The Saturday Special – Feb. 17

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Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day in the books, it’s time to look ahead to President’s Day Weekend and another packed edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

Stakes are the flavor of the weekend with quality cards drawn at Fair Grounds and Laurel Park and a new Starter Stakes Day at Gulfstream Park that features eight races worth $60,000 apiece and three for $50,000. Golden Gate Fields in Northern California gets in on the act with the El Camino Real Derby, Aqueduct runs the Haynesfield and fillies and mares take center stage at Santa Anita for the Grade 2 Buena Visa.

The day starts as always with jump racing overseas and top cards at Ascot, Haydock and Gowran Park.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, Feb. 17. Take care, be safe and good luck.

Ascot. Race 1. 8:15. The countdown to Cheltenham has begun and a big card at Ascot certainly adds to the countdown. Five classy novice hurdlers kick it off.

Gowran Park. Race 1. 8:25. Mall Dini, a Cheltenham winner in 2016, opens a strong card.

Haydock. Race 1. 8:30. Tomorrow’s stars, 4-year-old hurdlers rumble in the Victor Ludorum Juvenile hurdle.

Ascot. Race 2. 8:50. Our favorite Saturday jockey, Bryony Frost, hooks up with Black Corton again, they look strong in the Reynoldstown Novices Chase. Frost’s brother Hadden was a regular in the United States last year as the regular jockey of timber champion Doc Cebu. Their father, Jimmy, won two Breeders’ Cup Steeplechases with Morley Street.

Gowran Park. Race 2. 9:00. Just five runners line up in this Grade 2 chase, but you’ll know all of them. Veterans Ballycasey, Valseur Lido, Our Duke, A Toi Phil and Presenting Percy.

Haydock. Race 2. 9:05. Five quality hurdlers, including old standby Zarkandar, aim at the Rendlesham Hurdle.

Ascot. Race 3. 9:25. Nothing like a handicap chase, like seeing old friends at the local pub. Gold Present carries top weight here, well deserved, he rides a two-race win streak for Nicky Henderson.

Wincanton. Race 2. 9:45. Ch’Tibello, Elgin and Cliffs Of Dover square off in the Kingwell Hurdle.

Ascot. Race 4. 10:00. No time to walk the dog, Dieg Man goes for four in a row in this handicap hurdle.

Gowran Park. Race 4. 10:10. Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle attracts American owned Mick Jazz. Good luck, George.

Haydock. Race 4. 10:15. On the road to Aintree. Grand National specialists step across another stone in the stream. Blaklion carries top weight and lowest price.

Ascot. Race 5. 10:35. The best race of the day. Paddy Brennan and Cue Card reunite in the Betfair Ascot Chase. They’ve had the best of times and the worst of times. Waiting Patiently will have everyone crying if he can pull of a win for Ruth Jefferson, who has taken the reins for her husband, the one-and-only Malcolm Jefferson, who sadly left us way too soon.

Ascot. Race 6. 11:10. We’ve always loved Buckle Street, he’s been on the go for a while, but always tries.

Haydock. Race 6. 11:25. Bet Chef Des Obeaux.

Ascot. Race 7. 11:45. The bumper completes the stellar card.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. The first of 11 starter events is $50,000 Trust Buster at 6 furlongs.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 1:05. Arcelor brings two-race win streak into the $50,000 Lady Bird Starter for fillies and mares going 7 furlongs. Both victories for the Brendan Walsh-trainee have come during the currently Championship Meet at Gulfstream.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:35. The field for the $60,000 Rail Splitter Starter includes Cautious Giant. Remember him? How could you forget the horse who lost a shoe that was “picked up” by eventual Horse of the Year Gun Runner in last year’s Whitney. Check out Tod Marks’ photo on the cover of the Aug. 6 edition of The Saratoga Special.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:50. Early stakes on the card is $100,000 Haynesfield for older New York-breds. Only a half-dozen entered, including last year’s Korea Cup third Papa Shot, 2016 Albany and New York Derby winner Hit It Once More and slight 2-1 favorite Can You Diggit.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:05. Three-year-old fillies head to the turf for $60,000 Mrs. Presidentress Starter. Beach Waltz exits runner-up effort against better last time after breaking her win in maiden special weight two back on the grass.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 4. 2:15. Phipps Stable homebred Domain, son of Kentucky Derby winner Orb out of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home, makes debut in 1 1/16-mile grass maiden worth $22,500.

Laurel Park. Race 5. 2:30. Afleet Willy cruised last time in Native Dancer and looks to make it 2-for-3 on the season against only five others in $100,000 John B. Campbell Stakes.

Fair Grounds. Race 2. 2:32. Big Blue Magic looks to break her maiden in third start and second try on turf for Brad Cox, who as a big Kentucky basketball fan himself no doubt hopes the Wildcats could conjure up some late-season magic.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:35. The $60,000 American Fabius Starter is for 3-year-old who started for $50,000 or less. Whereshetoldmetogo won for $40,000 in his debut and has run in five straight stakes, winning one and finishing second in another.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:00. Special early post and opener is 3-year-old state-bred maiden going 6 1/2 furlongs on hillside course.

Laurel Park. Race 6. 3:00. Still Having Fun drew the rail last time and won the Frank Whiteley, Jr., and draws the rail again in $100,000 Miracle Wood Stakes. Son of Old Fashioned stretches out to 1 mile and again meets Wentz and V. I. P. Code, 2-3 in the Whiteley, stakes winner He Hate Me and the 2-for-2 Dynamic Asset. Read more about Still Having Fun here

Fair Grounds. Race 3. 3:03. Lookin At Lee, runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness last season, makes first start since distant 10th in the Travers. Corey Lanerie, aboard the son of Lookin At Lucky in his best races last year, returns for 1-mile and 70-yard allowance that also draws fellow 2017 classics competitor Hollywood Handsome.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:05. Time for veterans to go long on the grass in the $60,000 Old Man Eloquent Starter. Special Ops won the Claiming Crown Emerald two starts back for Mike Maker, who also sends out Swagger Jagger and last year’s Spiral Stakes winner Fast And Accurate.

Laurel. Race 7. 3:30. New York shippers Just Got Out, Sherini, Bishop’s Pond and Not Taken look good in $100,000 Maryland Racing Media. Don’t count out In The Navy Now in 1 1/16-mile stakes for older females.

Fair Grounds. Race 4. 3:34. First stakes of the day in New Orleans is $50,000 Colonel Power going. Useful prep for bigger turf sprints down the road in Kentucky this spring, 5 1/2-furlong stakes is solid starting spot for last year’s Grade 2 Shakertown winner Holding Gold. Will Call is 2-for-2 sprinting on the grass for trainer Brad Cox and owner-breeder Klein Racing.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:35. Conditions of the $50,000 Rough And Ready Starter – a 1-mile event for those who started for $12,500 or less – suits Orpheus perfectly. Son of Forestry was claimed out of a winning effort last time for that amount by Eduardo Caramori.

Laurel. Race 8. 4:00. Last True Love and Enchanted Ghost look to make hay while Limited View sits out the $100,000 Wide Country Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. They were 2-3 in the Marshua last month and should fare well against Aqueduct maide winner Fools Gold for Chad Brown.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:05. Cedartown and Scuba, 1-2 in the Louisiana Stakes last time, meet again in Grade 3 Mineshaft. The Player finished fourth that day and adds blinkers while Rich Daddy and Team Colors ship in from Florida for $150,000 stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:06. Back to the grass for 3-year-olds who started for $35,000 or less in the $60,000 Sage Of Monticello Starter.

Tampa. Race 8. 4:20. X Y Jet makes the trip from Gulfstream Park West and is standout in the $100,000 Pelican. He’s 6-for-10 at 6 furlongs, lost his only appearance at Tampa going 7 furlongs in the 2014 Pasco Stakes.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:25. Preservationist should win this 1-mile open allowance.

Laurel. Race 9. 4:30. First of two graded stakes at 7 furlongs is the $250,000 General George. Field of 10 for Grade 3 event, including the first three from the Fire Plug – Awesome Banner, It’s The Journey and Something Awesome – along with New York shippers Great Stff and Do Share who merit respect off stakes victories.

Fair Grounds. Race 6. 4:35. Nice touch for track management to rename the Daisy Devine as the Albert M. Stall Memorial, in honor of the late longtime head of the Louisiana Racing Commission, owner and member of the track’s Hall of Fame. The first three from the local prep – Moms On Strike, Giada Vegas and Inveniam Viam – meet Mike Maker-trained Florida shippers I’m Betty G and Susie Bee in 1 1/16-mile turf event.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:37. Glory To Kitten is 4-for-4 on the Gulfstream turf and Kitten’s Joy mare puts that mark to the test in $60,000 Mary Todd Starter for Jorge Abreu and owner Michael Dubb.

Sunland Park. Race 6. 4:37. Supreme Giant, 0-for-20 on the Southern California circuit, ships to New Mexico for $20,400 maiden at 6 furlongs. Field of 10 includes Spirit Of The Nile, Oklahoma-bred firster by Pioneerof The Nile who cost $140,000 at 2015 OBS April sale; and Tiz Wonderful firster Memorable Election for owners Kirk and Judy Robison.

Tampa. Race 9. 4:52. Juddmonte, Watts Humphrey, Sam-Son, Alpha Delta, Firestone, Calumet. Just another 1-mile maiden on the grass.

Laurel. Race 10. 5:00. The three fillies and mares who drew to the outside in Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie look the best. Ms Locust Point brings 5-for-7 record, including a 3-for-3 mark at Laurel, to $300,000 stakes. The always reliable Quezon comes off back-to-back wins at Aqueduct for Bobby Ribaudo and Highway Star exits second in Grade 3 Go For Wand and 11th in Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint to end productive 2017 campaign for Rodrigo Ubillo. For more, see the preview story about Quezon and some of the others.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:05. Serious points – 50 to the winner of the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra – toward a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Oaks. Wonder Gadot looks to bounce back from second in Silverbulletday in 3-year-old debut while Golden Rod runner-up Monomy Girl tries to start sophomore campaign with a victory. Solid field of eight also includes Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades winner Heavenly Love and comebacking Grade 2 Pocahontas winner Patrona Margarita.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:08. Older horses who an for $35,000 or less go long – if 1 1/16 miles is long these days- in $60,000 Old Hickory Starter. The veteran Page McKenney is in the field along with recent Sunshine Millions Classic third Catholic Cowboy.

Tampa. Race 10. 5:30. Land on the winner of the $100,000 Minaret and you should be rewarded fairly well. Take your pick among these 11 fillies and mares.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:35. Mr. Misunderstood rides three-race win streak into first start against older horses in Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap. Full field of 12 for 9-furlong turf stakes also includes Synchrony, High Noon Rider and Cathco En Die. The latter will make just his fifth start and second in the U.S. for Bill Mott and owners Earle Mack and Adam Wachtel.

Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 5:38. Ron Moquett was high on Lighthawk last summer at Saratoga. How high? Check out what he had to say in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour. Son of Tapit is one of two 3-year-old trying older in 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:38. Last but not least is the $50,000 Little Magician Starter at 1 mile on the turf for older horses who ran for $12,500 or less. A 10-year-old (Barney Rebel), two 9-year-olds (Purely Boy and Sinatra) and an 8-year-old (Montclair) are in the field of 12.

Turf Paradise. Race 7. 5:58. Gorgeous Ginny liked the change of scenery after arriving in Arizona from Southern California. Daughter of Take Charge Indy is 2-for-2 at Turf Paradise after faring well in Cal-bred maiden and stakes and open stakes company. She’s deserving favorite for $30,000 Arizona Oaks.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:00. Nine members of always competitive older female turf division meet in Grade 2 Buena Vista going 1 mile. Madame Stripes looks to make it two straight in 1-mile graded stakes on the grass after a victory over Insta Erma and Thundering Sky in Grade 3 Megahertz last time, while multiple Grade 1-placed Grade 2 winner Madame Dancealot makes first start against older horses for Richard Baltas.

Tampa. Race 11. 6:00. The finale is second division of 1-mile turf maiden mentioned above. This group features runners from Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Gainesway, Mrs. Alec Head, Bonne Chance, Oak Bluff Stables, Calumet and Newtown Anner.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:03. The first 50-point race toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby field is Grade 2 Risen Star, named for 1988 winner of the Preakness and Belmont. Check out his Belmont Stakes domination below. Instilled Regard is back from California after shipping once already to New Orleans and winning the Grade 3 Lecomte. He looks to duplicate International Star and Friesan Fire and win both. Standing in the way are nine others, including Lecomte second and third, Principe Guilherme and Snapper Sinclair, Noble Indy and longshot chance Givemeaminit.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. The Grade 3 Bayakoa is one of Hot Springs’ key preps for the Grade 1 Apple Blossom late in the meet. Terra Promessa should bounce back from dull fifth behind fellow Bayakoa entrants Farrell and Streamline in Pippin Stakes last time.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 6. 6:15. In The Jeans, daughter of Union Rags who finished fourth in off-turf-turf event locally last time, makes first start for Jerry Hollendorfer in 1-mile maiden for 3-year-old fillies. Hollendorfer also sends out Raising Aida.

Turf Paradise. Race 8. 6:30. Primo Touch walloped his opposition last time in Startac Stakes, winning by 12 1/4 lengths. That race was on the turf, while the $50,000 Turf Paradise Derby is on the dirt. Bocephus, Triple Crown nominee who finished second in the Startac, returns to the main track but is still seeking his first victory, while fellow classic nom Fortified Effort needs to return to his local form last year.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:30. Seven-furlong allowance-optional attracts a dozen, including last-out maiden winners Lookie Loo and Sigur Ros, Cal-bred stakes competitor Solid Wager and three-time Santa Anita winner Boy Howdy.

Golden Gate. Race 7. 6:45. More points on the line for the Kentucky Derby – only 10 to the winner though compared to 50 for the Risen Star – in $100,000 El Camino Real Derby. Choo Choo won the California Derby last time and looks like the one to beat as Santa Anita-based Michael McCarthy (Paved), Doug O’Neill (Blended Citizen), Eoin Harty (City Plan), Vladamir Cerin (Calexman) and James Cassidy (Epical) head north with live horses.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 7:30. Older horses stretch it to 10 furlong in turf allowance finale. Hootie back in allowance ranks after a try in Grade 3 Mathis Brothers Mile for Michael McCarthy. Son of Candy Ride should appreciate the added ground and Mike Smith takes over.