The serious countdown is on and by about 6:30 p.m. Saturday it will officially be just 14 days until the Kentucky Derby. Meanwhile the show goes on elsewhere, with the final Saturday cards of the spring at Keeneland and Aqueduct and the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic, Federico Tesio at Laurel, Illinois Derby at Hawthorne and a marathon turf fixture at Santa Anita.
We’ve got it all covered in The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud and everything gets rolling overseas with jump and flat racing that start in the morning and stretch into the afternoon here in the States. Check it all out right here and good luck.
Limerick. Race 1. 8:15 a.m. Wrong country. Pennsylvania, an American-bred son of The Factor, makes his seventh attempt to break his maiden for Coolmore. Call Pletcher. Book the plane.
Ayr. Race 1. 8:40. The Cheltenham Festival has come and gone. The Aintree Festival has done the same. And now the last day of the Ayr Festival. Novice chasers kick it off.
Newbury. Race 1. 8:55. The best flat racing is at Newbury on another scintillating Saturday. The opener, a Group 3, attracts a granite group of stayers, including Crimean Tatar, a Turkey-bred 4-year-old who’s 2-for-2 and Group 2-placed Midterm for Juddmonte.
Ayr. Race 2. 9:10. The Future Champions Novices’ Chase pits Festival runners Cloudy Dream, Flying Angel and Theinval against Festival skippers Clan Des Obeaux and Oldgrangeroad. Do you like untested or battled tested?
Newbury. Race 2. 9:30. The Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Stakes launches 3-year-old fillies 7 furlongs on their first steps to stardom. Glitter Girl won three as a juvenile, the daughter of Invincible Spirit makes her 2017 debut while Kindly, a daughter of Frankel, won three times as a juvenile as well.
Ayr. Race 3. 9:45. Not exactly Gigginstown in the Irish National, but Simon Munir and Isaac Souede go three deep in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. First-call jockey Daryl Jacob picks L’Ami Serge over Sceau Royal and Peace And Co.
Newbury. Race 3. 10:05. Dream Castle, yes a son of Frankel (are you following?) looks to pick up his first stakes score in the Group 3 JLT Greenham Stakes. He needs to dispatch American-breds War Secretary and Zainhom.
Ayr. Race 4. 10:20. Double W’s provided an emotional win for Malcolm Jefferson at Aintree. The trainer will be reaching for the tissues again after this handicap chase.
Newbury. Race 4. 10:40. There is nothing like a British handicap. Fanciful Angel carries 136 on the one end while In The Red totes 117 on the other end. In between, well, it’s a box of marbles on a hopscotch court.
Ayr. Race 5. 10:55. Another National. This time, it’s 30 runners in the Coral Scottish Grand National. Look out for Premier Bond. Also, keep an eye on Dawson City, he’ll love the trip. Box them and thank us later.
Newbury. Race 5. 11:15. Wow, some pedigrees in this mile maiden. Sons of Frankel, Galileo, Nathaniel, Invincible Spirit clash in a book one thriller.
Newbury. Rae 6. 11:45. Did you like that mile maiden at Newbury? Here’s division two. Sons of Cape Cross (we’ll sure miss him), Sea The Stars, Shamardal and Frankel, yes, here we go again.
Newbury. Race 7. 12:20 p.m. Don’t leave now, the hits just keep on coming at Newbury. Maidens stretch 11 furlongs here. Frankel sons Rhodes House and UAE King put their stamina on the stove.
Ayr. Race 8. 12:40. The bumper, the finale from Scotland.
Newbury. Race 8. 12:55. OK, after this, you can have your life back. Signe steps off the synthetic and puts her 2-for-2 mark on the line.
Nottingham. Race 2. 1:00. Seven juveniles make their debuts while Poignant makes his second start. One for the paddock.
Charles Town Races. Race 2. 1:09. Field of six for first stakes on the card is $50,000 Russell Road going 7 furlongs.
Finger Lakes. Race 1. 1:10. A tradition like no other, Opening Day in western New York. Sort of. Seriously, it’s good racing returns for 2017 after some doubt about the season and it all gets underway with a $5,000 claimer going 4 1/2 furlongs.
Aqueduct. Race 1. 1:20. Final Saturday of the long haul known as winter racing at the Big A (fall and spring, too). The opener is 6-furlong allowance for older female state-breds.
Nottingham. Race 3. 1:30. Following Frankel’s offspring is like following The Beatles when they began their march to fame. Will Immortalised become Paul, John, George or Ringo or will he wind up being Pete Best? The horse makes his second start here.
Keeneland Race Course. Race 3. 2:12. Ben Colebrook runs Limousine Liberal back on short rest in 6-furlong allowance. He hasn’t been in allowance company since April 2016, when he blitzed field in track-record victory right at home at Keeneland.
Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:29. Small field of 3-year-olds for $100,000 Woodhaven. Not surprising considering the amount of stakes in this division of late.
Laurel Park. Race 4. 2:50. Three-year-old fillies possibly with designs on the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan look to earn their spot in $125,000 Weber City Miss. The race goes through Jenda’s Agenda, daughter of Proud Citizen who is 3-for-3 for Larry Jones.
Charles Town. Race 6. 2:57. Aaron’s Tap takes step up in $50,000 Coin Collector off back-to-back victories for Jeff Runco. Field of six also includes Unrideabull, who won first two starts before off-the-board effort in local stakes last October.
Wolverhampton. Race 6. 3:15. Stamina-laden pedigrees take aim at this maiden going 12 furlongs. Wemyss Point missed in four bumpers but could make it count here.
Keeneland. Race 5. 3:18. The allowance races often look like stakes in Lexington and this 1 1/16-mile event for older fillies and mares is no exception. Flipcup, Kyllachy Queen, Bitty Kitty, Shelbysmile and Susie Bee would all seem logical.
Charles Town. Race 7. 3:27. Moonlit Song stands out in group of seven state-bred 3-year-old fillies for $50,000 Its Binn Too Long. Daughter of Fiber Sonde is 3-for-5 lifetime, including back-to-back victories in February and March at Charles Town.
Laurel. Race 6. 3:55. Older females line up for $75,000 Primonetta going 6 furlongs. A couple with graded stakes experience in here – Appealing Maggie, Bodacious Babe, Sweet On Smokey and Stormy Sky.
Charles Town. Race 8. 3:59. Ten West Virginia-bred fillies and mares for $50,000 Original Gold going 7 furlongs. Tough race. Candy Man’s Girl, who is 9-for-18 locally, makes 2017 debut and looks to defend title for James Casey.
Charles Town. Race 9. 4:28. Shippers and locals for the $85,000 Robert Hilton Memorial. Poseidon’s Prize might be the best of the former, while Cool Arrow, Farley and High Roller carry the flag for the latter.
Laurel. Race 7. 4:33. The $125,000 Federico Tesio. Action Everyday looks to bounce back from fourth in Grade 3 Gotham and possible earn trip back to the big time for Todd Pletcher, while O Dionysus and Twisted Tom carry the flag for the locals against favored Carradine for Linda Rice.
Woodbine. Race 8. 4:53. Mark Casse shortens Sailing Home back up to sprint for $100,000 Woodstock after Mast Track colt tried going longer in three straight stakes south of the border. He breaks from the rail in field of eight, which also includes stakes winners Uncle B and Lokinforpursemonee.
Charles Town. Race 10. 4:58. Kinsley Kisses versus Mia Torri in $85,000 Sugar Maple. The former is multiple graded stakes placed and comes off victory in Gulfstream allowance for Todd Pletcher, while the latter reunites with Javier Castellano after close fourth in Grade 2 Inside Information in South Florida.
Laurel. Race 8. 5:05. Big field of 12 for $75,000 Dahlia going 1 mile on the grass. Lean toward Danilovna, who just missed in Grade 3 on the West Coast last fall and comes off freshening for Graham Motion.
Aqueduct. Race 8. 5:17. Noble Freud looked good breaking maiden against open company in mid-February at Oaklawn, so good that she wound up being sold privately. Daughter of Freud makes stakes debut in division of New York Stallion Stakes going 6 1/2 furlongs for Chad Brown.
Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 5:29. Always one to remember, the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano going 1 3/4 miles on the grass. Syntax just missed last time in 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey and the one who beat him, Itsinthepost, isn’t in this field.
Keeneland. Race 9. 5:30. If you like long stakes on the grass then today’s your day. Here’s the Grade 2 Dixiana Elkhorn going 12 furlongs on the turf. Itsinthepost could have factored in San Juan Capistrano (see below) back home in California but ships East for Jeff Mullins to take on the likes of Bigger Picture, Red Rifle, Danish Dynaformer, Taghleeb and Charming Kitten.
Charles Town. Race 11. 5:35. Stanford took the field all the way last year winning the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic and he looks to do the same in this year’s $1.25 million renewal. He comes off comfortable win at Tampa Bay Downs. Solid field also includes Imperative, War Story, Matt King Coal and Sunny Ridge.
Gulfstream Park. Race 10. 5:54. My Miss Tapit, sharp winner of debut last month, wasn’t shipped north yet with the rest of the Pletcher string and makes stakes debut in $75,000 Game Face going 6 furlongs.
Charles Town. Race 12. 6:10. Final stakes of the day, the $50,000 Confucius Say, draws cast of 10 led by Charitable Annuity, Slip The Cable and Follow The Notion.
Laurel. Race 10. 6:17. The stakes keep coming with the $75,000 Henry S. Clark and another big field to boot, this one with 13. Talk Show Man won this in 2015 but hasn’t run since November 2015.
Hawthorne Race Course. Race 5. 7:17. The $250,000 Illinois Derby no longer serves as a Kentucky Derby prep, but could be a useful tryout for the Preakness or Belmont. A few whose connections hoped for a spot in the big one the first Saturday in May, namely It’s Your Nickel, Hedge Fund and Hollywood Handsome, look good in here along with Mr. Misunderstood. The latter brings three-race win streak into Grade 3 stakes for Brad Cox.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:38. The Grade 2 Californian is perfect time for the older horses to make some dough with Arrogate resting after big efforts in Florida and Dubai. Collected, a stablemate of Arrogate, looked good winning Santana Mile off the layoff last time out. Cupid, also trained by Bob Baffert, is capable of a big effort (Rebel, Indiana Derby, West Virginia Derby) and a serious dud (Pennsylvania Derby, Arkansas Derby, Easy Goer).
Hawthorne. Race 6. 7:47. Larry Rivelli likes Lewys Vaporizer so much he’s claimed him back twice after losing him for $25,000 in June 2016 and $50,000 in October 2016. Son of Lewis Michael won’t run for a tag this time, in $40,000 Robert S. Molaro Handicap for Illinois-breds.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 8:10. The $75,000 Mizdirection of course is 6 1/2-furlong event going down the hill.
Hawthorne. Race 7. 8:14. The stakes aren’t finished yet, here’s the $40,000 Third Chance Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares going 6 1/2 furlongs.