The Saturday Special – April 18

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Another week in captivity, err quarantine or whatever you want to call it, and another relatively light slate of Thoroughbred racing around the world.

The slate is light but there’s some strength out there with the Grade 1 Apple Blossom and Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint at Oaklawn Park leading the way. Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs keep things rolling in Florida. Elsewhere we preview the action from Randwick, Caulfield and Nakayama. Yes, that Nakayama.

Want to watch? You’re in luck again with NBC Sports extending its agreement with TVG through May to show live racing, including from Oaklawn Park, from Friday to Sunday from 4-8 p.m. EDT. Fox Sports will also show racing on its America’s Day at the Races program through its FS1 and FS2 channels. Fox will show a combined 10 1/2 hours of coverage of Oaklawn and Tampa – from 1:30-7 p.m. Saturday on FS1 and from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Sunday on FS2 and from 2:30-6:30 p.m. on FS1.  

What else is going on? Unfortunately the New York Racing Association announced this week that the start of the Belmont Park spring-summer meet would be delayed from its original April 24 opener to a late date not yet determined. No word yet on the June 6 Belmont Stakes, whether it would be pushed to later in the year to coincide with Churchill Downs’ decision to delay the Kentucky Derby until Sept. 5. The status of the Preakness Stakes is also undetermined, with officials from The Stronach Group still considering where to put the second jewel of the Triple Crown with racing currently on hiatus in Maryland.   

Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields remain closed despite some reported pleas by The Stronach Group’s Belinda Stronach to bring things back on a limited basis without crowds. 

Here’s your primer for Saturday, April 18. Be well and stay healthy.

Randwick. Race 5. 12:20 a.m. Tom Marquand aims to continue his lucrative stint down under, staying on Holyfield for Ciaron Maher in the Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes. A son of I Am Invincible is 3-for-4 in his burgeoning career.

Caulfield. Race 6. 1:20 a.m. Hey, stay up all night and sleep all morning, you won’t miss the Scottish National or the Greenham in the morning and you’ll be ready to roll for Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs by afternoon. The Showdown pits 2-year-olds for a whopping purse. Archipeta Beach and Chrome Angel won their debuts impressively.

Randwick. Race 7. 1:40. The Group 1 Schweppes All Aged Stakes attracts an eclectic group that includes Japanese-bred 6-year-old horse Fierce Impact, 6-year-old mare White Moss and Godolphin owned 3-year-old colt Bivouac.

Nakayama. Race 11. 2:40 a.m. Remember when Americans tried to the Nakayama Grand Jump? Campanile, Ninepins…oh it seems so long ago. Actually, it was so long ago. The one and only Oju Chosen seeks his fifth consecutive victory in Japan’s biggest jump race. Wearing his customary light blue hood and cheek pieces, the 9-year-old son of Stay Gold has won 17 races in his implausible career. After his fourth victory, jockey Shinichi Ishigami said, “The pressure from the other runners during the run was enormous—this was definitely the toughest race I’ve ever experienced. Besides one, we cleared all of the jumps well and he stretched to the line beautifully. I had no doubts about his strength and it’s a real joy to win four in a row.”

Caulfield. Race 9. 3:15 a.m. The VOBIS Sires Guineas offers a big purse. We like Affair to Remember for trainer Dan O’Sullivan.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:28 p.m.. Perhaps you slept. Time to get rolling again. Here’s a good one to restart with, a 6-furlong optional for $100,000 tags. Three entered for the six figures and two, My Lenny Boy and Rol Again Question, are the ones to beat.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 12:45. Maiden claimer on the grass starts things off in South Florida.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 1:35. Rev it up from Hot Springs and a maiden claimer to open the card.

Oaklawn. Race 3. 2:37. State-bred two-turn maiden lures full field of 12.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:46. Holy Meister looks to end string of close finishes in 1-mile turf maiden for Mark Casse and Gary Barber.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 3:17. The last time Poppy’s Destiny raced he finished ninth in the $256,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes for New York-breds on the Empire Showcase card in October 2018. The 4-year-old son of Orb makes comeback for new trainer – Steven Dwoskin – for a $16,000 tag going 6 furlongs.

Tampa. Race 7. 3:28. Maroon Magic and Economic Policy both exit runner-up finishes in similar turf maidens last time at Tampa. They look tough in this one going 1 1/16 miles along with Safe And Sound, firster Big Dreaming and Kentucky Ghost.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:48. Back to the grass for another 1-mile maiden for 3-year-olds and up. Holy Emperor ran well in turf debut last time for Jimmy Jerkens and cuts back from 9 to 8 furlongs. He finished third that day and one spot behind the cleverly named Seize The Hay for Todd Pletcher.

Tampa. Race 8. 4:00. Sean will be all in on My Girl Annie in 7-furlong optional and horseplayers might too considering she’s 4-for-6 in the exacta locally. The Aurelia Factor makes her latest stop after a career with Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen and time at Del Mar, Pimlico, Churchill, Ellis and Delta Downs.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 4:42. Deep 1-mile allowance lures Dessman from Bob Baffert’s string in California along with the likes of 2019 Preakness runner-up Everfast, last-out maiden winner Wild Popit, Comedian and Soaring Bird.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:53. Always Shopping, off since finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in mid-May, makes turf debut in 1-mile optional that also draws Rideforthecause, Art Of Almost, Mintd and Rideforthecause.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:14. First of two stakes on the card, the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap features two-time winner Whitmore (2017 and 2018), Grade 1 winner Hog Creek Hustle, Grade 2 San Carlos winner Flagstaff, Grade 3 winner Bobby’s Wicked One and highly regarded Hidden Scroll.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 5:45. Break Even didn’t run well in her comeback, fading to sixth in the Spring Fever in late February. She’s back in 6-furlong allowance here looking to get back form that saw her win six of seven last season for Klein Racing and trainer Brad Cox. No easy task in this spot with stablemate Meadow Dance and Shanghai Tariff in the field.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:57. A dozen older fillies and mares for 5-furlong turf optional, including Miss Auramet, Hidden Facts, Lady Grace and V J’s Bet.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:16. Always one of the highlights of the spring, the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap. Strong renewal with Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress and Southern California shipper Ce Ce among the field of 14 and drawn outside. The former won the Grade 2 Azeri last time to end string of five defeats dating back to last year’s Oaks while the latter comes in off strong win in Grade 1 Beholder Mile. Come Dancing, winner of the Grade 1 Ballerina last year, makes return and stretches out for new trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Street Band tries to bounce back from Azeri fourth and Go Google Yourself, first or second in 12 of 19 starts, looks for some respect.