Saturday Special – December 26

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So, did you get enough family time? How about that holiday wish list, everything checked off by your loved ones? What about food and drink, did that satisfy your appetite and please the palate? Since there weren’t any college bowl or NFL games – and please say you didn’t indulge in the sports network-created pastime of watching the NBA on Christmas – you’re definitely ready for some action.

Thankfully what you crave is what racing offers on this final Saturday of the year. The day after Christmas is always a big racing day. It’s the traditional Opening Day of the winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita Park. Aqueduct is back in gear after a five-day break and Gulfstream Park offers a loaded card.

Across the Atlantic it’s Boxing Day – we’ve seen those words creeping back into the American lexicon but trust us, it’s a British thing – and a big day for sport. The Premier League is in full swing Saturday and Kempton Park hosts a strong card led by the Group 1 William Hill King George VI Chase, one of the most prestigious jump races in the world. In Europe, they say if a jockey can’t find a ride on Boxing Day, he’s not a jockey. 

The final edition of Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home to Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal covers all that ground and even more. We’ll get you ready for the day’s biggest and best races, stakes, allowance, maiden and otherwise.

The team at This Is Horse Racing wishes you a very happy holiday, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Good luck.

Leopardstown. Race 3. 8:20. Rashaan puts his unbeaten hurdle mark on the line in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle. 

Wincanton. Race 3. 8:40. Chaser Buywise, second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, reverts to hurdling. 

Wetherby. Race 3. 8:45. Holywell tries to reinvent his career after four consecutive losses against the best in the world. 

Kempton. Race 3. 9:00. The Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. The great Kauto Star used to rule Boxing Day. Tea For Two crushed rivals in his chase debut at Exeter. He could again. 

Limerick. Race 4. 9:10. We’ve been to this movie – Gigginston vs. McManus vs. Mullins in the feature chase. 

Wincanton. Race 4. 9:15. Southfield Vic leads a four-horse field in the novice chase. 

Kempton. Race 4. 9:30. Faugheen has only one blemish in his career, coming in his most recent start. The Irish-bred machine tries to erase that defeat, venturing to England for the Christmas Hurdle. 

Leopardstown. Race 6. 9:55. Some jockeys leave crumbs, Ruby Walsh leaves meals. Paul Townend deputizes for Walsh on the once-beaten Douvan. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner at Cheltenham in March makes his second start over chase fences, taking on the dynamic Ttebbob, who jumps quicker than a cold beer across a bar. 

Kempton. Race 5. 10:10. The main course of a long buffet. The William Hill King George Chase. Cue Card tries to make it three in a row, Don Cossack tries to make it five in a row, Silviniaco Conti tries to win another King George, Smad Place attempts at putting up another wire job and Vautour, well, he’s never been worse than second in 12 starts. Easy on the egg nog, this is the race of the day.

Aqueduct. Race 2. 12:50. Sudden Surprise, who rebounded from defeat on Empire Showcase Day to win Notebook Stakes Nov. 21, looks to lock up state-bred 2-year-old male championship in Damon Runyon.

Laurel Park. Race 2. 12:54. Lexington Street, probably already Maryland’s champion 2-year-old filly, looks to add $50,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship to Maryland Million Lassie.

Gulfstream Park. Race 4. 1:35. Stonetastic threw in a clunker when eighth in Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. She’s back for soon-to-be 4-year-old campaign start in Grade 3 Sugar Swirl.

Aqueduct. Race 4. 1:50. Life In Shambles looked like a 3-year-old on the rise last spring before things went off track in the Curlin at Saratoga. Broken Vow gelding is getting it together now and looks for second win in last three starts in allowance-optional sprint.

Laurel. Race 4. 1:51. Jake N Elwood and Heaven’s Runway are cross-entered in Aqueduct’s Gravesend (see below). They and Rainbow Heir look tough in $100,000 Dave’s Friend.

Aqueduct. Race 5. 2:20. Graduation day for Tiz A Chance?

Laurel. Race 6. 2:44. First four from Maryland Million Nursery – Corvus, Flash McCaul, Captain Alex and Ravenheart – take on Showalter in $50,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity.

Fair Grounds. Race 2. 2:55. Pontificating, filly by Gio Ponti out of Grade 1 placed High Heeled Hope, makes debut for Castleton Lyons and Steve Asmussen in 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint.

Laurel. Race 7. 3:13. Speaking of the Premier League, Chicharito is tearing it up for the German club Bayer Leverkusen and not his former squad desperately in need of some scoring power, Manchester United. Not sure how the 5-year-old Albert The Great gelding Chicharito will fare in starter allowance but he does come in off back-to-back victories at Penn National.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:35. Big field of 2-year-old maidens go 1 mile on the main track.

Laurel. Race 8. 3:44. Field of 12 for the $50,000 Jennings Handicap. One of them is Connemara Coast. Ever been? We can’t recommend enough.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50. The $100,000 Gravesend marks the final career start for Palace, who heads to Spendthrift in Lexington for stud duty in 2016. Multiple Grade 1 winner looks to go out a winner against the likes of Green Gratto, Fabulous Kid and Jake N Elwood.

Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 4:04. There’s always a good maiden or two on the Opening Day card. This one’s for 2-year-old fillies and the gangs all here.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:05. Lili Kurtinecz hoped for a win at Keeneland so she could bring Manchurian High south for the winter. She got the win and now she goes for the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight Handicap with the 7-year-old gelding.

Laurel. Race 9. 4:14. Very interesting cast for $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go

Santa Anita. Race 4. 4:38. First of four graded stakes on the card is Grade 3 Daytona going 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill. Plenty of options – 14 of them in fact – but we’ll go with the proven commodity over the course in Cal-bred Richard’s Boy (2-for-2) even though No Silent won Grade 3 over the track and trip Oct. 3.

Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:54. Overflow field for $75,000 Pago Hop going 1 mile on the grass. Run Zippy Run won over track and trip last time for Al Stall Jr. while New York-bred Southern Gem makes first start for Mike Maker.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:05. Which Goldy Espony will you get in Grade 3 La Prevoyante? The one who blasted fields in the Grade 3 Waya and Long Island or the one who was last in the Grade 3 Glens Falls? Safe bet is on the former.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:14. An Khe Pass, colt by Old Fashioned named for battle during the Vietnam war, makes debut for Jerry Hollendorfer and Fox Hill Farms.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:23. Thirteen Arrows bids for three straight in evenly matched $60,000 Pan Zareta.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:47. Om is back on course where he’s excelled – wins in Grade 2 Twilight Derby and an allowance-optional – for Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:52. Better spend some time handicapping the $75,000 Woodchopper.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:20. The Grade 1 La Brea offers $300,000 purse and possibly an Eclipse Award (or two?) if Cavorting is able to add traditional opening weekend feature to scores in Grade 1 Test and Grade 2 Prioress. No cakewalk with Birdatthewire, Hot City Girl and Pleasant Tales in from the East Coast along with Ben’s Duchess and Baybellene among those from the home team.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:21. Money Flows endured wide trip last time and split Teniente Coronol and Hawaakom in similar allowance-optional. Malibu Moon gelding deserves another chance in 1 1/16-mile heat.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:52. Runhappy locked up champion male sprinter honors with stylish score in Breeders’ Cup Sprint and now he goes for third Grade 1 in first start for new trainer who happened to be his original trainer. Tough ask for nice colt. Godolphin’s Watershed and Marking, El Kabeir and Lord Nelson look to spring the upset.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:23. Don’t fold up the tent just yet. Good allowance-optional finale featuring Tale Of Life, Hunt, Street Fashion, Unusually Green, What A View and others.