The Super Bowl is more than a week away, the Pro Bowl is a major snore, college-hoop games are nothing to write home about yet and most of the country is enduring the 37th deep freeze of the season (or does it just seem like that?), so what better time than fire up the computer or television for some Saturday racing.
It almost always at least looks warmer at places like Gulfstream, Santa Anita and Tampa, so we’ll take a peak at heats there, plus plenty of others on the last Saturday of January 2014. Here’s your cheat sheet for January 25.
Doncaster. Second race. 7:55 a.m. Clear the breakfast dishes and see if Valdez can stay on course for possible run in Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase at Cheltenham meeting. Seven-year-old Doyen gelding has won back-to-back and looked good winning at Newbury in late November.
Doncaster. Fourth race. 9:05 a.m. Annie Power is one of the day’s big stars and 6-year-old Shirocco mare headlines the OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle. She’s 1-5 on the early line against only four opponents and she bids for 10th consecutive win from as many starts in this 2 1/16-mile event.
Cheltenham. Fourth race. 9:25 a.m. Speaking of Cheltenham, Saturday’s card is the Festival Trials Day and the headliner is the Grade 2 Argento Chase, led by Hennessy Gold Cup runner-up Rocky Creek. The British press expects him to be a short price and rightfully so considering his recent form.
Cheltenham. Sixth race. 10:55 a.m. The 3-mile Grade 2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle marks the return of the sensational Big Buck’s, the four-time winner of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival who hasn’t been out since December 2012.
Gulfstream. Third race. 1:38 p.m. Todd’s Tapits, as in Pletcher with youngsters by Gainesway’s Tapit, are tearing it up in Hallandale Beach and firster Anchor Down would be generous price if he stays at his 3-1 morning-line price. Gray colt cost $250,000 at 2012 Keeneland September sale and is half brother to 2013 Test Stakes winner Sweet Lulu.
Laurel Park. Fourth race. 1:59 p.m. If She’s Holy starts in the $100,000 Wide Country she’ll do it off just one full day of rest after finishing third in $20,000 claiming race Thursday at Penn National. She and the rest of the field might need more than rest if they’re to beat Jonesin for Jerry or Taris in 7-furlong stakes for sophomore fillies.
Gulfstream. Fourth race. 2:07 p.m. Two-turn allowance-optional marks return of John Velazquez, who rides Monopolize for Pletcher. Son of Bernardini won going long last time on the inner at Aqueduct. Pletcher also has Surfing U S A in here and Shug McGaughey counters with Top Billing.
Tampa Bay Downs. Sixth race. 2:55 p.m. Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Press Baron makes first start for Arnaud Delacour after stint in Southern California with Paddy Gallagher. Won at the $50,000 claiming level out west but fits in this about 1 1/8-mile allowance-optional on the grass.
Laurel. Sixth race. 2:56 p.m. The $100,000 Miracle Wood frequently produces a 3-year-old or two to watch in stakes down the road and just about all the major Mid-Atlantic players, and a few others, are represented with entries in this 1-mile event. Jonesin for Jerry’s stablemate Joint Custody could make it a big day for trainer Jerry Robb.
Turfway Park. Fifth race. 3:06 p.m. Homeboykris won the Grade 1 Champagne back in 2009 over the likes of eventual Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Grade 1 winner Dublin. The 7-year-old gelding can be yours Saturday for $20,000 as he goes against six others in this 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional on the Polytrack.
Tampa Bay. Seventh race. 3:24 p.m. Action Andy is back to defend title in $60,000 Pelican Stakes, and also puts his 5-for-8 record at Tampa on the line against seven others.
Laurel. Seventh race. 3:25 p.m. Mail makes local debut off easy stakes win on the inner at Aqueduct last time for Chad Brown. Speaking of the Miracle Wood producing horses to watch down the road, Concealed Identity, fourth in that race back in 2011, goes here for the Gaudet family and Morris Bailey.
Gulfstream. Seventh race. 3:34 p.m. Small group for Grade 2 Forward Gal and it looks like they’ll have Onlyforyou to beat. Malibu Moon filly is 2-for-2, including nice win going 6 furlongs last month at Gulfstream for Pletcher.
Aqueduct. Eighth race. 3:48 p.m. Gone are the days when the Ladies Handicap was a key point on the New York racing calendar, but the race is still steeped in history (142 prior editions) and a long list of spectacular past winners, including Maskette, Beldame, Shuvee, Tempted, Flower Bowl, Vagrancy and even a filly named Twitter (in 1928!). None of those types here, but a solid group of five led by Teen Pauline and Centring.
Tampa Bay. Eighth race. 3:53 p.m. Tough to look past Jonathan Sheppard-trainee at Tampa and especially at 12-1 so watch Dream Clover in this, the $150,000 Grade 3 Endeavour for older fillies and mares on the grass. Plenty of grades stakes competitors in here, too, with Moment in Dixie, Floral Romance, Final Escrow and Left a Message in the field.
Laurel. Eighth race. 3:55 p.m. Fourth of four $100,000 stakes, the What a Summer, marks second local start for New York-based Baragah for Shadwell Stable and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Awesome Again filly out of champion turf mare Golden Apples will be tough.
Gulfstream. Eighth race. 4:03 p.m. Could be a big day for Aurelia, the dam of Apologize and Aurelia’s Belle. Apologize goes in this 7 1/2-furlong allowance-optional on the turf, while Aurelia’s Belle goes in the Forward Gal.
Santa Anita. Fourth race. 4:30 p.m. Competitive edition of Grade 2 Santa Monica offers Heir Kitty the chance to prove win at 13-1 in Grade 1 La Brea on opening day was no fluke and the chance for Teddy’s Promise to see if she can win for the sixth time in 11 starts at Santa Anita. She won last year’s Santa Monica easily. Watch it here.
Gulfstream. Ninth race. 4:33 p.m. Calm Water, full sister to three-time Grade 1 winner Emollient, didn’t get to go on turf last time when late December race was rained off but should get the chance this time. Plenty of pedigree angles in here and the omnipresent Ramsey-Kitten’s Joy angle with All Star Kitten for Chad Brown. Top-tier broodmares with foals in here include With Flying Colors (Color Me Flying) Aflluent (Innate Grace), Fircroft (Hunting Hill), Palais Versailles (Archangelus), Database (Guard the Lines) and Miracle Moment (Miz Lee).
Santa Anita. Fifth race. 5 p.m. The first of five stakes that make up Sunshine Millions/California Cup day program, this one the $125,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint going about 6 1/2 down the hill.
Gulfstream. 10th race. 5:03 p.m. Looks like very strong edition of Grade 2 Holy Bull with Coup de Grace, Financial Mogul, Almost Famous, Mr Speaker, Cairo Prince, Wicked Strong and Intense Holiday. Anxious to see how immediate three finishers behind Honor Code in Remsen – Cairo Prince, Wicked Strong and Intense Holiday – fare in this spot.
Oaklawn Park. Eighth race. 5:38 p.m. Put up $100,000 and they show up, right? Well, it doesn’t always work that way. It did for the American Beauty and 14 are entered for this 6-furlong test. The race even features a mutual field, remember those? Al Stall Jr.’s Apropos shipped from Fair Grounds to win a prep for this and is back on 13 days rest. Bret Calhouns’ Beat the Blues comes in with a bit more rest, off since winning the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill back in late May.
Fair Grounds. Ninth race. 5:55 p.m. Delaunay got folks talking about possible championship campaign following blowout win in Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby undercard, then he lost back-to-back summertime starts and went to the sidelines. Seven-year-old Smoke Glacken gelding won F. W. Gaudin Memorial last year and is reunited with runner-up Gantry for this year’s renewal. Watch Delaunay win 2013 Churchill Downs.
Santa Anita. Seventh race. 6 p.m. Inaugural California Cup Oaks features Swiss Lake Yodeler, daughter of Swiss Yodeler who was named California-bred champion 2-year-old filly Thursday by the CTBA. She’s one of nine entries for Jerry Hollendorfer Saturday at Santa Anita and makes grass debut.
Santa Anita. Eighth race. 6:30 p.m. Bruce Headley, an American original from the old school and going strong at 79, sends out Cyclometer here in the $125,000 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint.
Santa Anita. Ninth race. 7 p.m. Tiz a Minister, once a classics contender, won last year’s California Breeders’ Champion Stakes on dirt and returns to the turf for the $250,000 California Cup Turf Classic. He meets the likes of Grade 3 winner Summer Hit in 1 1/8-mile event.
Santa Anita. 10th race. 7:30 p.m. Speaking of Cal-bred champions, the $250,000 California Cup Derby features champion 2-year-old male Tamarando as the clear standout. Son of Bertrando won Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last summer for Hollendorfer and was third last time behind Eclipse Award winner Shared Belief in Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. Plenty of company in here with 10 others in the field.