Saturday Special – January 9

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The highly anticipated return of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome marks a fairly busy Saturday in the world of racing, from coast to coast and around the world. Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home of Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal, sets the stage for stakes action at Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Aqueduct and elsewhere.

The day starts overseas with the first of a quartet of must-watch jump races from Chepstow and winds its way all until dinnertime on the East Coast when the aforementioned California Chrome’s full sister makes her return in Northern California.

Kentucky Derby points are on the line in the Sham Stakes and La Verdad tries to add another stakes win to her strong resume with retirement on hold for another few weeks.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, January 9. Good luck.

Chepstow. Race 3. 8:45 a.m. The Coral Welsh National. Miss the 15-round heavyweight bout? Well, here’s jump racing’s version. Staying chasers slog 3 miles, 5 furlongs and 110 yards in heavy ground – and “light rain” Friday. Ryan Hatch, jockey for Cogry, says it best, “It will be a war out there.” You can boil your tea, steep it, warm it up and drink it before this one finishes.

Kempton. Race 4. 9:00. Three-horse race but a real cracker with Ptit Zig, coming back from a fall in his most recent start, taking on veteran Wishfull Thinking and Triolo D’Alene.

Punchestown. Race 4. 9:05. Min, favorite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham before and after his hurdle debut in December, follows the same path Willie Mullins’ rocket ships Vautour and Douvan took here in the Moscow Flyer Hurdle.

Kempton Race 5. 9:35. The Lanzarote Hurdle. Unowhatimeanharry goes for four in a row.

Laurel Park. Race 1. 12:25 p.m. Will graduation day finally arrive for Rose Essence?

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:20. Connections of La Verdad delayed retirement for a bit longer and Eclipse Award finalist bids for win No. 16 in $100,000 Interborough against strong cast led by Willet, Room For Me, Princess Violet and Dancing House.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 3. 1:27. Power Alert won two stakes last season, including Grade 3 Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill, and comes into $100,000 Turf Dash off nearly six-month freshening.

Gulfstream Park. Race 4. 1:35. Sandiva is 2-for-3 on the course and looks tough in Grade 3 Marshua’s River. Devine Aida looks more suited for the grass and might be worth a look at a price.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:05. Valid looks to get closer to seven-figure earnings mark in Grade 3 Hal’s Hope. He puts 6-for-11 mark at Gulfstream on the line against Matrooh and Mshawish, who ran well in Grade 1 Cigar Mile last time out.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:35. Full field of 14 3-year-olds for two-turn maiden.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 3. 3:45. Cal-bred Life Is A Trip was impressive winning debut in December and takes next step in allowance-optional for Jerry Hollendorfer.

Laurel. Race 8. 3:55. Cutty Shark looked destined for bigger and better after close second in last year’s Grade 3 General George. He’s lost four straight since and tries to get back on track in allowance-optional that marks return of highly regarded New York shipper Mean Season.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:05. Speaking of 3-year-olds, here’s a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional that’s certain to get a few for stakes down the road. West Virginia-bred One More Shot romped at Tampa Bay Downs in debut. We’ll see how good Trappe Shot colt is against the likes of Cherry Wine, Baby Bear’s Soup, Southside Warrior, Battery and Perfect Saint.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:35. Lochte loves Gulfstream almost as much as his stablemate Valid. He puts three-race win streak and 5-for-9 mark on the local turf course in Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale. Heart To Heart, Takeover Target and War Correspondent also in the field.

 

Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 5:00. Maiden 3-year-olds try to make up for lost time in 5 1/2-furlong sprint.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:05. Close out the card in South Florida with two-turn maiden race on the grass. Next Shares, runner-up in Grade 2 With Anticipation that we wrote about in The Saratoga Special, still trying for that first win.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:52. Asperites and Graceful Grit, second and third in similar allowance-optional on the grass Dec. 13, meet again going 1 mile. Fine Assay returns to New Orleans and makes first start for Brad Cox.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:00. The Grade 3 Sham offers 10 points for the Kentucky Derby and the perfect place for emerging 3-year-old to get on the Triple Crown trail. Interesting group to say the least. Three of the first four from Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille are back, while I’malreadythere looks to confirm the quality of Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:00. Highly anticipated return of popular Horse of the Year and dual classic winner California Chrome highlights the Grade 2 San Pasqual and carries the day. Hard Aces, Hoppertunity and Imperative are solid on the circuit but aren’t the same quality.

Golden Gate. Race 8. 7:15. Hope’s Love, full sister to California Chrome, just missed in June debut and went to the shelf with hairline fracture to a shoulder. Lucky Pulpit filly is one of 13 entered in 6-furlong maiden.