The polar vortex – whatever that means – is at least temporarily nearing its end and it’s time to get back to the Saturday Special. Our weekly cheat sheet’s been off since December 21 as we celebrated Christmas, toasted the New Year and got things in order for 2014.
Plenty going on Saturday with NFL playoffs – including what figures to be a soggy trip to Gillette Stadium for Patriots-Colts (thanks Huddie) – along with some intriguing early-season college hoops games and good Premier League matches. There’s plenty of good racing on tap first and here’s your cheat sheet for January 11.
Kempton. Fourth race. 8:35 a.m. Seven entered here in the williamhill.com Levy Board Tolworth Hurdle Novices’ Hurdle, a Grade 1 event going 2 miles. The Liquidator, riding three-race win streak; and Upazo, the winner of two straight, vie for favoritism.
Warwick. Seventh race. 10:35 a.m. Field of 16 entered for 3 5/8-mile Betfred Classic Chase, a Grade 3 handicap. Vesper Bell, the slight favorite at 6-1, was a faller in the Becher Chase in December and was withdrawn from Coral Welsh National in late December at Chepstow. Boyfromnowhere makes first start since mid-November, but that was winning effort, and is pegged as 13-2 second choice.
Aqueduct. Second race. 12:54 p.m. Darley’s Brabbham, a $1.2 million Bernardini yearling buy back in August 2011, takes crack No. 6 at breaking his maiden and is coupled with the Street Sense colt Frame. Kiaran McLaughlin trains the former, Tom Albertrani the latter. We’ve seen this scenario before, right here.
Gulfstream Park. Third race. 1:38 p.m. Two-turn turf allowance-optional marks return of Charming Kitten, who won once and placed twice in three local starts in 2013. North Slop, second on rained off Hall of Fame last summer at Saratoga, and lightly raced Calm Pacific could be tough.
Laurel Park. Fourth race. 1:59 p.m. Hunch players will either bet for or bet against Brady, who is coupled with Mine N Gems in this $6,000 claiming sprint. Pity there’s no Luck entered anywhere.
Gulfstream. Fourth race. 2:07 p.m. One of those tough South Florida maidens that could yield one to watch later this winter and spring. Todd Pletcher’s got $1.1 million worth of Tapit firsters in $700,000 Hartford for Stonestreet and $400,000 Constitution for WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing. Five other six-figure buys in the field, including $600,000 A.P. Indy colt Indy’s Legacy for Pat Byrne and $550,000 A.P. Indy colt Athens for Bill Mott and WinStar.
Gulfstream. Sixth race. 3:05 p.m. Ken and Sarah Ramsey are already well in front in owner’s race and could add another win here with Perky Kitten.
Tampa Bay Downs. Seventh race. 3:24 p.m. Remember Risky Rachel? New York-bred daughter of Limehouse and Dancin Renee? Winner of the Union Avenue and two other stakes in New York in 2012? She makes her 7-year-old debut and first start since October 2012 in this, the $50,000 Minaret Stakes going 6 furlongs. The stakes at Tampa are usually tough and this one is, too, with Cor Cor, Magic Mesa, Cookie and Ambusher in the field.
Aqueduct. Eighth race. 3:48 p.m. Marriedtothemusic made three strong impressions at Saratoga, winning once and finishing second twice. Disco Rico colt hasn’t been out since and makes 4-year-old debut in this 5 1/2-furlong state-bred allowance.
Laurel Park. Eighth race. 3:55 p.m. Featured allowance-optional for 3-year-olds is starting spot for Tim Keefe and Good Time Henny, Henny Hughes colt claimed off Tony Dutrow last time for $25,000. He won that day by 9 3/4 lengths at 5-1.
Turfway Park. Seventh race. 4:04 p.m. Unstoppable U., sixth in the 2012 Belmont Stakes for Ken McPeek, makes second start for Susan Anderson in this 1-mile allowance-optional on the Polytrack. Exchange Rate gelding won the Maxxam Gold Cup last season at Sam Houston and was sixth last time behind Cyber Secret in the Prairie Bayou at Turfway.
Tampa Bay Downs. Ninth race. 4:22 p.m. Guam Typhoon’s been around a while, he just hasn’t started much. The 8-year-old Distorted Humor gelding is one of several veterans in this allowance-optional turf sprint, now racing for Midwest Thoroughbreds and Jamie Ness. He raced until 2012 for Donna Jones and Ian Wilkes, who won a nice Churchill allowance with him before a third in the Curlin and a second in the Pleasant Colony at Saratoga back in 2009.
Gulfstream. Ninth race. 4:33 p.m. Co-featured Fort Lauderdale on the grass offers very evenly matched group, with recent Citation runner-up Summer Front the one to beat. War Front colt just missed against Breeders’ Cup Mile third Silentio out at Hollywood Park last time.
Gulfstream. 10th race. 5:03 p.m. Ian Wilkes continues to try and bring Neck ‘n Neck back to the form that landed him three graded stakes wins as a 3-year-old in 2012. Third start of layoff and return to one-turn mile could be just the trick. Interesting group with Uncaptured, Lea, Jackson Bend and Nikki’s Sandcastle in the mix. Grade III winner Lea makes his first start for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, after making first 10 starts for trainer Al Stall.
Oaklawn Park. Seventh race. 5:09 p.m. Brothers Borel – trainer Cecil and jockey Calvin – team up on this 1-mile 3-year-old filly allowance with Daddy’s Memory. Scat Daddy filly got bumped and then set pace before fading in Grade 2 Golden Rod last time at Churchill. Watch Vexed win Golden Rod.
Fair Grounds. Eighth race. 5:25 p.m. Several well-meant sophomores whose connections might have eyes on bigger prizes down the line go 6 furlongs here. The group includes Big Sugar Soda, fourth in the Grade 1 Hopeful and third in the Grade 2 Futurity last year for Steve Asmussen, and Sugar Bowl Stakes runner-up Be Well for Steve Margolis. Larry Jones is off to a strong start in New Orleans and goes here with the Divine Park colt Divine View.
Santa Anita. Fifth race. 5:30 p.m. Sham Stakes might not produce Kentucky Derby winners, but it might. And it could also yield a Santa Anita Derby winner or at the very least a contender or two. Miss Wineshine, remember her? In 1999 she was second in the Adirondack and third in the Spinaway for Bob Baffert. She’s the dam of Midnight Hawk, a colt by Midnight Lute who is 8-5 against five others in this spot.
Gulfstream. 11th race. 5:33 p.m. Keep the television, or video stream, going for the finale, a 1-mile allowance-optional on the grass. We’ll go with the pedigree and favorable rider change angle in here, with Secret Bid (by Street Cry out of Inside Information) and Javier Castellano.
Oaklawn Park. Eighth race. 5:38 p.m. Cyber Secret, part of the “house horse” entry with Drogue for Charles Cella and trainer Lynn Whiting, is part of large group entered in the $100,000 Fifth Season. Cyber Secret is about as good as any in recent years at Hot Springs, winning five of eight there since 2012. Won Turfway’s Prairie Bayou on synthetic last time after productive early part of the season highlighted by win in Oaklawn Handicap. Read about Cyber Secret’s early season successes.
Fair Grounds. Ninth race. 5:55 p.m. Fans of turf sprints will like this one, the $60,000 Costa Rising Stakes for Louisiana-breds. Majority of the 12 entered are making either return to or debuts on the grass.
Oaklawn Park. Ninth race. 6:09 p.m. Mr. Eclipse Award of Merit, D. Wayne Lukas, tries again in this 6-furlong maiden special weight with Brewing. Off the board in three starts, Maimonides colt takes on well-meant firsters for Bret Calhoun (Flat Irish), Randy Morse (Street Strategy), Chris Richard (Discipline) and Cody Autrey (Paganol).
Fair Grounds. 10th race. 6:25 p.m. We don’t feature a $5,000 claiming race often, but it’s also not a frequent occurrence to see a 13-year-old pop up in the entries. Silver Indy, a newly minted teenager by Silver Charm, makes career start No. 93 going 6 furlongs in the New Orleans finale. Go deep on his form and you’ll see a stakes-placing and an allowance effort against Gradepoint (remember him, eventual Risen Star winner?) back in early 2004 at Fair Grounds.
Santa Anita. Eighth race. 7 p.m. Jerry Hollendorfer sends out formidable duo of Blueskiesnrainbows and Rousing Sermon in Grade 2 San Pasqual, a key prep for Santa Anita Handicap later this winter. Blueskiesnrainbows comes off second in Breeders’ Cup Marathon and win in Grade 3 Native Diver in last two. John Shirreffs counters with Blingo, Artie Schiller gelding who raced only twice in 2013 but was impressive in small stakes at Belmont in mid-October.