The last Saturday of March – the day before Easter this year – offers jam-packed day of action that starts early with the rich Dubai World Cup card and goes late with the Louisiana Derby card at Fair Grounds. Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home of Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal, sets things up for a big morning, afternoon and evening of action.
The American contingent will be out in force at Meydan Racecourse for the $10 million World Cup, including 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome, Donn winner Mshawish, Travers winner Keen Ice and Pennsylvania Derby winner Frosted.
Fair Grounds runs a 15-race card, yes 15, and the day could start early in New Orleans for those motivated to run the Crescent City Classic 10k. The run begins downtown in front of the Superdome, goes through the French Quarter and then up Esplanade Avenue to New Orleans City Park. Esplanade and City Park Avenue are major access routes to Fair Grounds and portions will be closed Saturday, so track officials advise alternate routes.
Last and certainly not least, Gulfstream Park might feature a pool of $15 million for the Rainbow 6 that runs from the seventh through the 12th race. The carryover after it was not hit Friday stood at more than $4.5 million. According to Gulfstream, “the carryover jackpot is only paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 70 percent of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.”
Here’s your primer for Saturday, March 26. Good luck.
Meydan. Race 2. 8:20 a.m. The card of the day gets started here. We heard more about Marking at Saratoga than we heard about the new spot on Church. Godolphin son of Bernardini has only lost twice, once to champion Runhappy and once to a nosedive at the start.
Meydan. Race 3. 8:55. Want distance? Here’s 2 miles for you. Think USA breeds for speed? France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Ireland and Great Britain are represented. No stars and stripes.
Kempton. Race 1. 9:10. Two-year-olds sprint 5 furlongs on the all weather.
Kempton. Race 2. 9:40. Two-year-old fillies sprint 5 furlongs on the all weather. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum tries to hit the double with stallion Helmet.
Meydan. Race 4. 9:35. The UAE Derby. Paul Reddam and Doug O’Neill are so loaded, they shipped El Camino Real Derby winner Frank Conversation to Dubai for the $2 million race.
Meydan. Race 5. 10:10. The Al Quoz Sprint. The great Sole Power lines up again, aiming to pad his lifetime docket of $3.3 million. American-bred Lady Shipman has yet to finish worse than third in 13 starts.
Kempton. Race 3. 10:15. American-bred Our Channel might take the Magnolia Stakes. Windshear drops in class after trying five consecutive graded stakes in 2015.
Haydock. Race 3. 10:35. The Challenger Stayers Hurdle Series Final. Hey, root for the house horse, Riverdee’s Alzammaar takes on 16 runners in the $73,500 handicap. He’s best bet of the day with Tom Segal of the Racing Post.
Meydan. Race 6. 10:45. The Dubai Golden Shaheen. X Y Jet has been strong in Florida sprints this winter, he takes his show on the road for Jorge Navarro. Confrontation was with Barclay Tagg last summer, he’s now 1-for-1 in Dubai for Kiaran McLaughlin and Godolphin.
Haydock. Race 4. 11:10. Gonalston Cloud rides a three-race win streak into this 3 mile chase.
Haydock. Race 5. 11:45. A great addition to the British National Hunt calendar, the Challenger series offers strong purses to runners who swerved Cheltenham. Here’s the final 2-mile handicap in the series, offering $73,500 to the likes of Vendor, Clyne and Teo Vivo.
Meydan. Race 7. 11:45. Tryster looks long gone in the Grade 1 Dubai Turf worth $6 million. California shipper Flamboyant has won two straight Grade 2 stakes while Intilaaq makes his return from winning the Rose of Lancaster in August for British trainer Roger Varian.
Meydan. Race 8. 12:20 p.m. The Dubai Sheema Classic keeps the tap tapping. Just two of the nine starters aren’t millionaires.
Cork. Race 6. 12:45. How many American steeplechase people have tried to buy Sir Ector? Too old now, but the son of Dynaformer has had a stellar career while banging out seven wins in 53 starts. He’s 20-1 to add an eighth win.
Meydan. Race 9. 1:00. Time for California Chrome to add a crescendo to his scintillating career in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.
Fair Grounds. Race 1. 1:30. The first of 15 is state-bred maiden claiming event. Guess they can’t all be the Louisiana Derby.
Fair Grounds. Race 2. 1:59. The stakes start early with seventh edition of the $60,000 Star Guitar for state-breds.
Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:20. The $125,000 Cicada is final stakes on the inner track for the 2015-16 winter meeting. Constellation is 1-9 on the morning line and considering how she destroyed the field in the Ruthless last time that might be generous.
Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 2:35. The $75,000 Cutler Bay Handicap offers chance to get started and prep for upcoming 3-year-old turf division stakes. Strong field includes Highland Sky, Giant Run, Ousby and Abbot.
Fair Grounds. Race 4. 2:55. Full field of 14 for 1-mile turf allowance. Bellamy Run goes first off the claim for Joe Sharp and jockey Joe Rocco Jr. and is 15-1 on the early line. Fair enough.
Mahoning Valley. Race 7. 3:02. What would a Saturday be without some northern Ohio action? The $75,000 Southern Park for state-bred 3-year-old fillies attracts field of 12, including Mike Maker’s Turfway shipper Touch Of Bling.
Fair Grounds. Race 5. 3:24. State-bred sophomores take the stage in $75,000 Crescent City Derby. Icy Gentleman has been the best of that group the last few weeks and looks tough on the stretch-out.
Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:35. Full field of 12 3-year-olds entered for turf maiden that opens the Rainbow 6.
Fair Grounds. Race 6. 3:54. Back to the grass for $50,000 New Orleans Ladies. Bill Mott entered Tuttipaesi but she was on a flight earlier in the week for the Grade 2 Santa Ana out West. That leaves Cash Control as logical favorite, but don’t look past Susie Bee with Javier Castellano in town.
Gulfstream. Race 8. 4:05. Second leg of Rainbow 6 is, as one would fully expect, a puzzler. Turf sprint for $16,000 claimer with a field of 14.
Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:23. International Star suffered first defeat in five starts in New Orleans last time and tries to make amends in Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. He meets Majestic Harbor and Eagle again, along with Coup de Grace, Ride On Curlin, Mobile Bay and others.
Tampa Bay Downs. Race 9. 4:24. Love the maiden races on the grass at Tampa. Proctor, Mott, Motion and Clement (2) with entries.
Laurel Park. Race 7. 4:24. Lady Sabelia looks to get back on winning track after third in Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie in $75,000 Primonetta.
Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:35. Maiden-claimer might be one to not go too deep on if you’re playing the Rainbow 6. Several no-hopers, at least on paper.
Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:52. Will the Chocolate Ride show continue in Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap? He won his third straight and sixth of seven overall on the local turf course last time and could be tough against shippers Can’thelpbelieving, Closing Bell and World Approval. Roman Approval and Blarp tried him earlier and they’re back, too.
Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:05. Starter optional claiming race on the grass features a field of 11. A couple to like, including Favorite Heir, who goes first off the claim for Marcus Vitali.
Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 5:09. Bob Baffert shipped Big Red Rocket from Santa Anita to Hot Springs last month for maiden race, Summer Bird colt finished third and stuck around. No ownership change, but W. T. Howard takes over as trainer for colt’s second start in 1-mile maiden.
Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:27. Venus Valentine sprang monster upset last time and tries to lock up spot in Kentucky Oaks field in Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks. She was 74-1 in Rachel Alexandra but won’t be close to that this time. Doug O’Neill shipped Land Over Sea out of California after five straight losses to Songbird. Tough to blame that move.
Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 5:30. Strong half dozen for Grade 2 Santa Ana going 9 furlongs on the grass. Might be value in Nashoba’s Gold and Fresh Feline, but Tutipaesi, Her Emmynency and Nancy From Nairobi look tough.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:35. Fifth leg of the Rainbow 6. Harmonize, winner of P. G. Johnson at Saratoga and Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland last season, makes first start since disappointing run in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in $75,000 Sanibel Island Handicap. Lira tried Catch A Glimpse last time and was second in Grade 3 Herecomesthebride.
Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Alsvid, consistent stakes-winning sprinter on Kentucky-Arkansas circuit, tries luck at two turns in 1-mile allowance-optional.
Gulfstream. Race 12. 6:05. Still alive in the Rainbow 6? Congrats. One to go, and it’s (only) a $25,000 maiden-claimer on the grass with a field of 12.
Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Evenly matched group of 3-year-olds for $100,000 Gazebo Stakes.
Fair Grounds. Race 10. 6:12. The featured Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby is one of two 100-point races on the day – along with the UAE Derby. Guaranteed spot in the Kentucky Derby field to the winner. Who will it be? Field of 11 includes Florida shipper and Champagne winner Greenpointcrusader, Risen Star winner Gun Runner, LeComte winner Mo Tom and the 2-for-2 Dazzling Gem.
Fair Grounds. Race 11. 6:41. Don’t tune out or hit the exits just yet, the final third of the 15-race card starts with the $60,000 Costa Rising going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass for state-breds.
Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:51. We’ve found a way to include Fonner in the Saturday Special several times of late and we couldn’t resist this heat. The $15,000 Runza Stakes. Who’s Runza you ask? More like, what’s Runza. Think dough bread pocket filled with beef, pork, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions and seasonings.
Fair Grounds. Race 12. 7:07. It might be close to halftime of the West Regional final between Oklahoma and Oregon. Regardless, take a break and click over for the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks.
Fair Grounds. Race 13. 7:33. What would a big day be without a Ramsey-bred and owned Kitten’s Joy? Walking The Kitten gets it done in 1-mile grass allowance.
Fair Grounds. Race 15. 8:25. Does anything say overkill more than a $5,000 claiming race going 1 mile and 70 yards at 7:25 local time? God bless if you’re game for this one and still hanging at the track in a city like New Orleans.
Santa Anita. Race 11. 8:40. Graduation day for Last Resort in maiden for 3-year-old fillies on the grass?