Saturday Special – April 9

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If you’ve been on the sidelines, watching from a distance and following along at home now is the time to dip into the pool. Go for it, dive in and get soaked. Days like this don’t come around often and we’ve got you covered from coast to coast, prep to prep and across the Atlantic Ocean in this week’s Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home of Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal.

The day gets going early from Aintree, with the Crabbie’s Grand National Chase taking center stage a little after the noon hour on the East Coast. Three major Kentucky Derby preps go down later in the afternoon with the Wood Memorial, Toyota Blue Grass and Santa Anita Derby on tap. A total of 510 points – 100 points to the winner of each of those Grade 1s – are on the line to lock up spots in the Derby starting gate.

Each of those preps are bolstered by strong undercard stakes; especially so at Keeneland, which rolls out spectacular renewals of the Grade 1 Madison and Ashland Stakes.

If that wasn’t enough it’s also Opening Day at Woodbine, the first day of the Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn Park, Florida Cup Day at Tampa Bay Downs, the first Saturday of the Lone Star Park and Emerald Downs meetings and some interesting heats are on the card at Gulfstream Park.

Without further delay, here’s your primer for Saturday, April 9. All 2,411 words of it. Best of luck.

Aintree. Race 1. 8:45 a.m. You know there are American jump fans who are hoping for weather cancellations so they can sit and watch Aintree’s stellar card. It starts here with the Grade 3 handicap hurdle. Eshtiaal, second in the American Grand National last year, makes his first hurdle start since that runner-up effort. 12-1? Lump on, boys.

Aintree. Race 2. 9:25. Yorkhill handled Yanworth at Cheltenham, he seeks win No. 7 here. Ruby Walsh won’t be aboard, after breaking his wrist Friday. Paul Townend picks up a plum spare.

Aintree. Race 3. 10:00. Well, here’s another gift to a lucky jockey. Cheltenham romper Douvan seeks to win his fifth chase of the season. Patrick Mullins filled in for Ruby back in December, but Townend will get the call here. Henry de Bromhead skipped Cheltenham with Alisier D’Irlande and aimed here. Only five line up.

Aintree. Race 4. 10:40. Thistlecrack, the best staying hurdler in the world, returns in the Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle. There’s no doubt about the form of the yard as Colin Tizzard has already had a huge meet with Cue Card and Native River winning big.

Lingfield. Race 5. 11:15. Listed stakes offers a return for promising British-based 3-year-olds, including Group 2 winner Palawan, Juddmonte’s Predilection and Tutu Nguri, a daughter of Blame.

Aintree. Race 5. 11:20. If you have to pick up milk and eggs, go now, as the listed hurdle runs because the big one is looming.

Aintree. Race 6. 12:15 p.m. The Crabbie’s Grand National Chase. Forty of the bravest of the brave attempt to traverse 4 1/4 miles for $1.47 million. Many Clouds won it last year, he’s the favorite to do it again. Grade 1 chaser Silviniaco Conti tests his mettle and his stamina. Kim Bailey tries to finalize his reclamation, sending out The Last Samuri, fresh off two wins in a row and low in the handicap. Robert Waley-Cohen bought Black Thunder this week for his son, Sam, to ride in the race. Thanks, Dad. And at the bottom of the weights, The Romford Pele, goes back to chasing, after two moderate efforts over hurdles, the last time he ran in a chase, he fell. Good luck, safe trip.

Aqueduct. Race 1. 12:20. State-bred allowance sprint gets things started in New York.

Keeneland Race Course. Race 1. 12:35. Toyota Blue Grass Day starts with allowance going unique 7-furlong 184-foot distance of the Beard course.

Aqueduct. Race 2. 12:50. Jeter the ballplayer isn’t around anymore, but Jeter the Thoroughbred is still going strong. Lawyer Ron gelding, now 7, takes on seven others in starter allowance.

Woodbine. Race 1. 1:00. A sure sign of spring, or at least that it’s on the way, with Opening Day in suburban Toronto.

Keeneland. Race 2. 1:08. Limousine Liberal makes 2016 debut and first start since finishing 11th in Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Ben Colebrook and others liked his chances in the Sprint and should in this 6 1/2-furlong allowance-optional based on the way he’s trained.

Aintree. Race 7. 1:10. The Gettin’ Out Stakes. Class 2 handicap hurdle offers lots of paths out of the hole or farther into the hole. Bet Boite and go home a winner.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:22. Field of five for 104th edition of the Excelsior, which at 1 1/4 miles looks like strong prep for the Brooklyn Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Laurel Park. Race 2. 1:43. No monkeying around with $100,000 Federico Tesio very early on the card. Awesome Speed figures to go in 1 1/8-mile test despite being nominated for Bay Shore later in the day at Aqueduct (see below). He won twice locally last fall and was fourth last time in Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. Plenty of others looking for that “Win And You’re In” ticket to the Preakness.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 3. 1:38. The $75,000 Sophomore Turf for Florida-bred 3-year-olds. Family Meeting takes on the boys after close third in Grade 3 Florida Oaks while Life Imitates Art looks to add to victory in Grade 3 Dania Beach earlier this season.

Keeneland. Race 3. 1:43. If you’re thinking, ‘they didn’t used to run maiden races on the grass at Keeneland did they?’ you should also remember they also didn’t have an announcer until the late 1990s.

Aqueduct. Race 4. 1:54. How’s the weather forecast? Looks like rain, which could move this 1 1/16-mile allowance on the grass to the main track.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 2:05. Racing Festival of the South official gets underway.

Keeneland. Race 4. 2:18. If you’re looking to get a read on Unified for the Bay Shore later in the day you might want to see how Mutaraamy fares in 7-furlong maiden. Check out pedigree power of Race Me Home (out of Society Selection) and Forever d’Oro (out of Lemons Forever).

Tampa Bay. Race 5. 2:44. We’ll talk about corporate sponsors later. In the meantime, ponder the Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn and Suites Sprint for Florida-bred 4-year-olds and up going 6 furlongs.

Gulfstream Park. Race 4. 2:34. The Championship Meet is in the books but high-dollar horses remain in and around South Florida. Kiaran McLaughlin unveils 4-year-old Tapit firster Encrypt, who cost Stonestreet Stables and Gainesway $1.2 million at Keeneland September in 2013.

Laurel. Race 4. 2:44. The $100,000 Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies is named for Grade 1-winning mare who produced multiple Grade 1 winner Slew City Slew. Alto Belle got drilled in Busanda two back then won Parx allowance. She’ll be tough from the rail for Pletcher.

Keeneland. Race 5. 2:53. Truly Together, daughter of Smart Strike out of champion turf female Forever Together, tries winners for the first time off maiden win in early February at Gulfstream for Michael Matz.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:00. Quick turnaround if you’re local and ran the Santa Anita Derby Day 5k earlier in the morning, with noon post on the West Coast. Ten 3-year-olds entered for 9-furlong maiden on the grass.

Tampa Bay. Race 6. 3:17. Manchurian High couldn’t get there last time in restricted stakes at Gulfstream after earlier win in Sunshine Millions Turf. Lili Kurtinecz tries again with 8-year-old gelding in $75,000 Tampa Turf Classic going 9 furlongs.

Keeneland. Race 6. 3:28. The Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland is first of five straight stakes. It’s a blockbuster event with Cathryn Sophia putting unbeaten record on the line against two fillies who were among the best of their generation last fall in Rachel’s Valentina and Carina Mia, both making their 2016 debuts.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 3:40. The circus tent is down but the party continues. Weaver, Contessa, Clement, Violette, Lynch, Casse, Pletcher, Trombetta and Plesa send out entries in 3-year-old maiden on the grass.

Tampa Bay. Race 7. 3:50. The $75,000 Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies going 7 furlongs looks like good spot for April Gaze to continue her steady progression from the maiden-claiming ranks last fall.

Keeneland. Race 7. 4:05. Tom Albertrani told The Special’s Tom Law last summer that Ready For Rye was as good on dirt as he was on the grass. He’s won stakes on both and tries the former in Grade 3 Commonwealth going 7 furlongs. Loaded field also includes Clearly Now, Departing, Holy Boss and Barbados.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:16. The Grade 2 Gazelle should produce a starter or two for next month’s Kentucky Oaks. Chad Brown goes with strong entry of Clair De Lune and Lewis Bay, while Todd Pletcher counters with Mo d’Amour off Busher romp.

Tampa Bay. Race 8. 4:23. Uncle Vinny got put up via DQ in last year’s Grade 3 Sanford at Saratoga before a couple Grade 1 tries to end the season. He’s back for $75,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes. Read about Uncle Vinny’s Sanford in The Saratoga Special (page 14).

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:38. Stacked Deck gets 2016 campaign started in $125,000 Jacques Cartier. He won four of nine last year and is 5-for-7 lifetime at Woodbine. Wesley Ward ships 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hootenanny north for 6-furlong stakes on the Polytrack.

Keeneland. Race 8. 4:42. Power Alert came back as good as ever, winning two of three starts to get his 6-year-old campaign going after being off from July to January. Australian-bred takes on defending champ Something Extra again in Grade 2 Shakertown going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 4:52. Unified looked as good as any 3-year-old winning debut back in February at Gulfstream. Candy Ride colt takes big step into Grade 3 Bay Shore against the likes of Awesome Gent, Awesome Speed (maybe), Cocked And Loaded and Richie The Bull.

Tampa Bay. Race 9. 4:56. Plenty of graded stakes competitors for $75,000 Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, including E B Ryder, Promotional, Daring Kathy and Evidently.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:00. First three, plus the fifth-, sixth- eighth-, and ninth-place finishers from China Doll meet again in Grade 3 Providencia going 9 furlongs on the grass. Mirage sprang the upset at 27-1 while Lady Valeur was second at 7/2. What will the prices be this time?

Emerald Downs. Race 1. 5:10. The lid lifter for the Opening Day card in Auburn, Washington. What’s in store for the 20th anniversary meeting? How about a giveaway of 20 sets of Beats Wireless Over-the-Ear Headphones Saturday and Sunday.

Keeneland. Race 9. 5:20. If you think someone slipped the PPs for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint into the program think again, this one might be better. The Grade 1 Madison features Grade 1 winners Cavorting, Sheer Drama, Wavell Avenue, Birdatthewire and Stopchargingmaria, along with Grade 2 winners Fioretti, Dancing House and Spelling Again. The positives and negatives of a race like this on Blue Grass Day – large crowd gets to see these top mares, but they will be overshadowed 30 minutes later by significantly less accomplished 3-year-olds.

Aqueduct. Race 10. 5:30. The Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Race with several questions. How good is Shagaf? Can Flexibility bounce back to his Jerome? Will Matt King Coal handle jump to stakes company? Can Outwork take the field gate to wire?

Fonner Park. Race 8. 5:53. Who says corporate America doesn’t care about racing anymore. Consider the Pepsi Stakes, a $15,000 event for 3-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs. P.S. That’s two turns in Nebraska.

Keeneland. Race 10. 6:00. Featured Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass has the biggest field of the three Derby preps with 14 (and two on the also-eligible list). Pick an angle, any angle, and you could come up with at least 10 different winners. How about horse-for-the-course? Look no further than Brody’s Cause.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:00. Songbird is arguably the best 3-year-old, male or female, in training. She looks to take unbeaten streak to seven in Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks.

Aqueduct. Race 11. 6:08. Dads Caps, already a millionaire, goes for unprecedented third consecutive Grade 1 Carter Handicap victory. He’s a bit off form, with back-to-back off-the-board efforts.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Terra Promessa looks to add Grade 3 Fantasy to win earlier in the meet in Grade 3 Honeybee. She’s one of two for Steve Asmussen, along with the 2-for-2 Tapit filly Taxable. Tough to see any of the other four getting to the winner’s circle.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:30. Three heavyweights – Exaggerator, Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit – headline Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. Expect different tactics for Exaggerator this time around.

Keeneland. Race 11. 6:30. Get to the sports bar upstairs – they stop serving everywhere else before the next to last race – for a cold one and watch 3-year-old maiden fillies go 1 mile on the grass.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:00. Texas Red makes first start since last year’s Travers in $100,000 Thunder Road going 1 mile on the grass. Finnegans Wake won last year’s Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and this looks like ideal spot to prep for defense.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 7:01. Godolphin Racing’s Crittenden certainly gets around. Distorted Humor gelding makes career start No. 14 in 1-mile allowance and this makes his seventh racetrack.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 7:30. Cal-bred 3-year-olds go 6 1/2 furlongs in $200,000 Eddie Echo Stakes. Bet they’re glad Smokey Image went in the Santa Anita Derby.

Santa Anita. Race 11. 8:00. Still going strong? Take a look at the $200,000 Evening Jewel for 3-year-old Cal-bred fillies. Pacific Heat was fourth as the favorite in the China Doll and goes back to the main track, where she won Golden State Juvenile Fillies last fall at Del Mar.

Lone Star Park. Race 1. 8:05. First Saturday card of the 2016 season opens with state-bred claiming sprint.

Santa Anita. Race 12. 8:30. John Shirreffs unveils Dark Energy, colt by Giant’s Causeway out of Zardana who is half brother to stakes winner Smart Transition, in 7-furlong maiden special weight finale. American Freedom cost Gary and Mary West $500,000 at 2014 Keeneland September sale and makes debut for Bob Baffert.