Who’s ready for the weekend? Even though things were a little more quiet this week – formal impeachments always being a bit more tame than violent insurrections – we’re ready for another break from the never-ending news cycle and for the top-shelf racing from around the globe.
The mid-January edition of The Saturday Special presented by Thoroughbred Racing Calendar figures to fill out the day and provide just what you need to keep up with everything between Premier League matches and NFL divisional playoff games. Now that we’ve spelled out our third Saturday in January itinerary, how’s this for a slate?
Fair Grounds hosts the six-stakes Road to the Derby card, which features the Grade 3 Lecomte and Silverbulletday with points on the line for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, respectively, in less than four months’ time.
Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park team up to run the Sunshine Millions and California Cup, nine restricted stakes in all.
Not to be outdone by its TSG bretheren, Laurel Park runs the Winter Carnival program that includes six stakes worth $550,000.
Last but not least, Tampa Bay Downs runs three stakes and Aqueduct runs another.
We didn’t even mention everything overseas, from Fairhouse to Lingfield, Warwick to Market Rasen.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, Jan. 16. Stay healthy, be safe and good luck.
Fairyhouse. Race 1. 7:00 a.m. An embarrassment of riches. Youmdor joined Willie Mullins’ yard after a solid handicap career on the flat in France. The son of Youmzain trounced eight rivals in his hurdle debut at Gowran Park in November. This juvenile hurdle could launch any number of careers and any number of marches to Cheltenham in March. If the Irish can get there…
Lingfield. Race 4. 8:25. A racing organization once asked us to include sponsor names in the races (glad they’re reading). Well, here you go. The Bombardier British-Hopped Amber Beer Handicap. Can we get some of that shipped here? Mission Boy, Grade 3 placed in Italy, makes his British debut for Marco Botti. Competitive handicap for a $25,500 purse and surely a case of Bombardier Amber Beer. “A beer using the finest British Hops and fresh mineral water from the Eagle Brewery Well. A fruity aroma and rich malty taste provide a crisp, mouth-watering beer. Tangy Fuggles hops and sultana fruit flavour finish off the palate. Bombardier is a beer for those who embrace their independent spirit and march to their own drum. Tap the keg and pass one down.”
Warwick. Race 3. 8:50. Next Destination and Fiddlerontheroof lead the Grade 2 McCoy Contractors Hampton Novices’ Chase. They say always take the outsider of three. Well, Golan Fortune is your conveyance here.
Fairyhouse. Race 5. 9:15. The Dan and Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase. Remember Dan Moore? The horse? The man? Look him up. This $84,500 chase entices a deep field of 17, including Greatwood winner The Shunter and Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner Chatham Street Lad.
Warwick. Race 4. 9:25. The Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Voices’ Hurdle. Adrimel has lost just once in six tries for Tom Lacey but he gets upended here by 4-1 Oscar Elite for Colin Tizzard. Don’t ignore impressive maiden winner Jay Bee Why at a little value, too. Captivating race.
Market Rasen. Race 5. 9:40. The one and only Lil Rockerfeller aims at his 12th career victory. The Pennsylvania-bred 10-year-old takes on seven rivals on a quest to increase his career ledger to over $635,000. Heart on his sleeve? The streetfighter ripped off the sleeves long ago.
Warwick. Race 5. 10:00. Here’s the local pub race of the day, the Grade 3 Classic Handicap Chase. Old friends sitting down for a beer on a Saturday afternoon. Game of darts heating up. Juke box blaring. Crisps on the counter. Smokers in a circle outside. Racing on the tele in the corner. There is nothing like a handicap chase in England.
Market Rasen. Race 6. 10:15. Big purse for mares in the Alan Swinbank Mares’ National Hunt Flat Race. Mullins takes Grangee on the road but will face Eileendover, a racecar daughter of Canford Cliffs who has won her first two starts by a combined 45 lengths for Pam Sly. Yeah, 45 lengths. And before you call, Sly isn’t selling.
Warwick Race 6. 10:35. The handicap system in Europe is unrelenting, unforgiving. Tobefair climbed from being rated 81 at Worcester in June, 2015 to 143 at Cheltenham in March, 2017. He’s won only twice since while plying his trade at the top of the handicap scale. The 11-year-old carries 166 in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle here. One thing’s for sure, the Down the Quay Club (a bunch from the bar) will be rooting hard for their flagship.
Kempton. Race 1. 11:15. Elvic should improve from her debut for Roger Charlton.
Gulfstream Park. Race 4. 1:10 p.m. Legendary Sam-Son Farm dispersed horses at this week’s Keeneland January sale. Twice As Smart wasn’t included and 3-year-old Bernardini colt returns to the grass for 1-mile maiden.
Laurel Park. Race 3. 1:23. Who doesn’t love a good carnival? The $75,000 Geisha Stakes at 1-mile for Maryland-breds starts off the stakes action on Winter Carnival Day.
Laurel. Race 4. 1:53. Local favorite Laki, 15-for-20 in the exacta at Laurel, looks tough in $75,000 Fire Plug against Share The Ride and Wendell Fong.
Fair Grounds. Race 3. 2:00. The $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner leads off the stakes action. Archidust and Just Might finished 1-2 in Richard Scherer Memorial as prep for this similar 5 1/2-furlong turf stakes. They’re back along with Fast Boat, Readyforprimetime and Manny Wah.
Laurel. Race 5. 2:23. The $75,000 Jennings marks return to races for Alwaysmining and return to training ranks as the head man for Austin Trites. The latter won with his first starter back at the 2018 Keeneland spring meeting and most recently worked as assistant to Jimmy Toner.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 6. 2:36. The $125,000 Gasparilla leads off the stakes. Feeling Mischief won the prep in the Sandpiper and looks to run record to 3-for-4.
Laurel. Race 6. 2:53. Hello Beautiful takes on shippers Club Car and Escapade in $100,000 What a Summer Stakes.
Tampa. Race 7. 3:07. Nova Rags, fourth in the Grade 3 Nashua in early November, makes return against seven other sophomores in $125,000 Pasco at 7 furlongs. We’re anxious to see son of Union Rags around two turns and a good run here could set that up in the Sam F. Davis down the road.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:15. The $75,000 Sunshine Filly and Mare Turf leads off the stakes.
Laurel. Race 7. 3:23. Street Lute, winner of her last three and 5-for-6 overall, meets seven other 3-year-olds in 6-furlong Extra Heat.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:46. Noble Drama won last year’s Sunshine Millions Classic, then worth $200,000. The 2021 renewal goes for a $75,000 purse and he’ll need to beat Red Crescent again to defend title.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50. Vacay ran her record to 2-for-2 winning the Key Cents in mid-November and returns to 6 ½ furlongs for the $100,000 Franklin Square for 3-year-old state-bred fillies. Daughter of Not This Time finished 5 1/2 lengths clear of Rossa Veloce and that one returns again. Laobanonaprayer probably merits slight edge in favoritism off back-to-back stakes wins for Parx-based Daniel Velazquez. Good feature.
Laurel. Race 8. 3:53. Sophomores look to get on the Federico Tesio trail in $100,00 Spectacular Bid at 7 furlongs. Maythehorsebwithu could cap big day for Brittany Russell, while Tiz Mandate could do same for Damon Dilodovico.
Tampa. Race 9. 4:10. Lucky Stride seems to be improving with each run since being imported from Puerto Rico. Second last time in two-turn stakes on the dirt in Maryland, daughter of Declarationi Of War could be tough here in $50,000 Wayward Lass for Mike Trombetta.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:18. One of our all-time favorites, Extravagant Kid returns to the main track to defend title in Sunshine Sprint. An effective turf sprinter, he’s actually 6-for-13 on fast tracks and 1-for-3 with two thirds on wet tracks.
Aqueduct. Race 9. 4:20. Critical Value, the 2019 champion New York-bred 2-year-old filly, tries again to get back on track in 1-mile open allowance. She hasn’t won since comeback score in Bouwerie back in June.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:25. Several 3-year-olds entered in 1 1/16-mile optional could have run later in the day so this one merits a watch.
Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 4:30. Warren’s Showtime returns to Cal-bred ranks for Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:50. Mike Maker enjoyed a career year in 2020 and looks to keep it rolling into the New Year with Second Mate and Max K. O. in $75,000 Sunshine Turf.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 4:54. Fillies and mares take to the grass for $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial. Secret Message, purchased by Spendthrift Farm for $625,000 at Keeneland November sale, makes second start for Brad Cox in 1 1/16-mile event that also draws Dalika and the three who immediately chased her home in the Blushing K. D. last month.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 5:23. Wells Bayou returns to scene of his big win in last year’s Louisiana Derby here in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes. He hasn’t been out since finishing fifth in Nadal’s division of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby May 2 and meets Sonneman, Title Ready, Blackberry Wine and Silver Prospector. Check out who else showed up on the overnight, My Boy Jack. Remember when he finished fifth at 60-1 in Justify’s Kentucky Derby? Wow, feels like a lifetime ago.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:33. Sensible Cat handled a few of these last time in Soviet Problem and looks tough in $200,000 Leigh Ann Howard California Cup Oaks. Her stablemate Closing Remarks didn’t factor in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante and returns to the Cal-bred ranks here.
Fair Grounds. Race 11. 5:52. My Boy Jack also entered here in the $125,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley. He’d be a bigger price in this spot against Spectacular Gem, Mr. Misunderstood, Sailing Solo, Maraud and Logical Myth.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:05. Rare day without a Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old in a stakes on the West Coast, but alas here’s the $200,000 California Cup Derby for Cal-breds.
Fair Grounds. Race 12. 6:20. Kentucky Oaks points – 10 to the winner – on the line in $150,000 Silverbulletday. Souper Sensational won her two starts on synthetic last fall at Woodbine and switches to the dirt for Mark Casse while Sun Path tries to duplicate blowout win last time out for Brad Cox. She’s a homebred for Juddmonte Farms, rocked this week by the loss of a legend in Prince Khalid Abdullah.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:37. Acclimate, with one run under his belt since a ninth in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf, stands out in $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic Stakes presented by City National Bank. That’s a mouthful. Take note that the one run for Acclimate was a fourth behind Arklow last time in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup.
Fair Grounds. Race 13. 6:49. The main event closes the card, as it always should be. Field of 11 line up for the Grade 3 Lecomte, including the 2-for- Mandaloun, impressive maiden winner Manor House (also entered in the eighth), Champagne third Midnight Bourbon and Santa Cruiser.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:09. Eleven Cal-bred older sprinters meet in $150,000 Don Valpredo California Cup Sprint.