Old Man Winter continues to have its way and take a toll on significant parts of the country, so what better excuse to hunker down on the couch, grab a warm beverage and take in some racing while we wait for better days.
Start early with jump racing from Europe before the star-studded Saudi Cup card from King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh. Several Americans are entered – Knicks Go and Charlatan among them in the $20 million headliner – while a few jockeys were unable to make the trip due to complications related to Covid-19 testing and travel snafus.
The Maryland Jockey Club tries again with the Winter Sprintfest program, which includes six stakes for $900,000 at Laurel Park. The card wound up being postponed a week after a winter blast in the Mid-Atlantic. Another returned this week so stay tuned to see if it’s a stop or go this week. Elsewhere there’s stakes at Aqueduct, Gulfstream and Santa Anita, plus the return of a new old friend.
Check it all out in the weekly primer for Saturday, Feb. 20 presented by Thoroughbred Racing Calendar. Take care, be safe and good luck.
Quote of the Day
“This new program will set a new standard for the impact of the TRF horses by changing the trajectory of the lives of young people who are deemed ‘at risk.’ ” – Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Executive Director Pat Stickney on the new Juvenile program
Name of the Day
Tales of Saratoga. First race. Aqueduct. We’ve told those for 20 years. Read The Special!
Beach Front. Second race. Aqueduct. Five-year-old is by Smart Bid out of Catalina Island.
By the Numbers
145: Days until Saratoga. Read The Special! Better yet, advertise in The Special!
Bet of the Day
Bestrella. Race 1. Santa Anita. We wrote “Good American action” on the Racing Post Horse Tracker for the daughter of Es Que Love who makes her stateside debut for owner/trainer Paddy Gallagher.
The Saturday Special
Lingfield. Race 2. 7:15 a.m. Myseven takes on the boys as she seeks her sixth career win for Simon and Ed Crisford.
Saudi Cup. Race 1. 8:00. Our old friend Channel Maker (right, Coady Photography) will try to wire an international cast in the opener, the $1 million Neom Turf Cup.
Ascot. Race 1. 8:15. The countdown to Cheltenham (like it or not) is winding down and here’s the foremost Saturday card to follow. It starts with novice hurdlers. Midnight River drops from a Grade 2 for Dan and Harry Skelton.
Saudi Cup. Race 2. 8:35. Space Blues rides a four-race win streak into the STC 1351 Turf Sprint.
Wincanton. Race 2. 8:38. One for America. Blumen Glory, second in his hurdle debut, could graduate for the Colony Stable and trainer Neil Mulholland.
Ascot. Race 2. 8:50. Competitive renewal of the Grade 2 Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase. We’ll root for Oliver Sherwood’s Sevarano.
Haydock. Race 2. 9:05. Itchy Feet, a Grade 1 winner over fences, reverts to hurdles in the Grade 2 William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle.
Saudi Cup. Race 3. 9:10. Call The Wind, a George Strawbridge homebred son of Frankel, flies from France to tackle the Red Sea Turf Handicap, a $2.5 million stamina-stretching test at 1 7/8 miles. One of our favorites, Red Verdon, aims for his 10th career win. Spanish Mission, owned by Team Valor and Gary Barber, won the Belmont Derby back in 2019.
Ascot. Race 3. 9:25. Warrior of warriors, Regal Encore, carries top weight in the Betway Swinley Chase. The 13-year-old lugs 164 over 3 miles in his 45th career start.
Haydock. Race 3. 9:40. OK, take notes for Aintree. The Grade 3 William Hill Grand National Trial.
Saudi Cup. Race 4. 9:45. Twenty locals clash in the KSA-bred Jockey Club Local Handicap.
HRRN. Equine Forum. 10:00. Listen to TIRH’s Sean Clancy In the Room with Mario Pino.
Wincanton. Race 5. 10:18. Navajo Pass and Song For Somone, a combined five for their last five, square off in the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle. Goshen, featured in Road to Cheltenham, tries to right the ship after a dismal hurdle return in December. Read Sean's Road to Cheltenham about Goshen.
Ascot. Race 5. 10:35. Short but stout field of five line up for the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase. Cyrname fell in last year’s renewal but bounced back with a win in the Charlie Hall, followed by a pull up in the King George VI. Will he return to his best here?
“Paul Nicholls has a very strong hand in the race and, with three confirmed front runners, the pace could be fierce but Cyrname is fancied to land a second Betfair Ascot Chase,” Betfair Barry Orr said in a release. “It is interesting though that he is running in first time cheek-pieces. Some punters may take that as a negative but he is still odds-on 8/11 and is sure to go off a warm favourite.”
Don’t overlook longshot Riders Onthe Storm, at least to trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
“Riders Onthe Storm is coming into this in good nick. He obviously won the race last year and we are hoping he can do it again,” Twiston-Davies said on Betfair’s release. “He hasn’t been at the same level this season, but he does seem in really good nick at the moment and should improve on what he has done. He won’t mind any more rain as it was pretty testing last year.”
Saudi Cup. Race 6. 11:10. Rebel’s Romance puts his unbeaten mark on the line in the Al Rahji Bank Saudi Derby. His biggest opposition? Another Godolphin runner, Soft Whisperer, who picks up Mike Smith.
Haydock. Race 6. 11:25. Young Buck should win the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle.
Saudi Cup. Race 7. 11:50. Japan, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Switzerland (the horse), Great Britain, Bahrain are represented in the Saudi Arabian Airlines Riyadh Dirt Sprint.
Laurel Park. Race 1. 12:25 p.m. The Winter Sprintfest card starts with $5,000 claimer going 9 furlongs.
Saudi Cup. Race 8. 12:40. The $20 million Saudi Cup. Americans Max Player, Knicks Go (left, Coady Photography, Tacitus, Sleepy Eyes Todd, Charlatan stand above all others. Want a bomb? We wrote “USA!!!”) on our Racing Post Horse Tracker the first time we saw Extra Elusive. Nine furlongs on dirt might be the closest thing the longshot son of Mastercrafstmen gets to “USA!!!”
Aqueduct. Race 1. 1:20. B C Glory Days ran big in debut – good enough to merit being nominated to the Triple Crown – and should graduate against four others in state-bred maiden going 1 mile.
Laurel. Race 3. 1:32. Kenny Had A Notion and Maythehorsebwithu, 1-2 in the Spectacular Bid last month, meet again in $100,000 Miracle Wood. Chad Brown ships in Subsidize from his Belmont string.
Aqueduct. Race 2. 1:50. Beach Front from the rail in $14,000 claimer. Anybody see Ted Cruz? We couldn’t resist.
Laurel. Race 4. 2:04. Bankit won his final start of 2020 for his lone victory in 12 starts on the year, taking down Mr. Buff in the process. Now he ships to Maryland for the first time with eyes on the $100,000 John B. Campbell.
Laurel. Race 5. 2:37. Lucky Stride returns to Maryland for $100,000 Nellie Morse. She won the Wayward Lass Jan. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs for her first U.S. victory and meets nine other fillies and mares led by Landing Zone, Wicked Awesome and Lucky Move.
Laurel. Race 6. 3:12. Street Lute puts four-race win streak on the line – all in stakes – against Little Huntress and seven others in $100,000 Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies.
Aqueduct. Race 5. 3:20. Will E Sutton, son of Curlin who cost $1 million at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale, makes second start in 1-mile maiden for Jonathan Thomas. Eddie Barker tries again with Run Smitty Run, who we featured in the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with the Little Guys in the final edition of The Saratoga Special for 2020. Trevor McCarthy rides Exalted Charm. Listen to In the Room with McCarthy.
Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:30. Nice 9-furlong turf allowance for fillies and mares to start the card.
Laurel. Race 7. 3:46. The co-featured Grade 3 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie looks like Hello Beautiful versus Sharp Starr. Top Maryland-bred against top New York-bred. Just don’t tell that to Dontletsweetfollya.
Laurel. Race 8. 4:19. Funny Guy looked tough last week and nothing’s changed that. Multiple stakes winner, and runner-up in last year’s Grade 2 Vosburgh, gets the edge in Grade 3 General George against local favorite Laki, Share The Ride, Majestic Dunhill and Lebda.
Gulfstream Park. Race 10. 4:44. Ronithelimodriver, put up on a DQ in mid-September going 6 furlongs at Monmouth Park for Jason Servis, makes first start since and debut for Chad Brown in 1-mile turf optional that also attracts Dreams Of Tomorrow, Tulfarris, Chocolate Bar and Souper Watson.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:50. Deep group of 3-year-old New York-bred fillies for the $100,000 Maddie May. Secret Love looks to make it two straight stakes against rival Vacay, stablemate Frost Me (right, NYRA Photo), multiple graded stakes-placed Make Mischief, the comebacking Irish Constitution and impressive debut maiden winner Brattle House. Kendrick Carmouche rides 9-2 Frost Me. Listen to In the Room with Carmouche.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:54. Tiger Blood, a veteran of graded turf sprints last year and a 19-time winner of more than $525,000, drops in for $40,000 tag in 5 1/2-furlong grass optional.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:16. Eres Tu could have returned to Maryland where she’d be odds-on again in filly and mare stakes but instead Arnaud Delacour keeps her in Florida for Grade 3 Royal Delta. The task won’t be easy with Mrs. Danvers set for her 4-year-old debut, along with Bajan Girl, Gibberish and Dream Marie in the field. Junior Alvarado rides Bajan Girl. Listen to In the Room with Alvarado.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:23. Plus Que Parfait approaches two-year anniversary of his finest moment in the UAE Derby – which earned a trip to the Kentucky Derby – and makes second start of the year in two-turn optional on the main track.
Fonner Park. Race 7. 5:24. Well, well, well, look who’s back. Our friends in Nebraska kept the racing world busy last year in the early weeks of the pandemic. Racing returned there Friday and the first stakes of the meet is the $15,000 Grasmick. The field of nine includes runners bred in Kentucky, California, Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado and Nebraska.
Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:42. Ward ‘n Jerry should appreciate class relief in 10-furlong starter on the grass.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:14. Gray Magician, 19th and no factor in the rough and tumble 2019 Kentucky Derby, makes first start of 2021 and first as a gelding for $40,000 tag in 1-mile optional.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:46. The featured Grade 2 Buena Vista and most of the usual suspects in local filly and mare turf division. Charmaine’s Mia won the Grade 3 Las Cienegas and probable goes off favorite in 1-mile stakes but don’t look past Mucho Unusual, Warren’s Showtime or Nasty.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:52. Finish the day with 6 1/2-furlong allowance on the grass.