Opening Day at Churchill Downs – three weeks later than usual – and the second day of racing since the re-opening of Santa Anita Park top a suddenly busy slate of action here in the U.S. at the midpoint of May.
There’s no Preakness on tap, the second jewel of the Triple Crown among the many major events shelved, postponed, canceled or tweaked in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
There will be racing though, and a lot of it by recent standards with loaded cards at Churchill, Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Golden Gate.
Wow, what a slate.
We preview all the action in the latest edition of The Saturday Special, plus racing from Australia at Gold Coast and Morphettville.
Racing returned under strict protocols in France this week – including at Longchamp – and there are Saturday cards from Auteuil, Strasbourg and Salon Provence to whet your European racing appetite.
Almost all the action will be televised live, so you’re not stuck just watching the restart of the Bundesliga in Germany, not that there’s anything wrong with that. America’s Day at the Races, produced by the New York Racing Association in partnership with Fox Sports, will televise racing Saturday and Sunday. Here’s the schedule for Saturday: 1-2:30 p.m. EDT on FS2, 2:30-6 p.m. on FS1 and 6-6:30 on FS2. The schedule for Sunday: 1-2 p.m. on FS2, 2-6 p.m. on FS1 and 6-6:30 p.m. on FS2.
NBC will air a one-hour Preakness special featuring American Pharoah’s run to the Triple Crown starting at 5 p.m. before action shifts over to NBC Sports Network for TVG’s Saturday racing coverage from 6-8 p.m.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, May 16. Good luck and be safe.
Gold Coast. Race 6. 12:19 a.m. Strong cards down under, here’s a Group 3 that attracts Wisdom Of Water, winner of two of his four starts and the odds-on choice in the 6-furlong dash for juveniles.
Flemington. Race 6. 12:50 a.m. Group 2 winner King Of Leogrance returns for his first start in two months, the 5-2 favorite should relish the 1 3/4 miles traversed here in the Andrew Ramsden.
Gold Coast. Race 8. 1:39 a.m. The. Group 3 Brandons Gold Coast Guineas entices a strong group. Command’n’conquer has won three of four starts. The Odyssey has won eight of 17. Filly Exhilarates returns from a break, she’s won four of 13, including a Group 3 back in August.
Rosehill. Race 8. 1:55 a.m. Oh, stay up all night, you can sleep all morning. The Group 3 Emirates Pk Dark Jewel Classic offers a betting puzzle.
Morphettville. 2:25 a.m. Gytrash, Santa Ana Lane and Trekking clash in the Group 1 Furphy Goodwood.
Ascot. Race 8. 4:25 a.m. You can go to bed after this Group 3 sprint. Oh, wait, French racing is right around the corner…
Strasbourg. Race 1. 4:50 a.m. Staying up or getting up? The French card starts with a maiden going 7 furlongs on the turf. Lupo Nero has posted three seconds in three starts, surely the son of American Devil graduates here.
Strasbourg. Race 2. 5:20 a.m. Nothing like a dual-purpose card. Thirty minutes after maidens rip 7 furlongs, chasers stretch 3 1/4 miles in the Ucello Du Lac Chase.
Auteuil. Race 1. 6:05 a.m. Set the coffee for this. A strong jump card at one of France’s best venues.
Auteuil. Race 2. 6:35 a.m. Stop and watch France’s 3-year-olds jump in May. Fascinating. Twenty fillies, all making their debut, line up here. Watch early, you can usually catch them schooling over a practice jump on the way to the start. It will be all the clues you’ll get.
Auteuil. Race 3. 7:05 a.m. Perhaps even better, or at least more captivating, than 3-year-old fillies over hurdles in May are 4-year-old chasers in May. Here goes. Nanosecond rides a two-race win streak into this.
Auteuil. Race 5. 8:05 a.m. Whew, this is Christmas morning for starved jumping zealots. Listed 3-year-old hurdlers continue their ascents here. Perhaps Nimes, Yes Indeed or any of the other five will wind up at Cheltenham next March. Take your notes.
Auteuil. Race 6. 8:35 a.m. Have you watched Figuero? What a star. The 5-year-old son of Yeats rides a three-race win streak into this, a Grade 2 chase.
Auteuil. Race 7. 9:15 a.m. How can you stop Bebe D’or in the Grade 3 hurdle?
Auteuil. Race 8. 9:45 a.m. Wow, there is nothing like the program for fillies and mares in France. Zialight, a 4-year-old filly of potential, could be one of best.
Auteuil. Race 9. 10:15 a.m. The Prix Roger Duchene Grand Prix des Jeunes Jockeys. Oh, the great Roger Duchene, rider of Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase winner Gacko and so many winners. His death in 1993 rocked the steeplechase world, his photo still lies folded in a wallet, put there by a 23-year-old American steeplechase jockey so many lifetimes ago.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:35. The season rolls on in Oldsmar, and it might wind up being even longer after track management asked for additional June dates Friday. Saturday’s domestic opener is maiden claimer at 1 mile and 40 yards.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 12:45. Maiden fillies and mares entered for $12,500 down to $10,500 tags start the day at 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track.
Churchill Downs. Race 1. 1:00. Weep no more, my lady. Racing returns to the Bluegrass State and the anticipated card begins with a 6-furlong maiden claimer on the main track. Ron Moquett touted Skyburst a bit in the debut issue of The 2020 Special in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour. Check it out on Page 8.
Tampa. Race 2. 1:08. Hot Mist, daughter of Tonalist who cost $110,000 as a yearling, makes debut in 7-furlong maiden for West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Christophe Clement.
Churchill. Race 4. 2:32. Not only will racing return to Louisville Saturday but so will champion Monomoy Girl. The champion 3-year-old filly from 2018, Monomoy Girl hasn’t run since winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs Nov. 3, 2018. She’s 3-for-4 at Churchill and looms large in 1-mile optional.
Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:46. Check the weather, five races were taken off the grass Friday. Here’s a 7 1/2-furlong optional for 3-year-old fillies slated for the grass. If it stays it’s a tough one to sort. If it comes off it looks like Pleasant Orb vs. Glass Ceiling.
Churchill. Race 5. 3:04. First grass race of 2020 in the Commonwealth, a 1 1/16-mile maiden for 3-year-olds and up.
Tampa. Race 6. 3:11. Six of the eighth entered in 6-furlong optional are entered for $16,000 tag. Not the one to beat, Legacy Azteca.
Gulfstream. Race 6. 3:16. Larry Bates waited two weeks to run With Verve in the $75,000 Roar Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs instead of trying older Florida-breds in the Big Drama. Son of Kantharos comes in off back-to-back wins, including the Hutcheson Stakes, but faces tall order against last year’s Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner and Grade 1 Champagne runner-up Green Light Go.
Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:30. Racing returns under the San Gabriel Mountains. Too bad no fans will be there to see it, but we’ll take what we can get these days.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 1. 3:45. Day 3 of the restarted meet in San Francisco starts with 1 1/16-mile claimer on the grass.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:49. Back to the grass – maybe – for another 7 1/2-furlong optional, this one for 3-year-olds and up. Shadwell’s Almashriq, a son of War Front who brought $1.2 million as a yearling, makes first start for Todd Pletcher after Kiaran McLaughlin’s retirement and goes back to the grass.
Churchill. Race 7. 4:08. Another full field of 12, plus four others on the AE list, for 6-furlong maiden for fillies and mares.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 4:21. Chiefswood Stables Ltd.’s Edge Of Fire could be part of big day for Jimmy Jerkens – who also runs Green Light Go – if he improves off runner-up last time in similar 1-mile optional. He’ll face Grade 3 Gotham runner-up and last-out winner Untitled, unbeaten Cajun Brother and debut maiden winner Casino Grande in tough spot.
Santa Anita. Race 3. 4:33. Himiko, a daughter of American Pharoah and Untouched Talent, brought $1 million as a weanling and makes belated debut in 5 1/2-furlong turf maiden against Affianced, Navetta, Moonhall Milly and stablemate Fierce For Sul.
Churchill. Race 8. 4:40. Back to the grass for 1-mile allowance. Bill Mott sends out Juddmonte homebred Tankerville for his first start in the U.S. He’s by Kitten’s Joy out of graded stakes winner Starformer, who Mott trained to six wins in 18 starts and more than $540,000 in earnings.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:42. Second of three stakes on the card, the $75,000 Powder Break for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the grass. All eyes on multiple Grade 1 winner Got Stormy, second by just a neck last time against males in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. She’s beaten the boys before, including last year’s Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga off a seven-day breather, in addition to a second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile. She faces a good field for a five-figure pot, including Noor Sahara, a two-time winner last year in France making her U.S. debut, and Valedictorian, Silver Kitten, Valiance and Tapit Today.
Santa Anita. Race 4. 5:04. Remember Ax Man? Sure you do, he won the Sir Barton on Preakness Day two years ago. He’s only won once in six starts since and faces tough field that includes Law Abidin Citizen, Justinian, Kershaw and Multiplier in 1-mile optional.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:24. The $100,000 Musical Romance for older Florida-bred fillies and mares closes the stakes trio and it’s a good one. Todd Pletcher sends out Bellera off almost five-month freshening against Wildwood’s Beauty, second in graded stakes in her last two, Florida sensation Lady’s Island and J P’s Delight.
Churchill. Race 10. 5:44. Portrait, second in last year’s Grade 2 Pocahontas, returns to Churchill after two decent runs in New Orleans. She’s one of 12, not counting the four on the AE list, for 7-furlong optional.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:06. Cal-breds go 6 furlongs in $150,000 Echo Eddie. Phantom Boss looked like one to watch winning the Grade 3 Bashford Manor last June at Churchill, reappeared in Cal-bred stakes in late August at Del Mar and didn’t run again in 2019.
Churchill. Race 11. 6:16. The good ones keep coming. Here’s 5 1/2-furlong allowance on the grass for 3-year-old fillies that includes two – Karak and Chili Petin – who ran at last year’s Royal Ascot meeting for Wesley Ward. And neither is morning-line favorite. That role falls to Fly So Pretty, maiden winner at Saratoga last summer for owner-breeder Tracy Farmer and recently announced Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.
Golden Gate. Race 6. 6:22. Jonathan Wong, far and away the meet’s leading trainer, sends out Praise And Honor and Zakar in 5 1/2-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:37. Dogtag, who broke her maiden in the $100,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes in late August 2018 at Saratoga, makes second start for Richard Mandella against six others in 1-mile optional on the grass.
Golden Gate. Race 7. 6:53. Michael McCarthy sends Into The South north for 6-furlong allowance.
Charles Town Races. Race 1. 7:00. Racing returned to West Virginia Thursday night and the action continues here with nine-race card that starts with state-bred maiden at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:08. Nice to have racing continue on into the early evening again, at least on the East Coast. Here’s the $150,000 Evening Jewel for Cal-bred 3-year-old fillies. Been Studying Her needs return to form that saw her win the Golden State Juvenile Fillies on Breeders’ Cup Friday last year, while Warren’s Showtime looks to make it three straight for Craig Lewis.
Golden Gate. Race 8. 7:23. A dozen plus one more on the AE for 1-mile maiden on the grass. Good to see full fields again in Northern California.
Charles Town. Race 2. 7:35. Secret Castle and C V’s Campfire broke their maidens on the same March 6 card before racing went on hiatus. They’re back with five others in 6 1/2-furlong allowance for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:38. Heywoods Beach woke up on the grass last time and can get it done from the rail in 1-mile turf maiden with a similar effort.
Charles Town. Race 7. 9:45. Nine fillies and mares entered in open 6 1/2-furlong maiden, including firsters Doves Out and Langley Girl. Don’t hit the hay just yet, there’s one more heat to watch.
Tokyo Race Course. 11:40 p.m. Win this and you’re in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Almond Eye, a multiple Group 1 winner, takes on defending champion Normcore in a thrilling renewal of the Victoria Mile.