Trying to start a weekly tradition…here’s your Saturday Special for December 14. A cheat sheet of cool horses and crazy stories, to follow from home. Not quite as much action as last week but still competitive racing around the world. It’ll start early, with Cheltenham accompanying the eggs benedict and coffee. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be on the couch for Cheltenham. Call me after 12. Eastern Standard Time.
Fairyhouse. First Race. 7:00. Juvenile Maiden Hurdle. George Strawbridge-bred Powder Hound, a rich recruit from Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale makes his hurdle debut for Gigginstown and Noel Meade.
Cheltenham. First Race. 7:10. JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial. Three-year-old hurdlers clash, the winner becomes the favorite for the Triumph Hurdle in March. Jumpers come from everywhere, two French-breds, five Irish-breds and an American-bred son of Officer.
Cheltenham. Fourth Race. 8:50. Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. The Grade II stakes attracts two-time winner Kings Palace, 4-for-his-last-5 Saint Roque and the undefeated Milan Bound.
Lingfield. Fourth Race. 8:55. RSA Novices’ Trial. Three-mile novice chasers continue down the road that ultimately could lead to Cheltenham. Short but potent field of four.
Doncaster. Fifth Race. 9:05. Betvictor Summit Juvenile Hurdle. Remember what I said about winning the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial and becoming favorite in March…? Well, maybe not. Royal Irish Hussar travels north in aims of keeping his undefeated hurdle record intact for Triermore Stud, Nicky Henderson and David Bass. He’s 3/5 on the Morning Line. Irv Naylor’s Zamoyski, a 105,000 guineas purchase in July by Steve Gollings, makes his third career hurdle start, he’s 20-1.
Cheltenham. Fifth Race. 9:25. Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup. Virginia-bred Tap Night, who used to run at Parx, tries to right his career, tough spot, he faces the likes of Cantlow and Colour Squadron (all owned by J.P. McManus), as well as Grandioso.
Fairyhouse. Sixth Race. 9:50. New Value Hospitality Beginners Chase. Willie Mullins-trained Suntep aims to keep his undefeated record intact, making his chase debut for Paul Townend. He takes on the highly regarded Minsk.
Cheltenham. Sixth Race. 10:00. Stanjames.com International Hurdle. This races pains us. The International Hurdle consists of two French-based hurdlers and five British-based hurdlers. Where are the Americans? It fits perfectly, three weeks after the Colonial Cup. Come on, Alajmal, Demonstrative, Divine Fortune. Zarkandar, fourth in the last year’s Champion Hurdle and The New One, winner of the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle in March, rate long looks. A tactical gem. And yes, I know Cheltenham offers a seven-race card. Those are the four best.
Aqueduct. Third Race. 1:18. Two-year-olds. Not quite Saratoga, but you never know.
Beulah. Second Race. 1:28. What a long and winding road. Flashmans Papers, who beat Bushranger and 24 others in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2008, makes start number 62 for owner/trainer Charlie Lawson. The 7-year-old (still listed as a horse) has won 16 races while sliding down the ladder from Keeneland to Hollywood Park to Santa Anita to Arlington to Del Mar to Fairplex to Oak Tree to Northlands Park to Turf Paradise to Santa Anita to Golden Gate to Hollywood to Stockton to Sacramento to River Downs to Beulah to River Downs and back to Beulah.
Wolverhampton. Second Race. 1:50. Coral Mobile Handicap. Rich handicap worth $73,500, Solar Deity takes on USA-breds Marshgate Lane, Favourite Treat and Star Links.
Woodbine. Fourth Race. 2:26. The Ontario Lassie. Registered Ontario-bred fillies, last start before a winter break.
Tampa Bay Downs. Seventh Race. 3:22. Two-year-old fillies from big barns.
Aqueduct. Eighth Race. 3:43. The Queens County. Winter warriors begin the inner track roller derby. Money to be made. Sliver And Onions, Percussion, Don Dulce, Spa City Boy and Jonesy Boy draw a line in the snow.
Calder. Eighth Race. 4:00. Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap. Dirt sprinters go for a $75,000 purse. Black Diamond Cat aims for third straight for trainer Larry Bates.
Hollywood Park. Third Race. 4:30. Hollywood Turf Cup. The last one, sad to see the old place go. Short field of six for $250,000…wow. Temeraine exits Canadian International for Tom Proctor, Niall Racing and Gary Stevens. Lucayan exits same race for Neil Drysdale, Pandora Stud and Joel Rosario.
Fair Grounds. Tenth Race. 4:53. Louisiana Champions Day Classic. The feature on a big state-bred card pits String King against Populist Politics.
Hawthorne. Seventh Race. 5:14. The Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity. Rambling Richie goes for his third straight win, taking on Illinois-breds for $125,000. Somebody tell me about Jim Edgar, I’ll write a story about him.
Turf Paradise. Seventh Race. 5:58. The City of Phoenix. Yes, it’s just a $35,000 purse but check out Jaws n’ Paws and Lady Jila. They’ve combined to win 31 races.
Hollywood Park. Seventh Race. 6:35. Native Diver. Another goodbye. The greatest looking horse in all the world, Setsuko, returns for his first race since finishing second to Ron The Greek in the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap. Just take a look at him in the paddock and watch the chills on your arms. Soi Phet, a $16,000 claim in May, goes for his fifth win since. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer counters with Blueskiesnrainbows, Rousing Sermon and Hear The Ghost.
Hollywood Park. Eighth Race. 7:05. What a card. Allowance turf horses going nine furlongs.
Hollywood Park. Ninth Race. 7:35. Cash Call Futurity. Get on the plane. Bond Holder, Tap It Rich and Poker Player exit Breeders’ Cup Juvenile while Shared Belief, Kobe’s Back and Brother Soldier exit Hollywood Prevue. Thirteen in all.
Remington Park. First Race. 8:00. Starter Allowance. Wow, it’s funny what you find when you look deep into the form book. A starter going a mile and a half. Old friends Formaggio, Caberneigh and Little Wagon are still on the go.
Penn National. Sixth Race. 8:16. Pennsylvania-bred Changingoftheguard goes for his fifth win in his last six starts for trainer Tim Kreiser.
Remington Park. Eighth Race. 11.16. Moonshine Mullin, second in the 2011 Jim Dandy, makes his first start for Randy Patterson and Randy Morse.
Retama Park. Eighth Race. 11:24. Cajun Persuasion seeks his seventeenth career win and sixth win in his last seven starts.
If I made any mistakes or forgot to include someone…Sorry, catch you next week. And, by the way, don’t forget the Valedictory at Woodbine Sunday. 2:26. I’ll be there.