The Saturday Special – Dec. 23

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Only two shopping days until Christmas and the next-to-last Saturday of 2017 to keep racing fans busy and distracted in advance of the holiday. The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud previews the relatively light slate that includes a graded sprint at Gulfstream Park and a pair of stakes at Aqueduct.

The action picks up considerably after Christmas, with the traditional Boxing Day opener at Santa Anita Park and additional action for next week’s pre-New Year’s celebration.

The team at ST Publishing and This Is Horse Racing would like to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday. Here’s your primer for Saturday, Dec. 23. Take care, be safe and good luck.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. Opener of 11-race card is 1-mile maiden claimer on the grass.

Gulfstream. Race 2. 12:35. Staying on the grass for 1 1/16-mile allowance.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 1:05. And one more on the turf, this a 5-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds. Gidu, a son of Frankel trained by Todd Pletcher, chased Snapper Sinclair in debut at Saratoga and makes first start in more than four months.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:18. Lady Suebee ran well in debut the day after Thanksgiving and looks to graduate in 6-furlong maiden for 2-year-old fillies. Twofer, a daughter of Super Saver who appeared in Rick Violette’s Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour, and No Deal, featured in Phil Serpe’s Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour, are also in the field.

Aqueduct. Race 4. 1:47. Blewitt, named for the former NYRA television commentator and all-around good guy Jason Blewitt, looks to add second victory in 1-mile state-bred allowance after impressive maiden score for Repole-Pletcher.

Aqueduct. Race 5. 2:17. Gift Box, a distant fourth in Arrogate’s record-setting Travers, shoots for first win since May 2016 in 1-mile open-company allowance.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:05. Apatow, colt by Distorted Humor who cost $350,000 at Keeneland September in 2016, makes debut going 5 1/2 furlongs for Todd Pletcher.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 3:17. Green Gratto finished second in last year’s Gravesend and comes back for more in this year’s $100,000 renewal against the likes of Threefiveindia, Great Stuff, Life In Shambles and Chief Lion.

Laurel Park. Race 7. 3:30. Perhaps the swami angle with The Great Ronaldo going in 5 1/2-furlong starter-optional going off about eight hours after Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid take on Barcelona in El Clasico.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:35. Barbarossa dominated state-breds going 7 furlongs on the grass last time at Belmont. Barry Schwartz’s homebred colt by More Than Ready meets strong group that includes Machtree, Sand Dancer, Get The Facts and War Chest in 7 1/2-furlong allowance.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:47. One of the oldest stakes still run in New York, the 112th edition of $125,000 Queens County gives Senior Investment, Watershed, Kurilov, Securitiz and others one more chance for black type in 2017.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:05. Looks like graduation day for Lilt, 3-year-old filly by Uncle Mo for owner-breeder Sanford Robertson and trainer Brendan Walsh. However, stablemate Princess Julia might throw a wrench in the works.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:37. The Grade 3 Mr. Prospector is the lone graded stakes of the day and it marks the return of X Y Jet. A dominating winner of this race in 2015, he’s been off since third in last year’s Grade 3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:05. Wynn Time, Hold Me Black, Faction Cat look tough in 6-furlong allowance.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:08. Stick around for the finale, a 1 1/16-mile maiden for 2-year-old fillies on the grass. Closing Statement should win.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:35. Joe Sharp (Five Hearts and Mom’s On Strike) and Brad Cox (On My Toes) are off to quick starts in New Orleans and hope to add another in 1 1/16-mile allowance on the grass.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:05. Behavioral Bliss, sharp maiden winner at Saratoga and odds-on victor last time at Churchill, takes another step up ladder in 6-furlong allowance on the main track for Al Stall Jr.