Spring is here. Even with a blast of winter-like weather in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and parts of the upper Southeast this week the calendar reads April so it’s time for spring. Like it or not.
Spring also means spring classics and it’s four weeks until the Kentucky Derby by the time we hit late afternoon Saturday. Three major preps highlight the slate this week, with contenders expected to solidify credentials or earn a spot in the Derby field. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct leads off with the Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass to follow. Each of those signature races anchor strong cards, giving those waiting out the preps or the Final Four plenty to do in the afternoon.
Start things off in the morning with another slate of European action, from Fountainbleu to Sam Houston, we’ve got it covered.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, April 3. Take care and good luck.
Name of the Day: Beren, Aqueduct, fourth race. For all you Tolkien fans out there. Susan Quick and Christopher Feifarek's homebred colt is out of Silmaril.
Quote of the Day: "The one and only, Mr. Buff." Trainer John Kimmel about his $1.3 million-earner who runs in the Excelsior at Aqueduct.
Fountainbleu. Race 1. 4:50 a.m. Set your alarm and start the day off right with the Grand Steeple-Chase Cross Country De Fountainbleu. Mesmerizing course with twists and turns like a Harry Potter novel. You’ll love it. And don’t change that channel, another five jump races follow.
Saint-Cloud. Race 1. 7:58. The Tourbillon Stakes ignites the day with a solid card of racing.
Haydock. Race 1. 8:00. The Mares’ Hurdle Series Final Handicap Hurdle kicks off a card of finals. Strong racing from the always-delivering Haydock. We’ll give you this one but count on a decent chase or hurdle race every half hour until 11:25.
Fairyhouse. Race 3. 9:20. Elimay, a tough second at Cheltenham, returns on short rest to tussle with Mount Ida, a miraculous winner at Cheltenham, in this listed chase.
Cork. Race 3. 9:35. The promising Lustown Baba gets back to work after winning her last two to end her 3-year-old season for Back Road Syndicate. The daughter of Alhebayeb tackles 14 foes in the Sean Barrett Bloodstock Stakes.
Carlisle. Race 3. 9:48. Brian Hughes is in a battle to defend his leading jockey title. Based in the North, Hughes rides six on the card. Wetlands should make it three in a row for Hughes and trainer Nicky Richards. Main rival, Harry Skelton, goes to Haydock for three.
HRRN. Hour 3 of the Equine Forum. 10:00. Sean Clancy is In the Room with jockey James Graham.
Fairyhouse. Race 5. 10:30. Want to see the depth of Ireland’s arsenal? Check out some of these who swerved Cheltenham and aimed at the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle Final. Twenty strong.
Musselburgh. Race 5. 10:35. Now here’s a cool race. The Betway Queen’s Cup. Fourteen horses stretching 1 3/4 miles for $103,000. The Grand Visir carries 136. Stargazer carries 124. And there’s everything else in between.
Saint-Cloud. Race 6. 10:45. Welcome back, The Revenant. Last seen winning the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth at Ascot in October, the 6-year-old son of Dubawi returns in the Group 3 Prix Edmond Blanc. Enjoy brilliance from the nine-time winner and his unparalleled jockey, Pierre-Charles Boudot.
Fairyhouse. Race 6. 11:05. Eclair De Beaufeu beat 21 horses at Cheltenham and finished fourth. He takes on 19 rivals in this $98,000 handicap hurdle.
Cork. Race 6. 11:20. Have you seen Princess Zoe? What a star. The German-bred filly walks back on stage in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Noblesse Stakes. Winner of the Group 1 Qatar Prix Du Cadran last year, the Tony Mullins-trained 6-year-old should handle her 10 rivals in the 12-furlong stakes.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:10 p.m. One-mile allowance on the grass opens the card and Mark Casse (Pechanga), Tom Proctor (By The Book) and Graham Motion (Mary’s France) look live.
Keeneland Race Course. Race 1. 1:05. Blue Grass Day starts with 9-furlong maiden and a field of five on the main track.
Keeneland. Race 3. 2:12. That's more like it, a full field of 12 3-year-olds for 6 1/2-furlong maiden.
Aqueduct. Race 4. 2:21. Drain The Clock ships north from Florida after nearly lasting in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and shortens up here in the Grade 3 Bay Shore at 7 furlongs. He’s a short price on the morning line against four others led by Oaklawn shipper Whiskey Double.
Keeneland. Race 4. 2:45. First grass race of the day in Lexington, 1-mile allowance for fillies and mares looks like good spot for Secret Time to make second start of the year.
Keeneland. Race 5. 3:18. Saratoga debut maiden winner Founder tried to get into Breeders’ Cup mix last year but finished distant fifth in Breeders’ Futurity followed by a third behind Mandaloun in Churchill optional. Expensive son of Upstart launches sophomore season in pretty strong 7-furlong optional.
Fonner Park. Race 3. 3:24. Top Star romped in maiden win last month and takes step up ladder in $15,000 Baxter.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:25. Back on its traditional spot on the calendar, the Grade 1 Carter Handicap also drew a small field of just five. Mischevious Alex and Chateau come in off back-to-back victories, first in an optional and then a graded stakes. Shoplifted might be the one to spoil the party.
Keeneland. Race 6. 3:51. The Grade 2 Appalachian presented by the Japan Racing Association leads off the stakes. Jouster just missed in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks last time and takes on last year’s Grade 2 Miss Grillo winner Plum Ali, Grade 3 Herecomesthebride winner Spanish Loveaffair and European import Gift List.
Aqueduct. Race 7. 3:58. Grass racing returned to the circuit Friday and here’s a 1 1/16-mile allowance for fillies and mares with three European imports making their U.S. debuts in Caen Na Coille, Lady Sansa and Flight Lady.
Oaklawn Park. Race 6. 4:09. Windmill and Abrogate, 1-3 in the Dixie Belle, meet again in the $200,000 Purple Martin for 3-year-old fillies. Windmill ran her record to 2-for-2 in that spot and looks tough against three others coming off victories.
Keeneland. Race 7. 4:24. Our old friend Hog Creek Hustle (winning the Grade 1 Woody Stephens in 2019. Tod Marks Photo) returns for his 5-year-old season and starts it off in the Grade 3 Commonwealth at 7 furlongs. John Sadler sends Flagstaff, third behind C Z Rocket and champion Whitmore last time in the Hot Springs, from Oaklawn and he’s favored from the rail alongside the enigmatic Hidden Scroll.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:31. Mr. Buff looks poised to end string of six defeats in graded stakes against six others in the Grade 3 Excelsior. Broman homebred also seeks 18th career victory in 9-furlong stakes coming off back-to-back wins in open stakes.
Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 4:39. Bob Baffert sends out two – Laurel River and Bobby Bo – in 6 1/2-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds.
Keeneland. Race 8. 4:57. Always a puzzler, the Grade 2 Shakertown rarely disappoints. Tough to settle for a short price but Imprimis just about always runs his race as do Turned Aside, Kanthaka and Bound For Nowhere.
Tampa. Race 10. 5:03. Not everyone and every horse left Florida. Close the card with 1 1/16-mile turf maiden that attracts runners from most of the usual suspects – Brown, Delacour, Casse, Clement, Stidham, Motion and Mott – all for $26,000.
Aqueduct. Race 9. 5:09. Chad Brown looks tough in the Grade 2 Gazelle with Search Results, winner of the Busher last time; and The Grass Is Blue, third in the Busher and winner of the Busanda two back. The winner gets 100 points toward a spot in the Kentucky Oaks.
Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:14. Going Global looks to keep things rolling in the Grade 3 Providencia. Irish-bred won her two starts in the U.S., including the China Doll last time at the expense of Closing Remarks and Quattroelle.
Keeneland. Race 9. 5:30. Simply Ravishing dominated the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades last fall at Keeneland and looks to add a second Grade 1 victory to her resume in $400,000 Central Bank Ashland. New York-bread daughter of Laoban also could earn 100 points toward a spot in the Kentucky Oaks field, but she’ll have to handle the comebacking Malathaat in 1 1/16-mile co-feature.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:48. The Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks often produces the favorite for the Kentucky Oaks and we could legitimately see Beautiful Gift, Moraz or even Javanica, Soothsay or Brilliant taking that role to close to it with a victory here.
Aqueduct. Race 10. 5:58. Brooklyn Strong looks to make up for lost time when he takes on Risk Taking, Prevalence, Crowded Trade, Weyburn and Candy Man Rocket in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. New York-bred hasn’t run since winning the Grade 2 Remsen last December while the others benefit from recency. Weyburn and Crowded Trade slugged it out in the Grade 3 Gotham last month while Prevalance ships from Florida off back-to-back wins that turned heads. Good leadoff to the preps.
Keeneland. Race 10. 6:02. We know Bell’s The One likes it at Keeneland, she’s 2-0-2 in five starts with a win in last year’s Grade 1 Madison. She’s back to defend title in 7-furlong stakes against Kimari, Sconsin, Mundaye Call and Sanenus.
Keeneland. Race 11. 6:35. The main event, the $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass. Brad Cox circled this one a while ago for Godolphin’s unbeaten champion Essential Quality, who ripped through back-to-back wins on the track last fall in the Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Tapit colt prepped with a victory in the Southwest at Oaklawn and looks though again facing eight others led by Highly Motivated, Keepmeinmind, Hush of a Storm and Hidden Stash.
Oaklawn. Race 11. 6:54. The last chance for Kentucky Oaks points, the Grade 3 Fantasy brings together the 2-3 from the Grade 3 Honeybee in Pauline’s Pearl and Sun Path, along with Silvia Q, Ava’s Grace and Coach.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:15. The Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby was supposed to be all about Life Is Good, but he’s off the Triple Crown trail. Bob Baffert sends the next man up in Medina Spirit, second to Life Is Good in the Graded 2 San Felipe, along with recent maiden winner Defunded. Medina Spirit is 5-2 favorite in field of 10 that also includes Dream Shake, Rock Your World, Ottothelegend and Law Professor.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:46. LNJ Foxwoods and Richard Mandella send out capable duo of Dogtag and Tapwater in Grade 2 Royal Heroine but they’ll need their running shoes against Charmaine’s Mia in 1-mile turf test.
Santa Anita. Race 10. 8:17. The stakes aren’t finished yet, here’s the $150,000 Evening Jewel for California-breds.
Sam Houston Race Park. Race 4. 9:06. The first of three stakes on Closing Night card, the $75,000 Bucharest for 4-year-olds and up at 7 furlongs. Multiple stakes winner Nitrous (he's in the photo above with Hog Creek Hustle), just beaten in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens in 2019, heads strong two-part entry for Steve Asmussen with Gold Street.
Santa Anita. Race 12. 9:19. More Cal-breds to finish the card in the $150,000 Echo Eddie. The Chosen Vron finished third behind Concert Tour and Freedom Fighter last time in the Grade 2 San Vicente and will appreciate class relief.
Sam Houston. Race 6. 10:00. What else do you have cooking? Here’s the $75,000 Miss Houston Turf. Shop for a price in pretty balanced field of 12.
Sam Houston. Race 8. 10:54. Brad Cox sent Royal Prince to Texas instead of potential spot in the Transylvania at Keeneland and son of Cairo Prince could be tough in $75,000 Bayou City at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.