Everyone needs a break in between trips downtown for that almost last-minute holiday shopping, so what better way to spend the afternoon than taking in some of the final big races of 2015.
This week's Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home to Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal, covers the surprisingly stakes-heavy action from Aqueduct to Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park to Fair Grounds.
Southern California hosts the day's biggest, the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, as the days count down not only to Christmas but also Opening Day at Santa Anita Park the day after.
We'll get you started with some overseas action before winding our way through the country in the second-to-last edition of Saturday Special for the season. Good luck and enjoy.
Fairyhouse. Race 4. 8:00 a.m. Grade 3 novice hurdle looks like a connect-the-dots for Gangster for Gigginstown, Willie Mullins and Bryan Cooper.
Fairyhouse. Race 5. 8:35. Offseason? There's no offseason for Jack Doyle and Sean McDermott. The Irish-born, American based jockeys pick up rides in the maiden hurdle. Doyle rides Great Explorer for John Halley and McDermott rides Mount Marcus Baker for Pat Fahy. The former is 15-1 and the latter is 50-1.
Haydock. Race 5. 9:05. Three Faces West walked out of Donald McCain's yard when Paul and Clare Rooney disbanded all their horses from the Grand National-winning trainer. Tough to say goodbye to the likes of Three Faces West, 4-for-5 in his career. He makes his first start for Philip Hobbs.
Lingfield. Race 5. 9:20. If jumping isn't your thing, Lingfield offers a $62,500 listed stakes.
Ascot. Race 4. 9:25. Veteran staying hurdler Reve De Sivola returns from France while reformed chasers Deputy Dan and Saphir Du Rheu try to rebound over hurdles in the JLT Long Distance Hurdle. Tom Scudamore won an appeal to ride Thistlecrack. Any World Hurdler/Iroquois contenders?
Ascot. Race 5. 10:00. Pendra has grown up, filled out and looks poised for a dynamic season. He'll win the Silver Cup Handicap Chase.
Ascot. Race 6. 10:35. The Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle attracts three for John Ferguson and others from big yards of Paul Nicholls, Harry Fry, Alan King and others. Big field. Cool race.
Mahoning Valley Race Course. Race 1. 12:45 p.m. Taking an unfortunate page from some of the country's major tracks, the "featured" allowance race for Ohio-breds starts the card. Lone allowance on the card is led by Purple Flowers, multiple stakes placed and claimed last time for $30,000 at Churchill Downs.
Aqueduct. Race 2. 12:50. Unstoppable, gelding by Mizzen Mast and half brother to multiple stakes winner Captain Serious, makes debut going 6 furlongs for Mike Hushion and owner-breeder Barry Schwartz.
Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:20. Good field for 6-furlong open allowance, including Between The Lines, On Tap and Fortuitous Path.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 3. 1:27. The $100,000 Sandpiper for 2-year-old fillies is first of three stakes on the card.
Gulfstream Park. Race 4. 1:35. Horses don't run as much as they used to you say? What about Stallwalkin' Dude? He makes start No. 18 of 2015 in Grade 3 Mr. Prospector
Aqueduct. Race 4. 1:50. Biographymakes debut for Hushion and Niall Brennan. He cost $190,000 as a yearling and RNA'd for $295,000 in March at Fasig-Tipton Florida sale.
Laurel Park. Race 5. 2:17. Several look promising in this 6-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds, including the $260,000 Flatter ridgling Charmed Victory.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 2:50. Second division of 2-year-old maiden draws nine, including firsters for Chad Brown (My Man Sam), Tom Albertrani (Second Street), Leah Gyarmati (Kangaroo Power), Rick Violette (Moon Over A Beauty) and Dave Donk (Iswear I'll Behave). They might be chasing two that have run, and run well, in Malibu Action and Hot Squad.
Fair Grounds. Race 2. 2:55. Beach Patrol ran well in first start in similar spot and Lemon Drop Kid tries again in 1 1/16-mile turf maiden.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:05. Golden Canyon makes U.S. debut and first start since September 2014 for Todd Pletcher and Sumaya Us Stables. We've seen this film before. Don't ask, just bet.
Laurel. Race 7. 3:13. Jeremiah Englehart ships Honorable Daniel down from Belmont for 5 1/2-furlong maiden off third in maiden-claimer last time at Aqueduct, while Tony Dutrow unveils First Samurai firster Hekla for Shortleaf Stable.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:35. Uncle Mo is tearing it up with his first crop of foals. Tough to go against Mo Power from outside post in this 6 1/2-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50. The 110th edition of the $100,000 Queens County. Kid Cruz kept coming and just missed in Swatara Stakes last time at Penn National, while Tommy Macho blasted the field in Grade 3 Discovery. They stand out but don't discount turf-to-turf angle with Perfect Title for Matt Schera and Chuck Lawrence.
Fair Grounds. Race 4. 3:55. We'll draw a line through Allamerican Music's last and give Tapit colt another shot in 1-mile grass allowance for Al Stall Jr.
Tampa. Race 8. 3:56. A couple to watch for stakes like the Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby should emerge from $100,000 Inaugural for 2-year-olds going 6 furlongs.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:05. A few years back the Tropical Park Derby was mentioned as a classic prep. It wasn't then and certainly isn't now since we're into December, but it's a good $75,000 grass stakes for 3-year-olds. Tweet Kitten was impressive winning Bryan Station early on Breeders' Cup Friday card and could be tough against the likes of Conquest Typhoon, A Lot, Watchyourownbobber and Team Colors.
Tampa. Race 9. 4:26. Fillies and mares sprint 5 furlongs on the grass in $100,000 Lightning City
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:54. The Blushing K. D. drew pretty strong field for $60,000 heat with the likes of Kitten's Dumplings, Eden Prairie, Zloty and Cash Control.
Los Alamitos Race Course. Race 4. 4:58. She Has Charm, a Smart Strike filly who cost $360,000 as a yearling, shows fast works for Peter Eurton and takes on two from Baffert stable in Bourbon And Ginger and Beauty N Balance in 6-furlong maiden.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:05. Another strong race for a small purse, the $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks is a tough one. Take your pick, you can probably make a case for 10 of the 12, and even the two on the also list.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:23. Princess Kennedy found graded company a tad tough. She should appreciate drop into $50,000 Letellier Memorial for 2-year-old fillies.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:52. Regally Ready has almost done it all - won Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, a Grade 1 and other graded stakes, but never the Buddy Diliberto Memorial. Veteran gets the chance in this year's $60,000 renewal.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:21. Don't worry football fans, still time to make it to the Superdome for the New Orleans Bowl featuring Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech. This is the third of five straight stakes and the $50,000 Tiffany Lass is a good one, too.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 6:50. Ride On Curlin slugged it out in all three spring classics in 2014. He's managed just a single win in five starts since and he tries to get going again in $60,000 Tenacious.
Los Alamitos. Race 8. 6:58. One of the last Grade 1s of the season and definitely the last one for 2-year-olds, the $350,000 Los Alamitos Futurity gets a Breeders' Cup participant in Hollywood Don (ninth in Juvenile Turf) and legit favorites in Kentucky Jockey Club runner-up Mor Spirit and Grade 3 winner Toews On Ice from Baffert barn.
Fair Grounds. Race 11. 7:19. There's still time to make the game, even for a Po-Boy, too, after you watch the $50,000 Sugar Bowl for 2-year-olds. Texas-bred Taylors Angiel was impressive winning at Delta Downs. Why can't he go 2-for-2?
Turfway Park. Race 4. 7:42. Recount is 4-for-4 on synthetic - all stakes - and comes into $50,000 Prairie Bayou off easy win at Hawthorne. He's 6-1 on the morning line. That can't possibly hold up.
Charles Town Races. Race 3. 8:56. Souper Social tried dirt, turf and synthetic; Saratoga, Belmont, Penn National, Presque Isle and Laurel; and now the $575,000 yearling tries West Virginia.
Turfway. Race 8. 9:38. Mac The Man loves Northern Kentucky. He sports a 5-for-9 mark there and looks good in late night allowance-optional going 6 1/2 furlongs.