Where should we start? Yesterday, today, tomorrow, that seems almost like an impossible question to answer given the ever-changing world we live in thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Everything changes fast these days, including in racing. The show went on at a lot of places last week without crowds and will continue this weekend, although a few tracks will not run because of health concerns or outright government mandates to close.
Six tracks called off racing for Saturday – Aqueduct, Laurel Park, Fonner Park, Parx Racing, Penn National and Sunland Park.
Aqueduct’s cancelation came after a stable area worker tested positive for Coronavirus after initially showing symptoms last Friday and self-quarantining after that point. The New York Racing Association made the call to hold off racing indefinitely following the Preparedness and Response Plan, established with clear protocols and processes following the most up-to-date health guidance established by the New York Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Gulfstream Park suspended racing Friday but plans to resume without crowds Saturday, after management said it would “update its protocols in a number of areas, including the Jockeys’ Room.”
Officials from Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields, like Gulfstream are owned and operated by The Stronach Group, said Thursday afternoon they were in “full compliance with all government and local health orders and are taking every possible precaution and safeguard to ensure the health and safety of the limited number of essential racing personnel required to operate racing without fans.”
The situation in California changed Thursday evening when Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated the state’s 40 million residents to stay home except for essential activities, called by The Washington Post “the most dramatic measure so far taken in the United States, where confirmed cases doubled in just two days, in part because of increased testing.”
We’re not in the government prediction business – racing seems tough enough – but it feels like this could be the last racing weekend for a while. With that, here’s your primer for Saturday, March 21. Please be safe and smart. Good luck.
Thurles. Race 1. 9:40. If you’re starving for jump racing, this is your only venue. The opener is a conditional maiden hurdle. Enjoy and appreciate it.
Thurles. Race 4. 11:10. For all you Happy Days fans, Sizing Pottsie should win the Grade 3 Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase. Jessica Harrington’s 6-year-old has won his last two by a combined 27 lengths.
Fair Grounds. Race 1. Noon. Start with a stakes, the $75,000 Crescent City Derby for Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds.
Mahoning Valley Race Course. Race 1. 12:15. The show goes on in Ohio, even without a presidential primary this week.
Fair Grounds. Race 2. 12:30. Full field of 14 for 1-mile turf maiden for 3-year-old fillies.
Mahoning Valley. Race 2. 12:42. Uno Mas Modelo, off since finishing last in Grade 1 Churchill Downs on last year’s Kentucky Derby Day undercard, breaks from rail in 5 1/2-furlong allowance for Looch and Anthony Quartarolo.
Fair Grounds. Race 3. 1:00. Louisiana-bred 3-year-old fillies take their turn in $75,000 Crescent City Oaks. Steph’sfullasugar rolled over some of these in similar stakes at Delta Downs last month and looks tough from the outside.
Fair Grounds. Race 4. 1:30. Another turf maiden and another full field of 14.
Mahoning Valley. Race 6. 2:34. Nine Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies entered in $75,000 Southern Park.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 2:34. A dozen older state-breds line up for $75,000 Costa Rising going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 3:06. Neil Drysdale brings Reprobate to New Orleans from Southern California for two-turn maiden. Hall of Famer adds blinkers to son of Blame, who finished fifth last time in 1-mile maiden.
Gulfstream Park. Race 6. 3:15. Freedom Force ran well in debut in 1-mile Florida-bred maiden and shortens up to 6 furlongs here for Rodolphe Brisset.
Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:30. Cal-bred fillies and mares go 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass in opening maiden.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 3:38. Winning Envelope and Dream Passage, 1-2 in turf stakes last time at Sam Houston, take on Florida shipper Altea and last-out stakes winner She’sonthewarpath in $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial Stakes.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:47. Graham Motion will need new rider for Shootin The Breeze after Jose Ortiz, who made his comeback last week after a wrist injury, returned to the sidelines to allow further healing.
Santa Anita. Race 2. 4:00. Dr. Dorr went on a tear in 2018, winning the Grade 2 Californian and another stakes in a win streak. Now he could be yours for $62,500. Oliver, not entered for tag in 1-mile optional, is the one to beat from his immediate outside.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 4:10. Acid test for the unbeaten Fearless in Grade 2 New Orleans Classic against the likes of Silver Dust, By My Standards, Gun It and Lone Sailor. Irad Ortiz Jr. was named to ride Fearless for Todd Pletcher but made decision Thursday “to stop riding. This is the safest decision for my family and myself. Hopefully we canal make it safely out of this quarantine sooner than later and get back to what we all love.”
Oaklawn Park. Race 6. 4:36. Lookin At Lee, second in the 2017 Kentucky, still going strong at age 6 and returning to the allowance-optional ranks for the first time since last March. Sonny Smack, Underpressure, Super Dude and Botswana also entered in 9-furlong event.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 4:42. Back to the grass for Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic. Last year Bricks And Mortar won it on the way to his Horse of the Year campaign. None quite like that one in here but still a strong field for $300,000.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:49. The $75,000 Melody of Colors for 3-year-old fillies going 5 furlongs on the grass.
Fair Grounds. Race 11. 5:15. Five take on Finite in Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, which gives 100 points to the winner toward spot in the Kentucky Oaks starting gate along with a purse of $400,000. The Oaks was also rescheduled this week, moved to Friday, Sept. 4.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:20. Reagan’s Edge romped in debut last September at Indiana Grand and makes first start since in 6-furlong optional against I Dare U, Hopeful Growth, Wanderlust and others.
Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:33. Wesley Ward sends Bound For Nowhere from Turfway for Grade 3 San Simeon. A multiple stakes winner and earner of more than $840,000, son of The Factor looks tough in 5 1/2-furlong turf stakes despite presence of Grade 1 winners Cistron and Voodoo Song. Wait, what, Voodoo Song? Yes, New York-bred son of English Channel returns and makes first start for Richard Mandella off four-month freshening.
Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Nine older fillies and mares entered in 6-furlong allowance.
Fair Grounds. Race 12. 5:49. The day’s main event, the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby features swelled field of 14 with a couple on the AE list. Who stands the best chance to land the 100 Kentucky Derby points? Figure it out and you could stand to make some cash to spend on some takeout from your favorite local restaurant.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:52. Guildsman placed in a couple group stakes last season in Europe and makes American debut for Brendan Walsh in $75,000 Texas Glitter.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Remember Nucky? Sure you do; he won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last year at 35-1. He hasn’t beaten a single opponent in three starts since and tries again in $90,000 Gazebo Stakes.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:35. Pretty much every spring marathon for two-legged runners out there are canceled or postponed. For the four-legged there’s always the Grade 3 San Luis Rey.
Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:38. Finish things off with 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds and up.
Charles Town Races. Race 1. 7:00. Looking for some evening action? Start with 7-furlong maiden – remember that’s two turns – for 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds.
Charles Town. Race 2. 7:32. Muad’dib won first two by 13 lengths and takes on five others in 6 1/2-furlong state-bred allowance.
Turfway Park. Race 7. 9:12. Full field of 12, including a couple on the AE list, for featured 6-furlong optional.
Charles Town. Race 6. 9:32. Boaster, 6-for-15 locally, comes off bench in 6 1/2-furlong allowance for Jeff Runco.
Charles Town. Race 7. 10:02. Penguin Power rides seven-race win streak – including three state-bred stakes – into West Virginia-bred allowance at 7 furlongs. Son of Fiber Sonde is 10-for-12 locally but meets stuff challenge from graded stakes winner Runnin’toluvya, stablemate North Atlantic and Mean Bean. Now, go to bed.