The Saturday Special – Dec. 4

- -

How could we resist a Saturday like this? With action from coast to coast, north to south, Grade 1s to starter “stakes” for the backbone of the industry, the first Saturday in December packs a punch.

The day starts overseas with a mix of jump and flat action, including a card at Aintree that’s worth a look. Then we meander our way to North America for the Cigar Mile Day program at Aqueduct, Grade 1 Starlet at Los Alamitos, Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park, the first Saturday card of the season at Oaklawn Park and more.

We counted 23 stakes – including the nine Claiming Crown races – here in North America. That’s plenty to keep you busy while avoiding that holiday shopping or decorating. Find a spot on the couch and soak it in.

Here’s the primer for Saturday, Dec. 4. Good luck.

Aintree. Race 3. 7:20 a.m. Look out, Aintree, here comes Willie Mullins. The Irish trainer looks locked and loaded here with Elimay, second at Cheltenham in March.

Pau. Race 5. 8:15. Sit back and watch this spectacle. The Navailles Cross Country Chase. Nobody does it better than Uniketat.

Wetherby. Race 4. 8:37. Saint Palais won his chase debut in October, the French-bred 4-year-old takes on his elders in this deep handicap chase.

Sandown. Race 4. 8:50. Third Time Lucki aims to keep his undefeated chasing record intact in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase.

Aintree. Race 6. 9:05. Named after a legend, the Many Clouds attracts Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River and Grand National winner Tiger Roll. A win will send the former over $1.5 million in career earnings and the latter over $2 million in career earnings. Legends in the legend’s race.

Sandown. Race 5. 9:25. The Irish raid of Cheltenham has begun to be the Irish raid of the National Hunt Season. Chacun Pour Soi and Captain Guinness venture across the sea to take on Greaneteen, Hitman and Nube Negra in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek, a 1 15/16 miles of electricity.

Aintree. Race 7.  9:40. Course specialist Vieux Lion Rouge takes another crack at the National fences in the Grade 3 Becher Chase.

Sandown. Race 7. 10:35. Metier, part of the British drubbing at Cheltenham in March, returns for his first start since finishing seventh in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March. The 5-year-old clashes with 11 British-based rivals in the December Hurdle.

Wolverhampton. Race 2. 11:30. Bet Last Ammo and take the rest of the day off.

Aqueduct. Race 1. 11:50. Cigar Mile Day starts with 7-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds. Todd Pletcher sends out well-named Repole Stable homebred Long Term, a gray son of Curlin out of Savings Account.

Aqueduct. Race 2. 12:20. Not many more opportunities to run on the grass in New York and here’s a state-bred maiden on the lawn for 2-year-olds.

Woodbine. Race 1. 12:55. The final Saturday card for 2021 starts with 6-furlong maiden claimer on the main track.

Gulfstream Park. Race 3. 12:58. The $75,000 Claiming Crown Iron. Horse Kent Stirling Memorial for 3-year-olds and up who have started for $8,000 or less lifetime. Trappezoid was haltered for $6,250 in January and hasn’t finished out of the exacta in eight starts since for Jorge Delgado. The 11-time winner is the favorite here for Chantal Sutherland.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:26. The $90,000 Claiming Crown Distaff Dash for fillies and mares which have started for $25,000 or less in 2020-21. We’re not huge fans of the name Strong Odor but the daughter of Strong Mandate certainly fits in this 5-furlong turf event. She just needs to shed some second-itis.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:55. The $75,000 Claiming Crown Express for 3-year-old and up which have started for $8,000 or less lifetime. Back to the main track for 6-furlong event and Kalu, third last time in the Grade 3 Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel, is the one to beat. He’s won four times and finished second four times in eight starts at Gulfstream.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:28. The $95,000 Claiming Crown Tiara for fillies and mares which have started for $25,000 or less in 2020-21. Kent Sweezey, who trains Kalu, looks to keep potential big day rolling with Kahiko, a winner last time on Gulfstream’s new Tapeta. Daughter of First Samurai is good on the grass, too, with four wins in 10 starts.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 2:43. Sharp Starr returns to defend title in the Grade 3 Go For Wand Handicap. She won the Empire Distaff at 16-1 last time and will need a good effort against shippers Lady Rocket and Bella Vita and Delaware Handicap winner Miss Marissa to take 1-mile event again.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:58. The $80,000 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper for fillies and mares which have started for $12,500 or less in 2020-21. A dozen entered for 1-mile event and a tough one to sort out.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 7. 3:10. The $100,000 Sandpiper for 2-year-old fillies. She’s So Beautiful brings 3-for-5 record, including victory in a Florida-bred stakes, from Gulfstream for 6-furlong co-feature. Strategic Bird and Devine Charger drew inside but will be tough.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:14. Eight entered for Grade 2 Remsen, including debut maiden winner Zandon for Chad Brown and second-out winner Mo Donegal for Todd Pletcher.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:28. The $90,000 Claiming Crown Canterbury Tom Metzen Memorial for 3-year-olds and up which have started for $25,000 or less in 2020-21. Another turf sprint and another competitive event with Bad Beat Brian in from Kentucky off some solid runs in allowance and starters for Mike Maker.

Los Alamitos Race Course. Race 1. 3:30. Sir London figures to be a short price off back-to-back seconds in maiden races on the circuit. Will he be second again though in 1-mile event that lures a couple from Bob Baffert’s barn in Portsmouth and Wesleyan?

Aqueduct. Race 9. 3:43. The 2-year-old fillies take their turn at 9 furlongs in the Grade 2 Demoiselle. Venti Valentine impressed winning on Empire Showcase Day and takes step up into open company against Magic Circle and Nest, respective second and third in the Tempted last time out.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:59. The $85,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit for 3-year-olds and up which have started for $16,000 or less in 2020-21. Well Defined, a nine-time winner and earner of more than $760,000, could be tough here at a fair price for Kathleen O’Connell.

Aqueduct. Race 10. 4:13. The Cigar Mile, the final Grade 1 of the year on the circuit and a solid event led by Todd Pletcher’s 3-year-old duo of Americanrevolution and Following Sea. The former walloped older foes last time in the Empire Classic after a good third in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, while the latter comes off a strong third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at 20-1. Code Of Honor looks to go out a winner and again faces Independence Hall, who finished well ahead of him in the Grade 2 Fayette last time.

Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 4:19. Switzer adds Lasix after good fourth in debut Oct. 9 at Keeneland for Ron Moquett. Son of Maclean’s Music takes on 11 others in 6-furlong maiden.

Tampa. Race 9. 4:20. Never too early to start thinking Tampa Bay Derby. The first step comes here in the $100,000 Inaugural. Optigogo exits a couple good races on synthetic tracks at Presque Isle Downs and Woodbine, including a third at the latter in the Display Stakes for Eoin Harty.

Los Alamitos. Race 3. 4:28. Notre Dame, the university, went through a lot over the last week. Notre Dame, the one-time $1 million 2-year-old purchase, has been fairly consistent on the circuit and looks to get it done in 1-mile optional against the likes of Shooters Shoot and Vittorio.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:32. The featured $125,000 Claiming Crown Jewel for 3-year-olds and up which have started for $35,000 or less in 2020-21. Not sure there’s a Jesus’ Team in this bunch but a solid group led by Girolamo’s Attack, Tune In, Hanalei’s Houdini and Ludington.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:35. Striker, a homebred son of War Front for LNJ Foxwoods, earned big number in sharp debut score and takes next step up in 6 1/2-furlong allowance for trainer Josie Carroll.

Hawthorne Race Course. Race 7. 4:55. Seven Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies run for $50,000 in Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante. Purr Sea and Oeuvre, 1-2 in Showtime Debutante last time, are back along with that race’s third-place finisher Ghaaleb’s Ranger.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:05. The $95,000 Claiming Crown Emerald for 3-year-olds and up which have started for $25,000 or less in 2020-21. Back to the grass for the finale. Mike Maker might cap monster day with The Last Zip, fourth in open allowance last time at Keeneland; or Attentive, third when claimed for $40,000 Nov. 7 at Belmont Park.

Woodbine. Race 9. 5:06. The $100,000 Steady Growth for 3-year-olds and up sired by a stallion standing in Ontario for his entire season the year of conception and registered with the CTHS for that season. That’s a mouthful. Artie’s Storm and Secret Reserve were 1-2 in a similar race last time and are back to take on 10 others.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 5:13. Several of the 3-year-old fillies entered here in the $125,000 Mistletoe Stakes have graded stakes experience, including Amendment Nineteen, Oliviaofthedesert, Marion Francis and Willful Woman. Good feature.

Woodbine. Race 10. 5:37. The $100,000 La Prevoyante carries similar conditions to prior stakes, only for fillies and mares. Summer Sunday loves to win – she’s 11-for-21, including nine at Woodbine – and deserves favorite’s role.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:42. Good to see racing back in New Orleans again and here’s the feature, the $75,000 Pan Zareta for fillies and mares going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass. Elle Z won it last year and comes in off a good fourth in the Dream Supreme on the dirt.

Los Alamitos. Race 8. 6:58. Grace Adler, winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, looks to add a second major score in the Grade 1 Starlet for trainer Bob Baffert. He also sends out Benedict Canyon and Eda, the latter on a two-race win streak in stakes.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 8. 7:15. Have plane, or van, and Degree Of Risk will travel. Godolphin’s homebred Cairo Prince colt ran twice at Arlington, twice at Woodbine and last time on Breeders’ Cup Friday at Del Mar. Now he starts from the rail against nine others in the $75,000 Gold Rush at 1-mile on the synthetic. Boise was only a nose behind the top choice last time in the Qatar Golden Mile Stakes.

Turfway Park. Race 5. 8:14. Field of 10 for the $100,000 Holiday Inaugural. If it’s run every year should it still be the inaugural? Regardless, a good group led by Aug Lutes, O’Keeffe, Razor Glass and Bullseye Beauty.