The Saturday Special – April 14

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Last Chance Saloon on the Kentucky Derby trail with a pair of preps – the Arkansas Derby and Stonestreet Lexington – leading this week’s edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

The Grade 1 Arkansas Derby headlines a strong card at Oaklawn Park, which also closes its doors for the season. Fans of the action in Hot Springs are in luck after t his year, with this week’s announcement that they’ll race a bit longer starting in 2019. Here’s hoping all the air doesn’t come out of the balloon for that period after the track’s marquee race and the end … something we’ve seen elsewhere through the years. Knowing Oaklawn they’ll get it right.

Keeneland rolls along with the second weekend of its stellar spring meet – here’s hoping for better weather this time – and runs a stakes-filled card.

There’s plenty of other top action coast-to-coast, including good stakes in New York and California. Check it all out in the primer for Saturday, April 14. Take care and good luck.

Leopardstown. Race 1. 8:40 a.m. Coolmore adds some Japanese blood to its melting pot with Conclusion, a son of Deep Impact. So far, he’s 0-for-2, but should graduate here.

Aintree. Race 1. 8:45. The opener of the Grand National card. Sit back and enjoy sport in its purest form. We’ve always loved Debece, the 7-year-old returns for his first start since finishing third in the Grade 1 novices’ hurdle at Aintree.

Leopardstown. Race 2. 9:10. Quit complaining about the super trainer problem in America, the Two Thousand Guineas Trial attracts just four horses, three for Aidan O’Brien and one for Dermot Weld.

Aintree. Race 2. 9:25. Black Op got the closest to Samcro at Cheltenham, the 7-year-old looks long gone in the Grade 1 Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, as long as he doesn’t have a Cheltenham hangover. Who doesn’t have a Cheltenham hangover?

Lingfield. Race 2. 9:30. Betty F, a daughter of Frankel, won her debut but was trounced in her next start, the Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park, back in September. She returns going 7 furlongs on the all-weather. We took a shine to Quality Seeker, an American-bred daughter of Quality Road, in her last start, she’s primed to break her maiden.

Leopardstown. Race 3. 9:45. Take your notes. The Ballylynch Stud ‘Priory Belle’ One Thousand Guineas Trial Stakes. I Can Fly attracts Ryan Moore and should fly home. At least there’s 14 in this one.

Aintree. Race 3. 10:00. Petit Mouchoir went about as fast as any horse in the history of Cheltenham and paid the price, winding up third in the Arkle. If anybody can coddle and throttle speed, Davy Russell can, they look strong against five rivals in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase.

Aintree. Race 4. 10:40. Our old friend, Hammersly Lake, returns for his first start since finishing fifth, evidently at even money, in last year’s Grand National at Far Hills. Don’t worry, Richard, there’s no Mr. Hot Stuff in the Grade 3 Betway Handicap Chase.

Leopardstown. Race 5. 10:50. Coolmore’s Nelson, The Pentagon and Delano Roosevelt represent 60 percent of the field in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes.

Aintree. Race 5. 11:20. Sam Spinner tries to make amends for flopping at Cheltenham, he’ll need his best against Wholestone and nine others in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle.

Aintree. Race 6. 12:15 p.m. The Randox Health Grand National Chase. The greatest of them all attracts another eclectic and electric field of 40. The intrepid battalion will attempt to tackle 30 fences and 4 ½-miles. Eclectic? Thunder And Roses has fallen in his last two chase starts, The Last Samuri comes out of the cross country at Cheltenham and Lord Windermere is a former Gold Cup winner. Electric? Anibale Fly flew up the Cheltenham hill to be third in the Gold Cup, Tiger Roll has won three different races at Cheltenham, eight-time winner Seeyouatmidnight has hinted at a moment like this. The Picks: Seeyouatmidnight, Pendra, Anibale Fly, Tiger Roll (box the four).

Keeneland Race Course. Race 1. 1:05. Second Saturday card of the spring meet is maiden claimer going two turns on the dirt.

Aintree. Race 7. 1:20. After you hit that life-changing trifecta, wheel it all back on your paddock pick in the finale, a conditional handicap hurdle.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 1:30. Arkansas Derby Day kicks off with 1 1/16-mile maiden for 3-year-olds. Lionite, fourth in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity last fall, is part of strong two-way entry for Steve Asmussen with Limation.

Keeneland. Race 2. 1:39. Loaded 9-furlong allowance features Ruler Of The Nile, a $1 million purchase last year who won his debut by daylight at Tampa Bay Downs; the Bill Mott-trained debut winner Penalty; He Takes Charge, eighth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth; and Pryor, ninth in the Grade 2 Rebel. And don’t count out Oskar Blues and Front Door.

Aqueduct. Race 2. 1:54. Tizzelle, close in a pair of state-bred stakes on the grass last fall, makes 5-year-old debut against open company for Jim Bond in 1-mile turf allowance. Icespire, daughter of Frankel who won debut back in October 2016, makes U.S. debut for Juddmonte and Chad Brown.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:29. Fifty Five took down a New York-bred championship Monday night – hopefully you checked out the commemorative program – and she steps up against open company and older here in $100,000 Plenty Of Grace. The one to beat is My Impression, a two-time winner on the Aqueduct grass for Shug McGaughey, and off since late November.

Laurel Park. Race 4. 2:40. Ampola is back from stay in Florida and should win 6-furlong maiden in second start off layoff for Arnaud Delacour.

Oaklawn. Race 3. 2:40. Second part of split 1 1/16-mile maiden might also go to Asmussen with Possibilitarian, some of Awesome Again who ran well to be second in debut at 3-2. Mr. 1,000 Ricardo Santana Jr. is aboad.

Keeneland. Race 4. 2:45. Another puzzle of a race, 1-mile allowance on the main track with a field of nine.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:00. Opener is 1-mile turf maiden for 3-year-olds and up. We’ll always lean toward a horse named Facts Matter. Toss in that he’s trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and making his first start on grass and we like him even more.

Laurel. Race 5. 3:10. Robin Hood didn’t show much in lone start last September at Belmont and makes return in solid looking 1 1/16-mile maiden on the grass. Several look like, including Scat Daddy colt’s stablemate Nakamura, Stronach Stables’ homebred entry of Uno Dancer and Sandy Lane and Gunpowder Farms homebred Helicat.

Keeneland. Race 5. 3:18. The action moves to the grass for the first time on the day; 1-mile allowance attracts full field of 12 with a couple main track only runners.

Parx Racing. Race 7. 3:37. Fixedincome Larry is a Pennsylvania-bred, hasn’t landed in state-bred company yet but is in the Keystone State for his first start since last August at Saratoga. Jeremiah Englehart liked the homebred Flatter colt for Al Gold’s Gold Square last summer in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour. He meets 11 other 3-year-old maidens going 6 furlongs.

Aqueduct. Race 5. 3:38. Short field of six for 1 1/16-mile turf allowance. Did Kulin Rock and Battle Of Blenheim really scare them all away?

Keeneland. Race 6. 3:51. Back to the dirt for 1 1/16-mile maiden for 3-year-olds. Brave Nation, half brother to Good Samaritan, stretches out a bit more after good second in Tampa maiden last time for Bill Mott and picks up John Velazquez.

Aqueduct. Race 6. 4:11. Barclay Tagg admitted he was excited to see what Highland Lady could do as a 4-year-old when we stopped by his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour. Daughter of First Samurai had her prep at Gulfstream and takes on the likes of Confirmation Bias, Miss Munnings, Kingdom’s Queen and Soar From Shadows in this 1 1/16-mile allowance.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 7. 4:14. Bill Mott sends out two – Missouria and Cheery Oats – in 1 1/16-mile turf maiden. Arnaud Delacour, Buff Bradley, Tom Proctor and Christophe Clement also have runners. Did we mention it was mid-April and not mid-January?

Oaklawn. Race 6. 4:21. Slick Silver looks to keep rolling on what might be big day for Asmussen barn in 6-furlong maiden.

Keeneland. Race 7. 4:24. First stakes on the card is Grade 3 Ben Ali, always a good prep for Alysheba over Oaks-Derby weekend and possible bigger spots down the road. Hollywood Handsome chased Good Samaritan last time in Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap and Dallas Stewart adds blinkers while Todd Pletcher looks to continue strong spring with Chip Leader.

Keeneland. Race 8. 4:57. Lady Aurelia, beaten favorite at odds-on in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, is back home to defend title in $100,000 Giant’s Causeway. Before anointing one of the most hyped horses in recent years one should take a look at Morticia; Daughter of Twirling Candy is quite useful herself in turf sprints, had her prep and is also at home in Lexington. Upset alert.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 5:17. Sophomore turf sprinters go 6 furlongs in $100,000 Bridgeton. Todd Pletcher looks as loaded for this as he does for the Kentucky Derby, sending out All Systems Go, Barbarossa and Coltandmississippi.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:33. The 3-year-olds who are not quite ready for the prime time go in $150,000 Northern Spur. Title Ready fared the best in his most recent stakes appearance, finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Rebel after leading much of the trip. Ike chased Mitole – a stakes winner this week in Hot Springs – in 6-furlong allowance and should benefit stretching out for Bob Baffert.

Keeneland. Race 9. 5:34. The first of pair of Derby preps is the Grade 2 Stonestreet Lexington. Only 20 points to the winner toward a spot in in the gate in Louisville, but that would be enough for My Boy Jack to leapfrog a few ahead of him on the most recent standings. Fairly wide-open race features an eclectic field with Battle At Sea and Honor Up coming out of state-bred races, Seven Trumpets, Magicalmeister, Greyvitos, Pony Up, Navy Armed Guard and Zanesville competing in graded stakes recently and Telekinesis looking to make jump from allowance ranks for the race sponsor and trainer Mark Casse. Shop for a price.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 5:49. Hope the weather holds, the finale is sixth grass race on the card, filly and mare maiden going 1 1/16 miles.

Gulfstream Park. Race 11. 5:56. The last time Surprise Wedding didn’t start in a stakes – seven races back in an allowance-optional in August. 2017 – she won by 9 lengths going 7 furlongs. Same track and trip here for Dave Fawkes. My Miss Tapit might have something to say about it, 2-for-2 at Gulfstream and coming off the bench for Todd Pletcher.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Angles galore in Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap, with Ivan Fallunovalot going in the memory of his late trainer Tom Howard, favored Whitmore bidding for title defense, Wynn Time trying to turn the tables on the favorite and Smart Spree going for his fifth straight win in his stakes debut. He could have been yours for $23,500 in December.

Keeneland. Race 10. 6:12. The featured Grade 1 Coolmore Jenny Wiley is always a good race and the 30th running is no exception. Cambodia would cap an amazing week for her co-breeder and owner Don Robinson, winner of the Hardboot Breeders’ Award from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders this week; while La Coronel returns to the site of her three biggest victories. Chad Brown also sends out strong entry of Off Limits, Sistercharlie and Fourstar Crook.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:17. Tough Sunday finished behind Edwards Going Left and B Squared to back and turned it around last time in off-the-turf Sensational Star. He tries to in again in $100,000 Thor’s Echo Handicap for Cal-breds.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:40. Accelerate and City Of Light make the trip from California for the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. The former is proven commodity going long – at least back home – and comes off victory in Santa Anita Handicap while the latter stretches out in $750,000 stakes off back-to-back Grade 1 victories at 7 furlongs. Field of 11 also includes last year’s winner Inside Straight, Essex winner Hedge Fund for sizzling connections and Grade 3 Razorback winner Hawaakom.

Keeneland. Race 11. 6:45. Stick around the finale, a 7-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies.

Oaklawn. Race 11. 7:18. The $1 million Arkansas Derby is not only the day’s headliner but it’s also a Grade 1 and offers 100 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby field. Solomini is back in Arkansas after connections bypassed the Santa Anita Derby – won by his stablemate Justify – and Quip is in Hot Springs after scratching out of last week’s Blue Grass. Magnum Moon has been on this path all along, after running his record to 3-for-3 in the Grade 2 Rebel last month for Todd Pletcher.

Oaklawn. Race 12. 7:53. Time to stretch out, annual starter allowance finale is at 1 3/4 miles for 4-year-olds and up who started for $8,000 or less in 2018.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 8:00. Well Developed takes three-race win streak into 1-mile turf allowance for Patty Gallagher.

Penn National Race Course. Race 6. 8:16. If you’re still going strong take a look at Sneaky Cowgirl in 6-furlong allowance-optional. She’s been first or second 14 times in 17 starts at Penn.