Horse racing takes its place as the only game in town this weekend – and for the foreseeable future if things stay the way they are – with other pro sports called off thanks to the spread of Coronavirus around the globe.
Racing will go ahead with scheduled cards with one noticeable change – no crowds aside from horsemen and essential personnel – and that includes the locations of key Kentucky Derby prep races and other major racing centers. Crowdless racing is set for Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Turfway and beyond, the new normal while sports fans deal with the cancellations and/or postponements of the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, Premier League, March Madness, PGA Tour and more.
Here’s hoping racing can fill some of the void while you’re holed up inside or being mindful while practicing social distancing.
Where things will stand by the end of the weekend is anyone’s guess, but we already know that the March 28 Dubai World Cup card will go without spectators and Keeneland will start its spring meeting without fans from April 2 until at least April 11.
What about the Kentucky Derby you ask? Churchill Downs sent an announcement Thursday that said preparations are still underway for the May 2 events “with the event still seven weeks away, a decision will be made closer to that date with respect to postponing the event until later in the year, using the most recent information while working with and seeking guidance from public health experts and authorities.”
Moving the Derby would certainly be big but if it’s run in 2020 the race would still hold the title of longest continuously run sporting event in the U.S. Anyone know what’s second? No Googling.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, March 14. We skipped racing overseas this week, after a busy Cheltenham Festival it's time to reset. Be safe out there.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 12:45 p.m. The Championship Meet rolls on, even without fans. What will the snowbirds do? Here’s the opener, a 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds.
Laurel Park. Race 1. 1:10. Tres Abbot and Mike Trombetta, who we talked to this week for a piece reacting to the news of federal indictments of 27 individuals for illegal doping (remember that?), send out starters in 1-mile maiden. Abbott runs Super Dancer while Trombetta goes with Mona Luna and Souper Cohiba.
Turfway Park. Race 1. 1:12. Jeff Ruby Day starts with 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds.
Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 1:35. Rebel Day begins with 6-furlong Arkansas-bred maiden claimer.
Oaklawn. Race 2. 2:06. Kiss More might get it done in 1-mile allowance for older females, just don’t be tempted to follow the More Than Ready filly’s name.
Laurel. Race 5. 3:13. Kelly Rubley brings Arrifana back in $100,000 Nellie Morse off short layoff. Daughter of Curlin finished second last time in the Grade 3 Comely and cuts back to 1 mile here against Jennemily, Victim Of Love, Horologist and Needs Supervision.
Oaklawn. Race 5. 3:40. Blackberry Wine didn’t fare well in Grade 2 Risen Star last time, finishing seventh after showing speed, but returns to the maiden ranks for 1 1/16-mile event. Son of Oxbow crossed finish first two back but was disqualified for a medication positive. Looking for a name play? How about Shaka or Sturgill. The former is a basketball coach at Texas, the latter a country star. Both on the sidelines for a bit thanks to Coronavirus.
Turfway. Race 6. 3:42. First stakes of the day, the $75,000 Mayers Electric Company Animal Kingdom. Named for the 2011 Spiral Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner, 6 1/2-furlong event for 3-year-olds lures Amongst and Bango from Fair Grounds and Newstome and Torres Del Paine from Fair Hill.
Laurel. Race 7. 4:12. Naughty Thoughts, Princess Cadey and She’smysunshine, the first three past the finish post in the Wide Country, return for the $100,000 Beyond The Wire.
Turfway. Race 7. 4:14. Older fillies and mares go 1 mile in $100,000 Latonia. Speedy Solution sports 1-1-1 mark from three starts at Turfway – formerly known as Latonia – and it seems Ken and Sarah Ramsey always win at least one on the big day in Northern Kentucky.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 4:18. Rag Tag ran well to be second in comeback last month and should graduate in 1-mile maiden for Todd Pletcher.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:24. A dozen Louisiana-bred fillies and mares go 1 mile on the grass in $60,000 Red Camelia.
Oaklawn. Race 7. 4:44. Hello, old friend. Our man Ruler Of The Nile looks for 10th win in 19 starts in 6-furlong optional.
Turfway. Race 8. 4:45. Sophomores not quite ready for prime time meet in $100,000 Rushaway. The day after The Masters tournament was put on the shelf Amen Corner tries to improve off fourth in similar stakes back home at Laurel. Memorable is lone member of the field with local experience – a win two starts back at the trip for Steve Asmussen.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 5:01. Piedi Bianchi won off long layoff and trainer change – Todd Pletcher to Carlos Martin – in optional last time and steps up again versus Bridlewood Cat and five others in $100,000 Correction Stakes.
Laurel. Race 9. 5:12. Alwaysmining showed toughness winning John B. Campbell last time and looks to make it three straight in $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial.
Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:17. Field of seven for the $350,000 Essex Handicap, top local prep for next month’s Oaklawn Handicap. New York-bred Bankit comes in off back-to-back seconds and carries co-top weight of 119 pounds for Steve Asmussen. Pioneer Spirit, who beat Bankit two back in the Fifth Season, also shoulders 119 from the outside post. Snapper Sinclair and Laughing Fox complete strong entry for Asmussen.
Turfway. Race 9. 5:17. Here’s the $150,000 Twinspires Kentucky Cup Classic. Ah, the good old days of the Kentucky Cup. Who could forget the annual September card. Times change but at least the 9-furlong stakes remains. Somelikeithotbrown returns to scene is big win in last year’s Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks while Grade 2 winner Signalman makes first start since runner-up in the Grade 3 Matt Winn back in June.
Laurel. Race 10. 5:43. The graded events later aren’t the only potential classic preps; here’s the $100,000 Private Terms featuring Champagne third Big City Bob, Miracle Wood 1-2 finishers Lebda and Mine Not Mine and New York shipper Took Charge.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 5:50. The Grade 2 Azeri looks like rematch of the first four from the Houston Ladies Classic in late January with Lady Apple, Serengeti Empress, Street Band and Mylady Curlin in the field.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:52. When Blamed is on her game she’s tough to beat. She won last time and could be tough again from the rail in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. Good field for 7-furlong stakes also includes Wildwood’s Beauty, Nonna Madeline and Pauseforthecause.
Turfway. Race 10. 5:55. The $150,000 Maxim Crane Works Bourbonette Oaks. No longer graded, 3-year-old filly stakes lures Grade 3 winner Laura’s Light from Southern California and a dozen others (one on the also-eligible list).
Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:22. You’ve been waiting for this one all day, the $20,000 Orphan Kist. We looked up Orphan Kist and wow, what a record. Nebraska-bred daughter of Fort Prevel won 28 times with 28 seconds in 100 starts, racking up $631,997 in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:23. How good is Nadal? The son of Blame ships from California for Bob Baffert with two good wins at 6 1/2 and 7 furlongs. He steps up here to 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 2 Rebel, which also marks comeback of Grade 1 Hopeful winner Basin, Southwest winner Silver Prospector, unbeaten No Parole, Smarty Jones runner-up Three Technique and Grade 1 American Pharoah runner-up American Theorem. Good race, with 50 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.
Santa Anita Park. Race 6. 6:35. Charlatan, $700,000 son of Speightstown who won debut by 5 3/4 lengths last month, takes on five other winners in 1-mile optional.
Turfway. Race 11. 6:42. The featured Grade 3 Jeff Ruby offers 20 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Invader romped in the key local prep, taking the John Battaglia Memorial by 6 1/4 lengths last time out for Wesley Ward. Son of War Front brings 2-for-2 mark locally while Field Pass and Myamanoi figure to factor out of the Dania Beach last time at Gulfstream.
Oaklawn. Race 11. 6:55. Maiden for 3-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs brings the day to an end.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 7:07. The day’s lone Grade 1, the $400,000 Beholder Mile looks like Hard Not To Love’s race to lose in her first start beyond 7 furlongs. Daughter of Hard Spun won the Grade 1 La Brea and Grade 2 Santa Monica in last two starts and meets Der Lu and Mother Mother from Bob Baffert’s barn, Breeders’ Cup Distaff fourth Ollie’s Candy and recent optional winner Ce Ce.
Turfway. Race 12. 7:15. Two-turn maiden for 3-year-olds closes the card.
Charles Town Races. Race 6. 9:32. Good Karma lived up to odds-on billing in debut, winning by 7 1/2 lengths, and takes step up here in state-bred allowance at same 4 1/2-furlong trip.
Charles Town. Race 7. 10:03. At The Half – which nobody will see this March with the NCAA tournaments scrapped – takes on Lou’s Chardonnay, Bridging The Gap and La Madalla De Oro. How about Wiggle It Jiggleit? We thought that was only a Standardbred.