Who could use a little distraction this week? Don’t be shy in the slightest if you raised your hand, it’s been quite a year this week. Yes, you read that right.

What better way to take a little break than taking in some racing, from overseas and here in the U.S, and what better way to get ready than The Saturday Special. We’re still carrying the Thoroughbred Racing Calendar sponsorship with hopes (pleas?) that you’ll order one before we get too far into 2021.

Looking at the calendar we see more than a week already in the books. How are the resolutions going? Yeah, we get it.

Two graded stakes at Santa Anita Park top the light docket for this week, along with the Grade 3 Tropical Turf at Gulfstream Park and small stakes at Aqueduct and Fair Grounds. We’ve sprinkled in some other heats to keep you busy between or during the NFL playoff games.

Here’s your primer, plus some favorites, for Saturday, Jan. 9. Take care, be safe and good luck.

By the Numbers presented by Reader’s Club

6: Straight NYRA training titles for Chad Brown after he won 91 races in 2020, the first conditioner since Gasper Moschera to win six in a row.

25.5: Percentage drop in U.S. purses for 2020 – $1,167,920,667 to $869,774,080.

32.7: Percentage increase of wagering dollars per day in the U.S., from $2,493,520 in 2019 to $3,308,669 in 2020

48: Wins for Klaravich Stable on the NYRA circuit in 2020, best of all owners.

142: Victories in New York last year for Jose Ortiz, who took home his second riding crown.

500,000: Dollar contribution from the estate of Joyce and Paul Robsham to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program’s endowment fund.

32.3 million: All-sources wagering dollars for the recent Turfway Park holiday meeting, up 34.6 percent ($8.3 million) from 2019 despite three fewer racing dates.

1,813,935,091: Dollars in all-sources handle on races in 2020 at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, a 19 percent increase over 2019. The gains come despite the loss of 43 racing days to the impact of Covid-19.

10,925,226,444: Dollars bet on U.S. races in 2020, down less than 1 percent from $11,033,824,363 in 2019.

Quotes of the Day

“I don’t know where to start.”
Lane’s End’s Bill Farish during the farm’s annual Press Pass event held virtually, when asked what he learned from 2020

“He has a forearm like Paul Bunyan.”
Trainer John Shirreffs on Grade 1 winner Honor A.P., who will stand his first season for $15,000 in 2021 at Lane’s End

“They went from wanting to sell the whole horse to wanting to keep the horse.”
Farish on the Turkish Jockey Club after Daredevil, who returned to the U.S. for the 2021 season, enjoyed a strong season last year highlighted by the 1-2 finish in the Kentucky Oaks by Shedaresthedevil and Swiss Skydiver

“People tease me that ‘You like all your horses,’ but I tell people if they come out here and don’t like him, ‘I’ll pay for your gas,’ and I have yet to pay for anyone’s gas.”
Lane’s End’s David Ingordo, discussing Catalina Cruiser

Thoroughbred Racing Calendar’s Races of the Day

Chepstow. Race 1. 6:45 a.m. Check the weather before wading too far into a stellar card at Chepstow. A maiden hurdle kicks it off.

Kempton. Race 1. 7:05. While the proven juveniles clash at Chepstow, the proven ones come here. Bannister makes his British debut after five tries over hurdles in France.

Chepstow. Race 4. 8:25. By the numbers? 99. The combined winning distance by Nassalam in his two British hurdle starts. The French-bred juvenile takes on seven rivals in the Grade 1 Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle.

Kempton. Race 4. 8:45. Part of a strong card at Kempton, this handicap chase attracts a seasoned group of chasers. Seasoned? They’ve combined to make 425 career starts – flat, hurdle and chase.

Wincanton. Race 5. 9:05. Dan and Harry Skelton have rolled through the first half of the season and expect to keep the heat on with Protektorat in the Grade 2 Paddy Power Dipper Novices’ Chase. Undefeated in two starts over fences, he takes on just two rivals here.

Kempton. Race 5. 9:20. McFabulous had his win streak snapped in the Long Distance Hurdle, the Paul Nicholls trainee tries to build another one, starting with the Grade 2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle.

Chelmsford City. Race 3. 9:34. American-bred Further Measure makes his British debut in a 7-furlong handicap. The 4-year-old colt won once in five starts in France.

Kempton. Race 6. 9:55. The Silviniaco Conti Chase. Named for a wily veteran who graced this stage for many acts, this Grade 2 chase lures Imperial Aura. Trained by Kim Bailey, the 8-year-old rides a three-race win streak into this test.

Chepstow. Race 7. 10:10. The big one. The Coral Welsh Grand National. Three and 7/8 miles over soul-searching heavy ground. Thirteen warriors line up. Want a bomb? Take a splash on Big River.

Kempton. Race 7. 10:30. The name rolls off the tongue and stirs the soul. Lanzarote. What a legend. His race attracts a party of 20. We’ll bomb away with Shinobi.

Gulfstream Park. Race 3. 1:05 p.m. Todd Pletcher sends out Atlantic Road, 3-year-old son of Quality Road, in his “house” white and black ‘TAP’ silks, and Mshawish first-timer Sainthood for WinStar Farm and China Horse Club. The barn is clicking, per usual, in South Florida so far in 2021.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:20. Funny Guy, the winner of three restricted stakes last year, looms large over four others entered in $100,000 Say Florida Sandy at 7 furlongs.

Laurel Park. Race 4. 1:53. Shackled Love makes first start as gelding against Royal Number and No One To Blame in two-turn optional that could produce some stakes runners down the road.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:05. Blitz To Win, 3-year-old New York-bred son of Speightster who sold for $60,000 at Fasig-Tiptpon Saratoga in 2019, makes debut for Sackatoga Stable and Barclay Tagg in 6-furlong maiden. Big shoes to fill with the recent retirement of fellow state-bred Tiz The Law.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:00. Field of eight for opener, a 9-furlong allowance on the grass.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:15. Another maiden for 3-year-olds, this one at 1 mile, attracts pairs from Pletcher, Brown, Romans and Wilkes.

Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:25. Win Ya Win, son of Star Guitar with two wins and two seconds including runner-up in small stakes last time, looks tough against My Wise Cat in state-bred optional sprint.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:49. The featured Grade 3 Tropical Turf marks comeback for Admission Office, last seen winning the Grade 3 Louisville June 13 at Churchill Downs. He’s winless in four tries in Hallandale Beach, with two seconds, and meets solid cast that includes Analyze It, Casa Creed, Frostmourne and Ride A Comet.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:23. Laughing Fox, fifth in the 2019 Preakness and winner of the Oaklawn Invitational that same season, makes first start since early April in two-turn optional that also attracts Locally Owned, Lord Dragon and M G Warrior.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:52. Several from the Dec. 5 Pan Zareta, including the first four led by Elle Z, are back for the $75,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial at 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:35. Fighting Mad and Hard Not To Love, 1-2 in last year’s Grade 2 Santa Maria, meet in similar spot here in Grade 3 La Canada.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:05. Oleksandra, ninth after a somewhat adventurous trip off nearly five-month layoff in Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, returns against Jolie Olimpica in Grade 3 Las Cienegas at 6 furlongs on the grass. The latter just missed against Rushing Fall in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in her most recent start – in July – and is one of two for Richard Mandella along with Superstition.

Turfway Park. Race 6. 8:46. Keep it rolling into the evening, and take a break from the NFL Wild Card games. Here’s a 6-furlong allowance for 4-year-olds and up.

 

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