We said goodbye to a memorable 2015 Thursday night, hello to 2016 Friday and get back to serious business Saturday with racing coast to coast.
The first 2016 edition of Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home to Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal gets started early overseas and meanders back across the U.S. to a strong card at Santa Anita Park that includes three graded stakes.
Time to shake off the cobwebs from any New Year’s Eve celebrations and get back some of that dough forked over for holiday gifts.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, January 2.
Sandown. Race 2. 7:40 a.m. Willie Mullins continues his scourge on British racing, sending Gitane Du Berlais and Petite Perisienne to the listed mares hurdle.
Chelmsford City. Race 4. 9:15. A decent purse of $47,000 is put on the line here. As always in England, an eclectic mix of horses emerge as 3-year-old filly Likely makes her third start and 5-year-old gelding Lancelot Du Lac makes his 37th start.
Sandown. Race 5. 9:25. The Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle attracts a tough group, including O O Seven, 2-for-2 over hurdles and Irish raider Yorkhill, 1-for-1 over hurdles.
Ayr. Race 5. 9:40. Who will be the last Ned Evans homebred to race? Perhaps, Tap Night. The 9-year-old son of Pleasant Tap continues his productive jump career, he snapped a long losing streak in his most recent start. He tries to start a win streak here.
Sandown. Race 6. 10:00. British racing offers opportunities for all horses including the old timers. The Veterans Handicap Chase Final offers $156,000 and attracts stalwarts French Opera, Soll, Tullamore Dew, Renard and Houston Dynimo. The latter makes start No. 78.
Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 12:05 p.m. South Florida is the place to be with winter weather setting in across the East Coast. Big field of maiden 3-year-old fillies on the grass gets the card started.
Gulfstream. Race 3. 1:05. Small but strong field for Grade 3 Hutcheson. Sheikh Of Sheikhs was lights out in Juvenile Sprint on Breeders’ Cup Saturday card and he meets Noholdingback Bear again, along with multiple stakes winner Full Salute.
Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:35. Ballet Diva made successful step up from Florida-bred ranks to open company last time. She tries one more step in Grade 3 Old Hat and will get tough test from Lucy N Ethel.
Laurel Park. Race 4. 1:55. The $75,000 What A Summer gets stakes action underway in Maryland.
Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:05. Lira looks to improve to 3-for-3 in $100,000 Ginger Brew for 3-year-old fillies on the grass.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:05. Isotherm goes back to the grass in Grade 3 Dania Beach after failed try on dirt in Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Ray’s The Bar was nowhere in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but might merit a chance off freshening.
Laurel. Race 7. 3:25. Page McKenney exits strong win in Swatara that capped productive season. He tries to follow it up and starts in $75,000 Native Dancer.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50. First major 3-year-old prize of the season in New York with Grade 3 Jerome. Ten points for the Kentucky Derby are on the line and Flexibility looks to land first stakes win after back-to-back runner-up finishes to Mohaymen in Grade 2 stakes to end 2015.
Laurel. Race 8. 3:55. Samantha Nicole and Miss Mischief look tough in $75,000 Nellie Morse for older females going two turns.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 8. 3:56. Without fail there’s a decent grass race on every Saturday card in Oldsmar.
Santa Anita Park. Race 2. 4:00. Newly minted maiden 3-year-olds go 9 furlongs on the grass.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:05. Six of the 10 3-year-old fillies entered in 6-furlong maiden make their debuts.
Santa Anita. Race 3. 4:30. Time to start thinking points for the Kentucky Oaks, too. and they’re on the line in Grade 2 Santa Ynez. With no Songbird to deal with yet Pretty N Cool, Forever Darling and Code Warrior might need to make hay.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:35. Newly turned sophomores try to get on track for Florida’s top classic preps in $100,000 Mucho Macho Man going 1 mile out of the chute.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:54. The $60,000 Bonapaw going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass might be just the right spot for Bret Calhoun to get Marchman back on winning track.
Tampa Bay. Race 10. 4:56. One-mile turf maiden only offers $23,000 purse but doesn’t scare away the likes of Eoin Harty, John Terranova, Buff Bradley, Ian Wilkes and Eddie Kenneally.
Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:03. How good is Seattle Serenade? He was unraced at 2, didn’t debut until last November, and is 2-for-2 heading into Grade 3 Midnight Lute against the likes of San Onofre, Distinctiv Passion, Pulling G’s, All Run and Salutos Amigos.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:03. Older horses take their turn going long on the grass in Grade 2 San Gabriel. Obviously, still going strong at age 8, bids for 12th career victory.
Turfway Park. Race 4. 7:42. First stakes of the winter meeting is $50,000 Wintergreen for older females going 1 mile. Emotional Kitten is back from trip to San Francisco, while Charlie LoPresti got back to Turfway with Serene Melody.