Happy New Year. Eat your black eye peas and hope for a better year than the last. Here’s a rare Friday Special (part of a New Year’s resolution to write more in 2021) to prep you for the traditional Saturday Special.

Scaled down for sure, but a plenty of interesting races and horses to watch on the first holiday of 2021. Unfortunately, the traditional New Year’s Day card at Cheltenham was abandoned because of too much rain. But we’ve still got a two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the morning and stakes at Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct in the afternoon. 

Saratoga Special Reader’s Club Names of the Day

Drinknwhiskeynrye, second race, Laurel Park. Larry Johnson has fun naming offspring by Maclean’s Music and this might be the best one yet. Can’t you just hear that line?

Breonna, seventh race, Fair Grounds. One of the saddest, most disturbing moments of a sad and disturbing 2020 is honored here. J S Stable owns the daughter of Run Away And Hide. Rest in peace Breonna Taylor and may the world become a better place. 

Clancy Bloodstock Play of the Day

Jeanie B, eighth race, Fair Grounds. Why not? We bought the daughter of Bated Breath for CJ Thoroughbreds last year. She’s improved with every start with Mark Casse and can keep it rolling here in a deep second-level allowance on the Louisiana grass. 

Thoroughbred Racing Calendar Races of the Day. 

Musselburgh. Race 1. 7:45. Juvenile hurdles (don’t call them 3-year-old hurdlers) build their careers here. Kings Creek, a son of Elusive Quality (Demonstrative, anyone?) looked strong winning his most recent start. He’ll need to improve to upend 1-2 favorite Fiveandtwenty, a 26-length winner over the course and distance Dec. 7. Ajax Tavern looks like an interesting newcomer to this sphere. 

Southwell. Race 3. 8:15. Miles, 12, rarely notices a horse. One day he walked through the living room, stopped at the TV and said, “That’s a beautiful horse.” Teston got his nod that day in June and surely will again in this heady handicap.  

Musselburgh. Race 2. 8:20. Navajo Pass finished fourth at 50-1 in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. The son of Nathaniel has been dismal in his two starts this season. This handicap hurdle looks tough with the likes of Newtown Boy and Accomplice.

Musselburgh. Race 3. 8:55. Manucci at a price. 

Tramore. Race 5. 9:37. If it’s New Year’s Day, then it’s Al Boum Photo in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase. The millionaire won it with Ruby Walsh in 2019 and with Paul Townend in 2020. Each year, he won the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup in his next start. Willie Mullins doesn't try to fix what isn't broken. The French-bred chaser goes for the double again. He takes on four rivals, including stablemates Acapella Bourgeois and Brahma Bull. Sit back and enjoy. 

Exeter. Race 5. 9:50. Ask Me Early smashed six rivals in his chase debut Dec. 5. The Harry Fry trainee should make it a double here as he takes on seven foes in the featured handicap chase. 

Gulfstream Park. Race 3. 1:05 p.m. Was that the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with Rusty Arnold? He said he liked Gear Jockey, we bet him at 13-1 when second at Saratoga and at 67-1 when third in the Breeders’ Cup. Oh, what might have been. Nice horse. Lightly raced. Makes his 4-year-old debut against five rivals in this maiden turf. 

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 5. 2:44. There is nothing like maidens on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs. Hard Spun, War Front, Medaglia d’Oro…Stidham, Mott, Pletcher, McGaughey. All for a $22,500 purse. 

Laurel Park. Race 7. 3:23. Can I get off this ride now? Still Having Fun makes his first start out of the stakes division since breaking his maiden way back in November, 2017. The $570,000 earner doesn’t have it easy in this three-other-than allowance.  

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:30. Wow, it’s refreshing to see the long lost art of route racing to open the card. First-level allowance foes face a 10-furlong test. 

Tampa. Race 7. 3:46. More maidens. More turf. More icons. 

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50. New York-breds Hold The Salsa and Eagle Orb take on California-bred Capo Kane and Kentucky-breds Swill and Original in the Jerome. Bred, owned and trained by Richard Lugovich, Hold The Salsa banged out three wins in his juvenile season while Eagle Orb accounted for two. Swill needs to bounce back from a fourth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in his most recent start. 

Turfway Park. Race 7. 4:09. Turfway has done its part to offer a competitive product this winter. A full field of 12 allowance fillies and mares show up for the feature. Color Me Pretty tries to make it four in a row. 

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:11. The stakes skein kicks off here with the Janus going 5 furlongs on the turf. Imprimis should bounce back from a disaster in the Breeders’ Cup. Of course, Tom Law is still on the Extravagant Kid float, although at 2-1, it’s not nearly as much fun as 18-1 in the Breeders’ Cup. He was fourth that day in another oh-what-might-have-been headscratcher.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:42. Three-year-old fillies rip a mile in the Cash Run. 

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:54. Repole Stable-bred Momaria failed to sell for $190,000 as a yearling and winds up here making her debut for Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt, Madaket Stable and Spendthrift Farm. The daughter of Uncle Mo breaks from post six in the field of seven. 

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:13. Jakarta banged out $245,000 in 2020. She should pick up right where she left off in the Abundantia. 

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:23. Originator fetched $48,000 from TEC Racing at Keeneland November, the 6-year-old mare makes her first start for trainer Tom Amoss in this deep allowance for fillies and mares. The daughter of Artie Schiller is a lukewarm morning line favorite over Jeanie B. 

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:32. An eclectic group of 10 clash in the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez. Encoder makes his 4-year-old debut, his first start since the Robert E. Lewis back in February. Hembree was claimed from Three Diamonds for $62,500 in his most recent start. True Valour ships across the country for Graham Motion. Ohio makes his 10-year-old debut. Now, that’s eclectic. 

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:30. We’re still partial to down the hill but these 6-furlong turf races are captivating. Three-year-old maidens traverse that trip here.