Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 4:59. One-mile maiden gives Divine Armor, Exaulted, Kiss Today Goodbye, Yeng Again, Reprobate and Mastering – who all were heavily or fairly well backed last time – another chance.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:04. Frank’s Rockette, second in pair of Grade 1s last summer and fall for Bill Mott, holds class edge in $75,000 Any Limit for 3-year-old fillies. Sound Machine, fresh off 6 1/2-length win in similar spot last month, will be tough for that one making her comeback.
Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 5:09. Grade 1 winner Knicks Go makes first start for Brad Cox and first start since finishing 10th on the grass in Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf in early November.
Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:29. South American import Jolie Olimpica showed she was ready for American debut last time sprinting in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas. Now the Brazilian-bred filly stretches out to 1 mile for the Grade 2 Buena Vista against Carressa, Mucho Unusual and Lady Prancealot.
Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:34. One-mile optional on the main track closes the card.
Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Morning Snow, an 8-length maiden winner in June at Santa Anita Park, returns for Bob Baffert in 6-furlong allowance.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Arkansas-bred fillies and mares meet for $125,000 in Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes. Bye Bye J was 2-for-2 last season against state-breds and returns for Steve Asmussen off trainer change.
Fonner. Race 9. 6:22. World Famous Sam T finished third in last year’s Grasmick and returns for the 2020 renewal of $10,000 feature. The 11-year-old Cal-bred doesn’t meet the two who finished ahead of him that day but does face nine others in half-mile event.
Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:37. O Seraphina and Best Intentions both ran in stakes last time and return to the maiden ranks for 1 1/16-mile finale. The former already crossed the finish first – Dec. 22 at Fair Grounds for Joe Sharp – before being disqualified for a positive drug test.
Sam Houston Race Park. Race 6. 10:04. Still going strong? Good. Here’s the first of four stakes, the $75,000 Miss Houston Turf for Texas-breds.
Sam Houston. Race 7. 10:32. State-bred 3-year-old fillies run for $75,000 in Two Altazano. Steve Asmussen runs Stillatune for his father and Brightest for Will Farish.
Sam Houston. Race 8. 11:00. The last three times Mr Money Bags ran against Texas-breds he won by 11 1/2, 7 and 11 1/2 lengths. Those races were on dirt, this one is grass in the $75,000 Houston Turf.
Sam Houston. Race 9. 11:28. The last of four stakes, the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit for 3-year-olds at 6 furlongs, features the first three from the My Dandy division of the Charles Sharbauer Jr. Texas Stallion Stakes in Bubba Bling, Wonders Of Hislove and Luckenbacher.