Saturday Special – December 17

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The deep freeze arrived a tad early this year; a blast of seriously cold weather a little more than a week out from Christmas forced some cancellations this week as we gear up for the third to last Saturday of the year. Pegasus World Cup preps in California and Florida highlight the weekend and we’ve got those and many more races previewed in this week’s of Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

Gulfstream rolls out a strong stakes-filled card, which includes three graded stakes topped by the Harlan’s Holiday. On the West Coast it’s all about California Chrome as he preps for the $12 million Pegasus against a seriously overmatched group in the Winter Challenge.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, Dec. 17. Be safe and enjoy.

Haydock. Race 2. 7:20 a.m. Buveur D’Air, third in the Supreme Hurdle in March, returns from a summer break and makes his chase debut.

Ascot. Race 2. 8:15. Nothing like the best meet on a Saturday in the winter. Ascot offers a stellar card. Top Notch, an easy winner of his last two, continues his progression over fences.

Lingfield. Race 5. 9:00. There are plenty of horses toiling on the all-weather over the winter in Britain. Not Grendisar. He takes the summer off and aims at the winter. Winner of the Winter Derby last winter, he’s back, taking on six rivals in the Betway Quebec Stakes.

Fairyhouse. Race 5. 9:10. It’s a captivating time of year when proper hurdlers begin to make the change to chasing. Yorkhill won four of five starts over hurdles, including the Neptune Investment Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. The 6-year-old makes his chase debut for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.

Ascot. Race 4. 9:25. Awesome race. Lil Rockerfeller, Ballyoptic, Unowhatimeanharry and French raider Alex De Larredya scrum in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle.

Ascot. Race 5. 10:00. Grand National starter The Druids Nephew, off since April, aims at the Lavazza Jolie Silver Cup Handicap Chase.

Haydock. Race 7. 10:15. In Europe, 3-year-old hurdlers will take on their elders. Great Tempo won by 50 lengths in his British debut after racing three times in France. He takes on older rivals, including Clyne, winner of three in a row, in the finale of another strong Haydock card.

Ascot. Race 6. 10:35. Jolly’s Cracked It, last seen in a dead heat with Sternrubin in 2015, returns for Harry Fry. Sternrubin, busier since that day, tries to erase a fifth in the Greatwood. Deep field. Beware of Tony Martin’s Golden Spear, at the bottom of the handicap.

Gulfstream Park. Race 2. 12:30 p.m. Maiden 2-year-old fillies on the grass. Jaunt crossed the finish line first in her last but was taken down to third. The Harlan’s Holiday filly tries again for Shug McGaughey and Claiborne Farm.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:18. Big money still up for grabs in New York Stallion Series as the year winds down. Here’s the $150,000 Great White Way division going 6 furlongs on the inner for 2-year-olds. Bill Parcells named Bavaro for his Hall of Fame tight end from his coaching days with the New York Giants. He lived up to the name in debut last month.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:30. The Grade 3 Sugar Swirl. Graded stakes winner Stonetastic stands out in field of six although 3-year-old filly Dearest, second in Grade 2 Prioress closing weekend at Saratoga, might give her some trouble from the rail.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:00. One race after a 6-furlong sprint for older females comes the Grade 3 Rampart for older females going 1 mile. Curlin’s Approval is back home after fourth in Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland, while Todd Pletcher sends out the tough duo of Genre and Eskenformoney.

Parx Racing. Race 5. 2:13. The year is winding down in suburban Philadelphia and $51,000 allowance lures West Hills Giant out of New York.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:30. Maiden race for 2-year-olds going 1 mile might generate some buzz, especially because two of the 11 are first-time starters for Pletcher in High Above and Faja.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:01. The Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday could be a useful prep for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup. Keen Ice, whose connections are on record saying they’re hopeful for run, looks to lock up his spot. Pletcher, who might already have a contender in Algorithms for Starlight Stable, also sends out the comebacking duo of Stanford for Stonestreet and Michael Tabor, and Madefromlucky, last seen finishing second in Grade 3 Excelsior in early April.

Fair Grounds. Race 3. 3:23. Brad Cox brings a strong hand to $75,000 Bonapaw as he sends out Green Mask, fifth in Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, and Grade 3 winner Almasty for 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint. The ageless Hogy is in the field, along with European import Great Wide Open for Conor Murphy.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:32. Heart To Heart looks like standout in $100,000 El Prado, but he looked like one last time in Artie Schiller and only managed a fourth.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:43. Bay Of Plenty looks to end case of seconditis against five others in $125,000 Queens County.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 8. 3:48. Older female turf sprinters line up for $100,000 Lightning City.

Fair Grounds. Race 4. 3:53. Father versus son in $50,000 Sugar Bowl? Bret Jones sends out Running Mate, a 2-for-2 son of Creative Caused trained by Larry Jones, while Brereton Jones sends out Keep Talking, a Ghostzapper maiden winner trained by Tom Proctor.

Los Alamitos Race Course. Race 2. 12:58. Cal-bred 2-year-old fillies stretch out to 1 mile for $100,000 Soviet Problem.

Tampa Bay. Race 9. 4:20. The NFL season isn’t treating the Chicago Bears so good; they’re 3-10. Perhaps 7-furlong allowance can serve the 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt Ditka a bit better.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:23. Grass racing is in the books on NYRA circuit so New York-breds Selenite and Freudie Anne take show on the road for $75,000 Blushing K.D. Stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:34. Does the cold weather leave you dreaming about South Beach? Oh well, if you’re stuck up north at least you can watch the $100,000 South Beach Stakes. Tuttipaesi defends her title for Team Valor and Bill Mott while Devilish Love exits a Maryland Million win for Tony Dutrow.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:23. The stakes keep coming, this the $75,000 Budy Diliberto Memorial and the return of Fair Grounds monster Chocolate Ride. He won two stakes in New Orleans to start 2016, including the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap to cap a big day for trainer Brad Cox, and is 6-for-8 lifetime on the course.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:53. Honorable Duty, who we wrote about before the Alydar Stakes last summer at Saratoga, looks to get back on track after being gelded in early December and a fifth in Lukas Classic in early October. He doesn’t land in the easiest of spots in the $75,000 Tenacious against the likes of Financial Modeling, Dazzling Gem and The Truth Or Else.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:23. Golden Mischief saw three-race win streak end in Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess last time and looks to get back on track in $50,000 Letellier Memorial going 6 furlongs.

Fair Grounds. Race 10. 6:53. Chariman Mom looked like one that might be ready at Saratoga before a setback. Al Stall Jr. called the daughter of Shackleford a “nice, sporty little filly” in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour and she could make some noise in 6-furlong maiden for 2-year-old fillies.

Los Alamitos. Race 9. 7:28. Hats off to the racing office for hustling nine potential opponents – plus one on the also-eligible list – to run against California Chrome in the $180,000 Winter Challenge. The probable Horse of the Year drew the extreme outside for 1 1/16-mile prep for Pegasus World Cup and he makes his racing debut at the track he’s trained on since his 2-year-old season. Not including the bizarre trip to Europe for a turf-racing adventure that never materialized.

Turfway Park. Race 6. 8:40. The $50,000 Prairie Bayou and it might be the Kitten Show with Chief Kitten, Luck Of The Kitten and Wayward Kitten in the field of 12.  

And if you still can’t get enough racing, or even if you can, click over to the TIHR store and order a 2017 Thoroughbred Racing Calendar.