Hey, we’re back! Sincere apologies for missing the last few Saturdays over several weeks since closing the book on the 2020 Saratoga meet and our largely work-from-home publishing schedule with The Saratoga Special.
The weekly primer returns for mid-October, just in time for quality cards at Keeneland, Belmont, Santa Anita and Woodbine here in North America and the British Champions Day card from Ascot. We’ll even throw in some jump racing – and picks from the team – with the $7,500 BNY Mellon Wealth Management & Selkirk Partners Apprentice Timber Race in honor of Louis Neilson III on tap at the Willowdale Point-to-Point in Kennett Square, Pa.
If you’re game to watch the Champions Day card it will air on FS2 from 8:30 to 11 a.m. ET thanks to a partnership between the New York Racing Association and FOX Sports.
How’s that for a comeback? We wish you well and good health. Here’s the primer for Saturday, Oct. 17. Good luck.
Ballinrobe. Race 1. 8:05 a.m. Is it too early to think about Cheltenham? Juvenile hurdlers start here. Willie Mullins unveils Dark Voyager while Gordon Elliott debuts Zanahiyr.
Ascot. Race 1. 8:20. Champions Day starts with the Group 2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. The one and only Stradivarius gets reunited with Frankie Dettori after finishing seventh in the Arc just two weeks ago. Winner of 16 from 25 starts and over $3.8 million, the 6-year-old should handle this and, even better, they say he’s coming back next year.
Ascot. Race 2. 8:55. The Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes attracts an eclectic group of 17. One Master, a 6-year-old mare, aims for her eighth career win, 3-year-old Starman puts his undefeated record on the line and 8-year-old The Tin Man makes his 31st start. They’re just some of the spice in the salsa.
Ascot. Race 3. 9:30. The Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes offers the red-hot Ralph Beckett two chances as he lines up Antonia De Vega and Manuela De Vega for the 1 1/2-mile test.
Leopardstown. Race 3. 10:00. Ontario makes his seventh start of his 2-year-old campaign in the Group 3 stakes Killavullan Stakes.
Ascot. Race 4. 10:05. The hits just keep on coming. The Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes looks like a penalty kick for the undefeated Palace Pier. John Gosden and Frankie Dettori could have a big day.
Market Rasen. Race 3. 10:21. You know winter is coming when you start seeing proper NH horses hit the program. Palladium went off the favorite at Cheltenham in March, pulling up in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle. The 4-year-old returns here for Nicky Henderson.
Ascot. Race 5. 10:40. Magical won the Irish Champion Stakes. The 5-year-old mare tries to add the Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes to her 12-win, $5.6 million career. Mishriff has won his last three for Gosden and Dettori.
Ascot. Race 6. 11:15. Nothing like a handicap in England. Twenty go here in the 1-mile Balmoral.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 1. Noon ET. The farewell to Calder continues and here’s opener, maiden claimer on the grass for 2-year-old fillies.
Monmouth Park. Race 1. 12:50. Penultimate Saturday card of the Meadowlands at Monmouth meet opens with state-bred maiden special weight at 6 furlongs.
Belmont Park. Race 3. 1:28. One-mile optional on the main track marks return of Performer. Winner of the Grade 3 Discovery last November, son of Speightstown looked like a potential major player in handicap division until multiple trips to the sidelines, including one late this spring just prior to the Grade 1 Carter.
Woodbine. Race 3. 2:18. Mark Casse, on his way to another Sovereign Award and atop the trainer standings for the 2020 season, sends out Sleek Lynx and On A Tour for Gary Barber in 6-furlong turf maiden.
Willowdale. Race 4. 2:30 p.m. A dozen entered in the BNY Mellon Wealth Management & Selkirk Partners Apprentice Timber Race in honor of Louis Neilson III going 3 miles. Pured It, second and third in his last two appearances at Willowdale, could be tough along with Prime Prospector, El Jefe Grande, Grand Manan and Officer Sydney. The picks:
Tom: Pured It, El Jefe Grande, Grand Manan.
Joe: Pured It, Prime Prospector, El Jefe Grande.
Sean: Pured It, Prime Prospector, El Jefe Grande.
Wolverhampton. Race 7. 3:00. Moving Light looks like a star after his first two starts. The son of Night Of Thunder should make it three in a row here.
Belmont. Race 6. 3:06. Phil Gleaves talked about Peter Vegso’s Berhanu in our season-ending Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with the Little Guys in the Sept. 12 edition of The Saratoga Special. Homebred son of The Factor shortens up here in 6-furlong turf sprint against well-meant runners for Chad Brown (Voter Protection), Jeremiah Englehart (Charleston Strong), Dave Cannizzo (Coach P) and Jimmy Jerkens (Greatheart).
Keeneland Race Course. Race 5. 3:18. Brad Cox, in the midst of strong fall meet, sends out More Than Unusual in 1 1/16-mile turf allowance that also attracts Siamese from Brendan Walsh, I Hear You from Mike Stidham and Great Island from Chad Brown.
Woodbine. Race 5. 3:30. Another 6-furlong turf maiden and three more for Casse – Jackman, Cash In A Flash and Master McGrath.
Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 4:00. Blue Star, Warrens Candy Man and J C Express, 2-3-4 behind Ingest in state-bred maiden on the grass, meet again in similar spot to start the card.
Woodbine. Race 6. 4:04. Sunsprite, second in $100,000 stakes last time, cuts back to 5 furlongs and stands out in turf optional for Kevin Attard.
Belmont. Race 8. 4:14. Cold Hard Cash turned in three good runs at Saratoga – two wins and a second – for Linda Rice and figures to be tough in return to state-bred ranks in 1 1/16-mile allowance on the dirt.
Keeneland. Race 7. 4:24. Expect improvement from Three Tipsy Chix in maiden for 2-year-old fillies at the extended 7-furlong trip on the Beard Course. Daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of multiple graded stakes winner On Fire Baby finished even eighth in debut for Ian Wilkes and owner-breeder Anita Cauley. Tom Amoss sends out Wicked Strong firster Wicked Bisou and Steve Asmussen unveils the Nyquist filly and Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale graduate Willful Woman for the Lieblongs.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 9. 4:32. Fan favorite Bodexpress spent the summer up north and fared well, finishing third in the Alydar at Saratoga and second in optional on Kentucky Derby Day undercard. He’s back home in Florida and brings 2-for-3 record into this two-turn optional that lures Blewitt from Todd Pletcher’s Palm Beach Downs string.
Belmont. Race 9. 4:47. Bill Mott cuts Mitchell Road back to turf sprint here in the $80,000 Floral Park. Half sister to 2019 Kentucky Derby winner Country House just missed last time in 1-mile stakes at Kentucky Downs and meets 10 other fillies and mares in 6-furlong stakes on the inner course.
Keeneland. Race 8. 4:57. Corelli should appreciate class relief after back-to-back tries in Grade 1s at Monmouth and Saratoga for Jonathan Thomas. He finished third two back in the United Nations and a return to that effort might be good enough in 9-furlong turf allowance. Dontblamerocket, fifth in the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic on Derby Day for Norm Casse, and Midnight Tea Time, second in the $300,000 Tapit Stakes last time out at Kentucky Downs, also loom large.
Gulfstream Park West. Race 10. 5:06. Maiden special weight on the grass with runners from Mike Maker, Kent Sweezey, Mark Casse (two) and Kenny McPeek. It’s beginning to look a lot like … winter? Ok, too soon.
Woodbine. Race 8. 5:10. The $100,000 Glorious Song for 2-year-old fillies at 7 furlongs. Chris Block ships Charlie’s Penny north off 7-length whomping in Arlington maiden on the synthetic while Mark Casse defends home ground with Right To Freedom and Souper Sensational. And don’t count out Josie Carroll, wo sends out the first-out Tonalist maiden winner Reinforced.
Belmont. Race 10. 5:20. Ten New York-bred fillies and mares close the card in 7-furlong optional.
Keeneland. Race 9. 5:30. Another year, another strong renewal of the Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run. One of the last times straight 3-year-olds can sprint in graded stakes. Four Graces set course record winning the Grade 3 Beaumont at the summer meeting – going the about 7 furlongs in 1:24.90. Ian Wilkes could have opted for the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga after that but kept her in Kentucky with the ultimate goal here in the Raven Run. He talked about it in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour in the Aug. 12 edition of The Saratoga Special. Whitham Thoroughbreds’ homebred daughter of Majesticperfection will be tough foe for Test runner-up and Grade 2 winner Venetian Harbor off two-month break, along with Finite, Reagan’s Edge, Tonalist’s Shape and Secondary Market.
Keeneland. Race 10. 6:03. Quarterback Dak in the finale.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:44. Eight Cal-bred or Cal-sired 2-year-old maidens go 6 1/2 furlongs. Kentucky-bred Alpine Thunder gets in via the latter condition, along with New Mexico-bred My Child Sbud. The Cal-bred Suzie Qzz Brother should handle them all.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 8:15. Warren’s Showtime, third in Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and in Grade 2 San Clemente in last two, looks tough in Grade 3 Autumn Miss at 1 mile on the grass. Nasty makes first start for Richard Baltas after running in the Midwest for Brad Cox.