Welcome to April. Time to transition that case of spring fever to a full on bout of Derby Fever. The Kentucky Derby is five weeks away and this week's Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home of Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal previews two key preps for the great race.
The Xpressbet.com Florida Derby is front and center this week, or any week for that matter, with a monster showdown looming between unbeaten Nyquist and Mohaymen. Gulfstream Park will run seven other stakes on its spectacular Saturday card.
Folks in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky area usually get enthusiastic about the Derby this time of year, mainly because it's time for the $500,000 Horseshoe Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
By no means is this week's action restricted to the 3-year-olds, with Aqueduct hosting the 10-race $700,000 Claiming Championship Series for its first Saturday card on the main track this spring and Michael Dickinson making his official return at Laurel Park. Arabians will be running out West at Santa Anita Park, too.
All that and more in this week's primer. Enjoy and good luck.
Randwick. Race 7. 12:50. a.m. Coming in from a Friday night out? Watch Tally tally in the Australian Derby. Son of Street Cry has won his last four.
Randwick. Race 9. 2:10. a.m. A cereal down and you're rallying? Sweet. Check out the Star Doncaster Mile for $3 million. Our favorite Aussie, the great Winx, seeks win number 13 for Chris Waller.
Kelso. Race 4. 10:25. Veteran Simply Ned takes a crack at the Liz Adam Memorial Chase.
Doncaster. Race 4. 10:55 a.m. Belardo, champion 2-year-old in 2014 and winless in seven starts last year, tries to get back on track $54,500 Betway Doncaster Mile Stakes for Godolphin, trainer Roger Varian and jockey James Doyle.
Newbury. Race 5. 11:15. Solid group of juveniles square off in a handicap hurdle. Several were trounced at Cheltenham, the rest swerved it.
Doncaster. Race 5. 11:30. Ready or not, it's time for 2-year-old racing, at least in Britain. Field of 14 includes the Oasis Dream filly Create A Dream for owner Vinny Viola's St. Elias Stable and trainer Wesley Ward.
Navan. Race 5. 11:40. The Grade 2 Webster Cup Chase looks like a stroll to the bank for Road To Riches.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. Stacked Florida Derby card gets started with allowance-optional on the grass with field of 11 (plus two MTOs).
Aqueduct. Race 1. 1:20 p.m. Claiming Championship Series kicks off with $55,000 Videogenic for older females who started for claiming price of $12,500 or less in 2015-16 going 6 furlongs.
Parx Racing. Race 2. 1:22. New York-bred Star Of New York makes career start No. 74 in $7,500 claimer for Michael Pino, who claimed him for $10,000 back in January at Aqueduct.
Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:22. Juddmonte and Bill Mott unveil Unbridled's Song filly Wessex, half sister to French Group 1 winner Announce, in 9-furlong maiden on the grass.
Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:50. Rare local stumble last time for Valid, finishing fourth in Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. He's back, against softer group, for Grade 3 Skip Away going more ideal two-turn trip.
Aqueduct. Race 2. 1:53. Rockford and Hectors Pride look tough in $55,000 Kelly Kip for older horses who have started for $12,500 or less going 6 furlongs.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 4. 2:17. Shug McGaughey ships Orient Harbor from Payson Park for mare's debut in 1-mile allowance on the grass.
Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:26. Another 6-furlong event for older females, $70,000 Xtra Heat, is for those who started for $20,000 or less. Stormy Sky and Sweetrayofsunshine exit much tougher races.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:50. The Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks took a hit when connections of Cathryn Sophia opted for next weekend's Ashland at Keeneland. Gomo shipped East with Nyquist and makes first start since winning Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades against unbeaten recent private purchase Off The Tracks.
Aqueduct. Race 4. 2:59. Stretching out to 1 mile for the $60,000 More To Tell for those who have started for $16,000 or less. C J's Awesome ran in the 2014 Pennsylvania and Indiana Derbies. He won for $16,000 last time and is 8-1.
Turfway Park. Race 5. 3:03. Here's something you don't see every day. Stayler's Creek makes return to the U.S. after making last two starts, a year apart, in Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup. He won it in 2015 and finished fourth this year.
Golden Gate Fields. Race 6. 3:15. Sahara Sky, winner of the 2013 Metropolitan Handicap and three other graded stakes during his career, makes first start since last summer's Grade 2 San Diego Handicap in 6-furlong allowance.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:21. Strong field for Grade 3 Appleton going 1 mile on the grass, including Long On Value, Divisidero and Force The Pass.
Aqueduct. Race 5. 3:32. Back to 6 furlongs for $70,000 Peeping Tom, for older horses who have started for $16,000 or less.
Aqueduct. Race 6. 4:05. Biggest purse of the card for the $90,000 Mr. Sinatra, 9-furlong event for horses who started for $40,000 or less. Royal Posse won the Evan Shipman and Claiming Crown Jewel last year. Posse gelding hasn't finished worse than second in eight starts.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:26. Defer Heaven puts five-race win streak on the line in $100,000 Sir Shackleton.
Turfway. Race 8. 4:33. The 3-year-olds that are not quite ready for prime time make up the field for $100,000 Rushaway Stakes.
Aqueduct. Race 7. 4:38. The $75,000 Stud Muffin goes 1 mile for those who have started for $20,000 or less. Toledo Eddie blasted field of $50,000 claimers last time at Santa Anita and makes first start for David Jacobson.
Laurel Park. Race 8. 4:54. Great to see the return of grass racing in the Mid-Atlantic. Here's hoping bad weather stays away and keeps 1 1/16-mile allowance on the turf.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:00. Photo Call tried Tepin last time at Tampa Bay Downs and stretches out to more ideal trip for Grade 3 Orchid going 11 furlongs. Strong field also includes European import Suffused, Crisolles and Maximova.
Turfway. Race 9. 5:07. Lope might be one to watch in Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks although post No. 12 going 1 mile won't help.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 5:11. The $60,000 Sis City for older females going 1 mile looks like good spot for Can Can Babe to make her New York debut.
Laurel. Race 9. 5:24. Michael Dickinson sends out his first starter since December 8, 2007, with Augustin Stable's Tide Is High in 1 1/16-mile turf allowance. Broken Vow filly hasn't been out since late September for Jonathan Sheppard.
Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 5:30. Cat Burglar couldn't take his speed all the way in Grade 2 San Antonio. He shortens up a bit for $75,000 Santana Mile.
Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:35. Grade 2 Honey Fox is second stakes on the grass for older females on the card, this one going 1 mile.
Turfway. Race 10. 5:43. Very interesting group for Grade 3 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes with 50 points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby field to the winner. Ralis runs back on short rest after dismal effort in Grade 2 Rebel March 19 at Oaklawn, Azar makes synthetic debut with wins on the dirt and turf in his career, Airoforce tries to get back on track after getting whipped in Grade 2 Risen Star and nine others try to keep their connections' Derby dreams alive.
Aqueduct. Race 9. 5:44. Plenty of familiar names in $85,000 Caixa Eletronica going 7 furlongs for older horses who have started for $40,000 or less. Group includes Life In Shambles, Bond Vigilante, Cerro and Nubin Ridge.
Oaklawn Park. Race 9. 6:09. Arkansas-bred 3-year-old fillies tangle in $100,000 Rainbow Miss.
Gulfstream. Race 13. 6:11. Twilight Eclipse set world record for 1 1/2 miles on the grass in 2013 Pan American. He's back for this year's edition, but entered main track only. Interesting race gets more intriguing with Hello Don Julio, winner of his only start a couple weeks back, along with proven commodities Wake Forest, Grand Tito, Kaigun and Jay Gatsby.
Aqueduct. Race 10. 6:17. Last but not least, the $80,000 Karakorum Elektra for older females who have started for $32,000 or less. Biggest field of the card with 11 entered.
Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:22. Battle Hardened is back to defend crown in $25,000 Budweiser Tondi. He won it first off the claim last year and proceeded to lose six straight to close the year.
Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:30. Ron McAnally worked plenty of his Hall of Fame magic back in the day with the likes of South American imports Bayakoa and Paseana. Maybe he's got some more in store for Il Fornaio in Grade 3 San Simeon going 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.
Gulfstream. Race 14. 6:48. Main event is the final race on the card, $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby, and it's got all the makings of a heavyweight clash with unbeaten Nyquist and Mohaymen leading the way. Nyquist, last year's 2-year-old champion, bids for bonus, while Mohaymen looks to stretch unbeaten run to six. Something's got to give.
Santa Anita. Race 11. 8:30. Arabians take the stage for $100,000 Sheikh Fatima Bint Mubarek Darley Award Stakes.