The Saturday Special – April 4

- -

And then there were three. At least here in the U.S., we’re down to three racetracks with scheduled Saturday cards – Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

California racing came to a halt this week when health officials in the state shuttered Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields indefinitely.

Normally the first Saturday of April would be a monster day of action, with final Kentucky Derby preps at Aqueduct, Keeneland and Santa Anita. Now all three of those places are closed, along with several others that might be running if not for the coronavirus outbreak affecting all parts of the world. Here’s hoping it will all be over soon, and most importantly that you’re taking care of yourself, family and loved ones during the crisis.

Racing – here and abroad – can provide at least a small distraction and get you away from daily state and federal updates, Netflix or however you’re spending the time. Start the day with Caulfield and Sha Tin and weave your way to Florida and Arkansas. Strange days indeed.  

Here’s your primer for Saturday, April 4. Take care and be safe.

Caulfield. Race 1. 9:25 p.m. In these troubled times, the Saturday Special starts Friday with an evening card on the Heath. Caulfield Racecourse in Australia. And, by the way, check our time schedules, we could be a day ahead or a day behind, it’s not our specialty.

Sha Tin. Race 1. 12:45 a.m. Can’t sleep? Don’t want to sleep? Here’s your action. Beats Netflix, right?

Randwick. Race 7. 12:55. Castelvecchio and Shadow Hero clash in the Australian Derby.

Randwick. Race 8. 1:35. The Group 1 T J Smith Stakes. Six-furlong sprinters clash. Godolphin looks strong with Trekking, a son of Street Cry, and Bivouac, a son of Exceed And Excel.

Sha Tin. Race 3. 1:45. Beauty Generation looks well meant in the Chairman’s Trophy for a cool $548,214.

Randwick. Race 9. 2:15. Who needs sleep? You’ve got nowhere to go. Con Te Partiro tries to add the Group 1 Doncaster Mile to her most recent Group 1 haul.

Caulfield. Race 9. 2:30. The Remember Roy Higgins Handicap attracts a solid field of 18 in the finale. And who could forget Higgins, an inaugural member of the Australian Hall of Fame? Jockey Damien Oliver spoke at his funeral in 2014. “On behalf of all Australian jockeys, Roy has been an inspiration, an icon and a legend. His legacy will live on forever,” Oliver said.

Sha Tin. Race 7. 4:10. Hot King Prawn, a 6-year-old son of Denman, rolls into this with a 5-for-10 record and could improve it here for Joao Moreira. Favorite Aethero could contribute to a big night for jockey Zac Purton.

Aintree. Race 6. 12:15 p.m. Ah, yes, virtual racing. The virtual Grand National. Can Tiger Roll make it three in a row? Will Definitly Red keep rolling? Perhaps, Vintage Clouds will like the virtual Aintree fences as opposed to the real ones. Can American-raced The Storyteller and Jury Duty rise to the occasion. The Racing Post verdict says it all: In a race that fits trends more than its real-life rival, KIMBERLITE CANDY could be the answer. Acapella Bourgeois is second choice.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:30. Racing rolls along in Oldsmar through the month and into early May. No spectators of course.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 12:45. The spring-summer meeting kicked off this week and Saturday’s opener is 1-mile maiden claimer on the grass, $16,000 to $14,000 tags.

Tampa. Race 3. 1:30. Field of 10 for early optional at 5 furlongs on the grass, including Midnight Blue Note, Notacatabutacard and I’m Cardinal.

Tampa. Race 4. 2:00. Shug McGaughey sends out Vigilantes Way, 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of Unbridled mare Salute, in 7-furlong maiden. Salute is a daughter of Hall of Famer Personal Ensign.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 2:05. Hooray for Hot Springs. The winter-spring meet will roll on through Saturday, May 2, usually the day for the Kentucky Derby but this year the home of the Arkansas Derby. Two-turn claimer opens the card.

Tampa. Race 5. 2:30. Field of 10 for 1-mile maiden on the grass, including runners sent out by some of the usual suspects in races like these. Michael Stidham sends out two in Psychic Dream and Jangada, while Shug McGaughey goes with the War Front colt U S Delta Force off the layoff.

Tampa. Race 7. 3:30. Could be a big day for Shug McGaughey, who brings Hungry Kitten off the layoff here in 1 1/16-mile turf allowance. Daughter of Kitten’s Joy hasn’t run since finishing 10th in the Grade 3 Regret in mid-June at Churchill Downs. She’ll get a test from Seranitsa, War Rose, Pallas Athene and Venetian Princess.

Oaklawn. Race 4. 3:35. Nine 3-year-old fillies entered in two-turn maiden, including Jerry Hollendorfer’s pair of Cherokee Maiden and Sacred Union, Wayne Catalano’s well-bred firster Ocean Breeze and four-time runner-up (from five starts), Kizzy B for Paul Holthus.

Oaklawn. Race 5. 4:06. Stay Home.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 4:18. We skipped a bunch of claimers and maiden claimers to get here – go back and take a look, seriously, if you need action. Otherwise, here’s a 1-mile state-bred turf optional. Mike Maker, second to Todd Pletcher at the Championship Meet, sends out Ghostly Beauty looking to improve on back-to-back seconds.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:49. Inter Miami runs back on short rest after showing speed and fading to last of 12 in Cutler Bay on the Florida Derby undercard. Son of Big Drama drops in for $50,000 in 6-furlong starter-optioinal for Alexis Delgado. Jonathan Thomas (Mobeatyabad), Dale Romans (Cigar Box) and Bob Hess Jr. (Silverly Enough) send out runners in field of eight.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 5:06. Maryanorginger went to the sidelines for almost 10 months with a small fracture after winning the $150,000 Astoria in her debut for Jeremiah Englehart and Al Gold’s Gold Square. Englehart talked about the Strong Mandate filly, who returns in this 6-furlong allowance, in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour that ran Opening Day in The Saratoga Special last summer.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:20. The co-featured 1-mile optional on the grass features the return of Colonist, last seen in the restricted Lure Stakes in November 2018 for Jerry Hollendorfer. He’s trained by Todd Pletcher now and part of the Championship Meet’s leading trainer’s now large spring-summer string in South Florida. Pletcher also runs Halladay, fourth in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay last time after winning the Tropical Park Derby in late December, while Mark Casse brings First Premio back for first start since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Two-turn optional for 3-year-olds could be a prep for the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and several have stakes experience, including Risen Star seventh Finnick The Fierce, Mine That Bird Derby third Stackin Silver and Southwest third Answer In. Last-out optional winner Winning Impression could factor for Dallas Stewart, as could the Constitution first-out winner General Trev for Steve Asmussen.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:52. I’ll Fight Dempsey, son of Into Mischief who fired first time out in late February for Todd Pletcher, looks to make it two straight against Sonneman, Acre and Masterday in 7-furlong optional.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Lone domestic stakes of the day, the $100,000 Purple Martin for 3-year-old fillies. Kimari finished fourth in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint after winning back-to-back stakes on the grass at Saratoga and Keeneland. She won by 15 in her debut on the dirt last April at Keeneland and lures services of Mike Smith. Bill Mott won’t make it a layup and sends out multiple Grade 1 placed Frank’s Rockette, winner of the Any Limit last time at Gulfstream.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:38. Two-turn maiden for 3-year-olds and up closes the card. Ron Moquett adds blinkers and names Calvin Borel for Aztec Empire, son of Tapit bred by Juddmonte and trained last year by Chad Brown.