The flat racing world here in the U.S. finds itself this weekend smack dab in the middle of that in-between period after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and before the big Thanksgiving holiday stakes programs.
Usually that stretch is a little slow, dull even. Not this year, with quality stakes on tap for the Fall Festival of Racing at Laurel Park, a couple good graded races on the grass for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs and an intriguing turf marathon at Aqueduct. There’s still some good action out West, too, with a Grade 3 for 2-year-olds at Del Mar named for an American original.
England plays Slovenia at Wembley and there’s plenty of other Euro qualifiers Saturday – that’s soccer for you folks here in the U.S. – but attention will certainly be on Cheltenham for the Paddy Power Gold Cup overseas.
Here’s your Saturday Special for Nov. 15.
Cheltenham. Third Race. 8:50 a.m. Fire up the ADW and settle in. Get the morning started with Group 3 Murphy Group Handicap Chase.
Cheltenham. Fourth Race. 9:30. Field of 19 for Group 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase. Present View is favored and we understand there might be some concern over too much sunshine. Read about it here.
Laurel Park. First Race. 12:35 p.m. Unbeatens Overprepared, Morning Tale and E Dubai’s Honor tangle in $100,000 Smart Halo for 2-year-old fillies.
Laurel. Third Race. 1:31. Big field of 13 for $100,000 James F. Lewis for 2-year-olds. Cinco Charlie chased Blofeld in last. No Blofeds in this spot.
Woodbine. Third Race. 1:56. Allowance race going 13 furlongs. Can you say Valedictory prep?
Laurel. Fourth Race. 1:59. The $100,000 City of Laurel marks the return of In Trouble, winner of last year’s Grade 2 Futurity and one-time classics hopeful.
Aqueduct. Fifth Race. 2:16. Balanced group for state-bred allowance on the turf.
Laurel. Fifth Race. 2:28. Vero Amore back for more in the $100,000 Safely Kept.
Laurel. Sixth Race. 2:57. Race named for legendary Dickie Small attracts plenty of heavyweights, including Talk Show Man, Ground Transport, Cerro, Sioux and Neck ‘n Neck.
Aqueduct. Seventh Race. 3:14. Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap. Big Blue Kitten skipped Breeders’ Cup Turf for Canadian International, where he finished second. He’s heavy favorite in here, but Legendary could continue memorable run for Niall Saville and the legendary Walter Swinburn.
Del Mar. First Race. 3:30. Bob Baffert thought enough of Fascinating to run her in Grade 1s as a maiden last year. Daughter of Smart Strike is still a maiden in start No. 6.
Churchill Downs. Seventh Race. 3:37. Quality group for Grade 3 Commonwealth. Shame it’s only $100,000 with the likes of Wallyanna, Heart to Heart, Highball, Captain Dixie and Bashart.
Laurel. Eighth Race. 3:55. The Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash draws one of the better sprint stakes fields on the East Coast this season. Take your pick.
Churchill. Eighth Race. 4:07. Maiden 2-year-olds go 6 furlongs, including Tapit Wicked for Steve Asmussen and Winchell Thoroughbreds on the outside.
Woodbine. Eighth Race. 4:23. The South Ocean, for 2-year-olds sired by stallion standing in Ontario for his entire season. It’s right there in the conditions.
Churchill. Ninth Race. 4:36. The Grade 3 Mrs. Revere marks return of Testa Rossi. Personal Diary won Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks this summer and Miss Frost looked like she’d get invite to the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, but she didn’t. Bill Mott goes with Pebbles winner Lady Lara.
Del Mar. Sixth Race. 6:00. War Front filly Avenge cost Ramona Bass $650,000 at last year’s Saratoga sale. She makes debut in 6-furlong maiden race for Richard Mandella and Gary Stevens.
Golden Gate Fields. Seventh Race. 6:46. Tough to go against Streamside, 8-for-16 all-time at Golden Gate and 10-for-17 at 6 furlongs, in $50,000 Oakland.
Del Mar. Eighth Race. 7:03. The Grade 3 Bob Hope for 2-year-olds going 7 furlongs. Prime Engine is unbeaten in two starts and makes first start for Jerry Hollendorfer and owner Mark Dedomenico.
Charles Town Races. Eighth Race. 10:11. Down Town Allen. Enough said.