Take a deep breath. Now that the snow is cleared from the driveway and sidewalk it’s time to breathe. Valentine’s Day is in the books, too, and we’re more than halfway through the second month of 2014.
Plenty of big game to hunt down the road, the Fountain of Youth, Risen Star and Southwest in about a week’s time, the Gotham a week after that. But first things first. Here’s your cheat sheet for February 15. Sean handled the European races and Tom took the American heats. Racing is cancelled at Laurel Park.
Ascot. First race. 8:30 a.m. Ever wonder about the market for jumpers in Britain? Un Temps Pour Tout makes his second start for trainer David Pipe after a three-win career in France. He cost 450,000 pounds in November, 2013. This will kick off the European jump races, we’ll highlight a few races here, but all are worth watching.
Ascot. Second race. 9:05. Stop and take a long look at Many Clouds. One of the most stunning horses in training. Always a chaser, the novice chaser steps one day closer to Cheltenham for trainer Oliver Sherwood. Standing in his way is Gevrey Chambertin for Pipe.
Haydock Park. Second race. 9:20. The gallant Celestial Halo seeks win number 12 in the 3-mile Betfred Mobile Hurdle. A Cheltenham mainstay, the Irish-bred could use this as his springboard. Seeyouatmidnight has shocked two hurdle races so far, winning the first at 66-1 and the second at 22-1 for trainer Sandy Thomson. The likeable frontrunner faces an acid test here.
Gowran Park. Second race. 9:25. Bog Warrior, fifth behind Solwhit in the World Hurdle last March, makes his return to the races. Beautiful horse. As always in Ireland, anybody who wants to win has to get past Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh who leap with Turban.
Haydock Park. Third race. 9:55. The Betfred Grand National Trial. Yup, about that time of year, Grand National hopefuls square off for $124,500 prize. Our Father, Well Refreshed, Merry King, Soll…sloggers at their best.
Gowran Park. Fourth race. 10:35. Speaking of Mullins and Walsh, Un De Sceaux aims to add another win to his perfect 6-for-6 mark thus far. The French-bred 6-year-old is listed at 1/12 in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.
Wincanton. Fifth race. 10:35. The Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle attracts high-caliber Melodic Rendezvous, Zarkandar and Grumeti. You might have heard us say it before – Next stop, Cheltenham.
Lingfield Park. Fifth race. 11:00. Check out the stallions for this maiden, More Than Ready, Duke Of Marmalade, War Front, Dansili (2)…for a $7,500 purse.
Ascot. Fifth race. 10:50. Betfair Ascot Chase for $249,000. Veteran Captain Chris, coming off a 23-length romp, looms large for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson who try to add another big Saturday to their long and illustrious partnership. Hunt Ball, for American-based Atlantic Equine, returns to action for the first time since aborting his American career. Eight-time winner Medermit returns for the first time in nearly two years for Alan King. Cheltenham winners Riverside Theatre and Barry Geraghty try to right their divorce in the William Hill in December. Great race.
Fair Grounds. First race. 2:25. Everyone from Georgia to Maine should be pulling hard for Thaw. Not that kind of thaw, but rather this 5-year-old Rock Hard Ten gelding in this $5,000 claimer going 6 furlongs. No wait, they should be pulling for any kind of thaw.
Oaklawn Park. Second race. 2:35. Shathoor cost $850,000 at 2012 Keeneland September sale and makes debut in this 6-furlong maiden for Danny Peitz. Distorted Humor colt is half brother to champion My Miss Aurelia.
Gulfstream Park. Fifth race. 2:36. Quilt chased Dancing House in career debut in late July at Saratoga and went to sidelines until this 1 1/16-mile maiden against Lucky for You, She’s Justified and Mei Ling.
Gulfstream. Sixth race. 3:05. Charge Now, half brother to Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, makes debut for Bill Mott and WinStar Farm. Tiznow colt meets a bunch of well-meant firsters that include Unikat, Part and Private Relations.
Gulfstream. Seventh race. 3:44. Mettlesome, Medaglia d’Oro colt out of Alabama winner Sweet Symphony, makes debut in his 7-furlong maiden for Mott.
Aqueduct. Eighth race. 3:48. Horsemen and owners were probably thrilled not to see Kiaran McLaughlin keep Long River in the barn for the $100,000 Stymie. He’s taken a few of these to the woodshed in the past. The only problem is McLaughlin’s got another that might be just as good for this 1/8-mile fixture in Shadwell’s Farhaan.
Tampa Bay Downs. Eighth race. 3:55. Julio Canani once mentioned that putting Silent Sighs up against Halfbridled in the Santa Anita Oaks would be like taking a knife to a gun fight. Turned out that knife won that fight, with Silent Sighs toppling the champ in the 2004 edition of that Grade 1 event. Silent Sighs the broodmare will be represented in this 1-mile allowance-optional on the turf by her 6-year-old A.P. Indy son Clear Attempt. Bill Mott-trainee was second last time via DQ in just his second start since July 2012.
Santa Anita Park. Second race. 4:02. Plenty of water over the dam since former graded competitor Salutos Amigos made it to the winner’s circle. He might find it again here in this 1-mile starter allowance.
Gulfstream. Eighth race. 4:03. First of three straight turf marathons – the $100,000 The Very One – brings together good group of older females. Juddmonte’s Preferential makes first start since winning Keeneland’s Dowager going a furlong further than this 1 3/8-mile trip and Godolphin’s Anjaz makes first start since runner-up in Saratoga’s Waya last summer.
Aqueduct. Ninth race. 4:17. Real Estate hasn’t made many appearances in his first eight seasons, a total of 19 starts to be exact for the 10-year-old High Yield gelding. Now that he’s in the barn of David Jacobson it’s a safe bet he could make a few more and he gets 2014 campaign started in this 6-furlong sprint for $12,500 claimers.
Gulfstream. Ninth race. 4:33. Keep the starting gate on the backside as this one goes 12 furlongs on the grass. Transcend could flatter recent Grade 1 winner Lochte with a good effort.
Gulfstream. 10th race. 5:03. Twilight Eclipse showed new dimension last time winning off-the-turf stakes at Calder, but makes return to more friendly surface for $200,000 Mac Diarmida. Once led through the sales ring for $1,000, Purim gelding is approaching $600,000 in earnings. Alpha loves Saratoga – evidenced by wins in Grade 1 Travers and Woodward last two seasons – and now we’ll see if he likes the grass.
Oaklawn. Seventh race. 5:09. Fan favorite Win Willy didn’t get it done last time in Hot Springs and tries for better in $100,000 Essex.
Gulfstream. 11th race. 5:33. Finish off the day in South Florida with Charade, who goes first off claim for Ramseys and Maker. It just feels right.
Santa Anita. Sixth race. 6:00. Loaded 3-year-old maiden going 7 furlongs. Throw a dart and you’ll hit the winner, guaranteed.
Oaklawn. Ninth race. 6:09. Tough renewal of King Cotton with Mico Margarita, Anillo, Picko’s Pride and Bull Dozer all seemingly with a chance.
Santa Anita. Eighth race. 7:00. Bob Baffert’s duo of Fiftyshadesofhay and Ondine and Jerry Hollendorfer’s Let Faith Arise will get most of attention in Grade 2 Santa Maria, but tough to look past one sent out by John Sadler these days. Iotapa was second in Grade 2 Santa Monica last time going 7 furlongs and stretches out to 1 1/16 miles in this spot.
Golden Gate Fields. Eighth race. 7:42. Field of eight goes in $200,000 El Camino Real Derby for 3-year-olds. Enterprising won Eddie Logan at Santa Anita then shipped north to win Golden Gate Derby. Tom Proctor gets Gary Stevens back aboard for this spot.