One week to go until the Kentucky Derby and another loaded slate of action in this week’s edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.
Opening Night at Churchill Downs, the first Saturday card of the Belmont Park spring-summer meeting and so much more to keep you busy while avoiding the yard work and spring-cleaning. The graded stakes slate is relatively light, with two at Santa Anita and one at Woodbine.
All sets the stage for a big few weekends up ahead, with the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby next week, the Iroquois in Nashville May 12 and the Preakness May 19. Buckle up and get ready, it’s going to be a great ride.
We’ll be back next week with our usual slate of previews and picks for the stakes at Churchill, and another edition of The Saturday Special to keep you up to date on everything else around the world.
Here’s your primer for Saturday, April 28. Good luck and enjoy.
Ripon. Race 1. 8:45 a.m. This ones for you, Ray. Kinks should win the opener.
Sandown. Race 1. 8:50. The jump season comes to a close with a stellar card at Sandown. The Bet365 novices’ championship starts it off.
Sandown. Race 2. 9:25. Top Notch skipped all the big dances to wait for this, the Oaksey Chase.
Punchestown. Race 1. 9:35. The cross country chase kicks off the final day of an epic Punchestown Festival. Dare we say this Punchestown Festival provided more drama than the Cheltenham Festival – Samcro falling, Katie Walsh retiring, Paul Townend’s miscue, Willie Mullins turn around…cue Jackson Browne’s Load Out and enjoy one final dance.
Leicester. Race 3. 9:45. Roger Varian is off to a productive start to the flat season, he could keep it rolling here with Emmaus, a two-time winner last year, in this listed contest.
Sandown. Race 3. 10:00. The one and only. Altior, 14-for-16 in his career, caps off his season in the Celebration Chase.
Punchestown. Race 2. 10:10. High Nellie seems to have come around in April, she’s won two in a row comfortably and tries to make it three in this handicap chase.
Sandown. Race 4. 10:35. Blaklion went out early in the Grand National, he tries to salvage his season against 19 rivals in the Gold Cup Chase.
Punchestown. Race 3. 10:50. Apple’s Jade tries to erase a rare defeat at Cheltenham and provide a dab of salve for trainer Gordon Elliott, who watched his title slip away this week. Of course, Willie Mullins keeps the pressure on, sending out Benie Des Dieux, vanquisher of Apple’s Jade at Cheltenham. Bruton Street-US won a race earlier this week with Pravalaguna, she’s entered back on a three-day turnaround.
Sandown. Race 5. 11:05. Lil Rockerfeller has been a shadow of himself this season, he tries to right the ship in the Grade 2 hurdle. Wholestone and Call Me Lord won’t make it easy, they represent formidable the partnership of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
Punchestown. Race 4. 11:25. Top heavy? Elliott and Mullins account for all nine runners in the Grade AES Champion 4-year-old Hurdle.
Sandown. Race 6. 11:40. Geordie Des Champs puts his win streak on the line in the novice chase. Solighoster, representing the Colony Stable, tries to erase a 33-length loss in bottomless ground in March. This ones for you Richard, “Come on my son…”
Punchestown. Race 5. Noon. Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere has fallen on hard times but tries again, carrying top weight in the Boylesports Handicap Chase.
Sandown. Race 7. 12:15 p.m. Enjoy the last few drops of proper National Hunt racing.
Punchestown. Race 6. 12:35. Max Dynamite finished third in the Melbourne Cup and finished 22nd in the Coral Cup. The hurdles just get in the way. He tries again in this handicap hurdle.
Punchestown. Race 7. 1:10. And to all a good night.
Belterra Park. Race 1. 1:20. Racing is back in Cincinnati. The meet opened Friday and Saturday’s card starts with 5 1/2-furlong claimer.
Belmont Park. Race 1. 1:30. Keep an eye on the weather to see if this 7-furlong turf allowance stays on the grass. If it does we’ll go with Lady Joan off the bench.
Belmont. Race 4. 3:09. Take Your Guns, half brother to graded stakes winner Last Gunfighter, won return last month at Gulfstream and looks to take another step forward in 1 1/16-mile allowance.
Belmont. Race 5. 3:41. Shocker; Chad Brown looks loaded in 1-mile turf maiden with Commandeering and Frontier Market. Too bad the former is coupled with Jimmy Toner Kitten’s Joy first-time starter Indurate.
Parx Racing. Race 8. 4:04. The Man is living up to his name, winning six in a row since coming to the Mid-Atlantic. Previously trained by Bob Baffert and still owned by his wife Jill, 6-year-old son of Ecclesiastic is the one to beat in $100,000 Lyman for Pennsylvania-breds for John Servis.
Hawthorne Race Course. Race 1. 4:10. Closing Day card starts with $5,000 claimer going 1 mile and 70 yards on the main track.
Belterra. Race 7. 4:26. Good money available for Ohio-breds these days; case in point the $75,000 Edward Babst/Albert Palacios Memorial Handicap. Rivers Run Deep makes the most of his opportunities against state-breds – and open company for that matter – banking more than $1.1 million. He won a tough allowance last time at Oaklawn Park and rates huge edge in this spot.
Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 4:30. Just a half-dozen fillies and mares for Grade 3 Santa Barbara going 12 furlongs on the grass. Bob Baffert, thinking about a possible fifth Kentucky Derby win in a weeks’ time, sends out Plein Air against Richard Baltas’ quartet of Lucy De, Pantsonfire, Queen Blossom and Space Cadet.
Parx. Race 9. 4:31. Power Of Snunner is always competitive, either in graded stakes or state-bred events. She goes in the latter in this spot, the $100,000 Foxy J. G. going 7 furlongs.
Woodbine. Race 8. 4:59. Moonlit Promise looks to return to winning form in Grade 3 Whimsical – which she displayed winning two Grade 3 stakes and another $107,000 stakes last fall – after two starts in South Florida for Josie Carroll. Daughter of Malibu Moon is 6-for-9 at Woodbine and 2-for-2 at the 6-furlong trip for this $125,000 stakes.
Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:00. Another graded stakes, another field of six. Dr. Door stands out in Grade 2 Californian.
Gulfstream Park. Race 9. 5:06. Nearly a year removed from a start in the Kentucky Derby, Fast And Accurate goes in the $75,000 Miesque’s Approval going 1 1/16 miles on the grass. He’s won two of five on the turf for Mike Maker. Hieroglyphics looks like the one to beat.
Hawthorne. Race 3. 5:06. Short field of just five Illinois-bred fillies and mares for $75,000 Third Chance Handicap.
Hawthorne. Race 4. 5:34. Goneghost closed 2017 campaign with back-to-back wins over state-breds at Hawthorne going long and short and looks to start 2018 the same way in $75,000 Milwaukee Avenue Handicap.
Laurel Park. Race 10. 5:40. Graham Motion unveils Myth Creation, daughter of More Than Ready off steady string of works at Fair Hill this winter and spring, in 1 1/16-mile turf maiden.
Belmont. Race 9. 5:50. Turf sprinters stretch out to 7 furlongs for $125,000 Elusive Quality on the Widener course. Wesley Ward won 10 – yes 10 – 2-year-old races at the Keeneland spring meet; here he sends out Undrafted for his first start as an 8-year-old. He’s not the lone old man in the bunch, with Kharafa making his 46th starts at age 9.
Churchill Downs. Race 1. 6:00. Do they still call it Downs After Dark? We should research that. Anyway, it won’t be quite dark yet when this $7,500 claimer going 6 furlongs opens the spring-summer meet.
Laurel. Race 11. 6:10. Feature is two-turn allowance for 3-year-old fillies. Just a field of six led by last-out maiden winners Miss Mi Mi and Piece Of Candy.
Gulfstream. Race 11. 6:13. Fillies and mares take their turn in $75,000 Powder Break going 1 mile on the grass. French import Silver Step makes U.S. debut for Christophe Clement.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:30. Richard Mandella sends out two in 6 1/2-furlong maiden on the hillside turf course, including War Front firster Blitzkrieg.
Indiana Grand. Race 3. 7:01. Flurry destroyed Indiana-breds in a maiden and small stakes to close 2017 season for Mike Lauer. Daughter of Old Fashioned is heavy favorite to start 3-year-old campaign the same in 5 ½-furlong state-bred allowance.
Hawthorne. Race 8. 7:26. Illinois-bred sprinters take their turn in $75,000 Robert S. Molaro Handicap. Jim DeVito ships Recount up from Louisville and should get the money.
Churchill. Race 7. 9:05. Meantime, second in last year’s Grade 3 Peter Pan and eighth in the Belmont Stakes, makes first start as a gelding and turf debut for Brian Lynch.
Churchill. Race 8. 9:39. Treble takes two-race win streak into 6-furlong allowance-optional against Defy, Astrollinthepark and Miss Kentucky.
Churchill. Race 9. 10:11. Field of 10 for the $100,000 William Walker going 5 furlongs on the grass. Masked ships in from Southern California for Bob Baffert, Beckford makes first start for Brendan Walsh and Salmanazar shortens up and tries to rebound from third last time for Todd Pletcher.