The Saturday Special – Feb. 2

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The Polar Vortex came and went, at least in some parts of the country, and Super Bowl weekend arrived with a blast of cold weather and a full slate of racing action from coast to coast.

The Pegasus World Cup dominated the headlines last week and this week the 3-year-olds take center stage, with major preps in New York, Florida and California to keep everyone busy while prepping for that Super Bowl party. Solid cards with good maiden, allowance or small stakes help balance out the day at Tampa, Laurel, Oaklawn and Fair Grounds.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, Feb. 2. Take care, good luck and enjoy.

Leopardstown. Race 1. 7:50. The Dublin Racing Festival begins here. Grade 1 hurdle kicks off a stellar card in Ireland. Ruby Walsh opts for four-time winning mare Relegate while Dunvegan could bring home a big winner for someone not named Elliott or Mullins.

Leopardstown. Race 2. 8:25. How good is Apple’s Jade? She’s won all three of her starts this season – by a combined 57 lengths. She should become the first filly/mare to win the Irish Champion Hurdle in 16 years. 

Sandown. Race 3. 8:50. The one and only Buveur D’Air aims to bounce back from a rare loss (he’s 15-for-19) to stablemate Verdana Blue at Kempton in December. The two-time Champion Hurdle winner should make quick work of four rivals here.

Leopardstown. Race 3. 9:00. Nineteen line up for this competitive handicap hurdle. Can Jezki turn back time? He’s won 16 races and $1.2 million.

Sandown. Race 4. 9:25. Can J.P. McManus turn a quick-fire double? Defi Du Seuil looks solid in this Grade 1 chase. The undefeated Vinndication climbs another rung in the ladder for Kim Bailey.

Leopardstown. Race 4. 9:35. Grade 2 bumper will offer plenty of clues for March. Envoi Allen looks like a cinch for Cheveley Park Stud and Gordon Elliott.

Lingfield. Race 5. 9:55. International advertising. Wissahickon, a son of Tapit bred by George Strawbridge, aims for his seventh career win in the Winter Derby Trial. 

Sandown. Race 5. 10:00. Ballymoy tries to make it three in a row in this Grade 3 hurdle.

Leopardstown. Race 5. 10:10. Min is 3/5 in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase.

Leopardstown. Race 6. 10:45. Knocknanuss travels from England for Gary and Jamie Moore to take on seven rivals in the Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase.

Aqueduct. Race 2. 12:50 p.m. Everyone’s favorite white-faced maiden, Southern Phantom, gives it another go in two-turn maiden for Eric Guillot, who we saw prepping a gumbo for Super Bowl Sunday from his wintertime base in Saratoga. We hear he’s still wearing shorts.

Laurel Park. Race 4. 1:45. Restricted allowance going 1 mile draws Super Buddy and Worth His Salt, second and third in similar spot last month, and Penn National shipper Paul The Waiter.

Aqueduct. Race 4. 1:50. Paynterbynumbers improved in second start going 1 mile last time and gets that same trip in this spot against six other 3-year-old fillies. Solent, daughter of Hard Spun out of Sightseek, figures to improve in second start for Juddmonte and Chad Brown.

Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 2:00. Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown each unveil $375,000 purchases – the former sends out Pioneerof The Nile filly Mexcalita and the latter the Into Mischief filly Palomita – in 6-furlong maiden.

Laurel. Race 5. 2:15. Clubman returns to allowance ranks after three stakes tries. He doesn’t get an easy one with Robin Hood, Speightsford, Measured and No More Talk in the mix.

Aqueduct. Race 6. 2:52. Preservationist won two at the Big A last winter and tries to rebound stretching back out in optional claimer going 1 mile.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:02. West Virginia-bred Violence colt Final Say cost $470,000 last year as a 2-year-old and makes debut against firsters from Rodolphe Brisset (Mass Appeal), Stan Hough (Where Paradise Lay), Jimmy Jerkens (Lunar Illusion) and Bill Mott (Haunt) in 6-furlong maiden.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 6. 3:13. Vouch finshed third in Catholic Boy’s Remsen way back in December 2017, returned to finish third behind eventual Arkansas Derby and Rebel winner Magnum Moon in Tampa allowance. Son of Yes It’s True makes belated return in 1-mile allowance on the grass for Arnaud Delacour and owners Lael Stables and Three Chimneys Farm.

Laurel. Race 7. 3:15. Another tough allowance, this one at 1 mile for fillies and mares.

Fair Grounds. Race 6. 3:53. Rubin Hurricane, far and away the most expensive Orb yearling at the 2017 Keeneland September sale, makes debut going 1 1/16 miles on the main track for Phoenix Thoroughbreds and Eric Fein and trainer Steve Asmussen. The barn sends out Copper King, a $625,000 son of Medaglia d’Oro out of the same sale.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:07. Ten points toward a spot in the Kentucky Oaks field on the line in Grade 3 Forward Gal. Feedback looked as good as any 2-year-old filly breaking her maiden last summer at Saratoga and makes first start since that 8-length victory Aug. 12 in 7-furlong test. Two-time winner Champagne Anyone shortens back up and makes 3-year-old debt for Ian Wilkes.

Tampa. Race 8. 4:20. If we’ve written it once we’ve written it a thousand times. Tampa maiden races on the grass – this one worth $22,500 – brings star-studded connections like SF Racing, Godolphin, Moyglare Stud, Klaravich Stables, Calumet Farm and Pin Oak Stable.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:23. Field of eight for $60,000 Lloyd Captain Maestri Memorial on the grass.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 4:30. The day’s first Kentucky Derby prep is the Grade 3 Withers, which drew field of seven that includes Remsen third Tax, last-out maiden winners Moretti and Admire, Parx allowance winner Lucky Lee, Jerome runner-up Our Braintrust and New York-bred stakes winner Not That Brady.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:40. Not necessarily a Derby prep but the Grade 3 Swale could provide some clues for major heats down the road. Call Paul used Pennsylvania Nursery to get back on track after back-to-back defeats in graded stakes in New York last fall and could be tough in field of 11.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:53. Bobby’s Wicked One should find company of this 6-furlong allowance a touch better than what he faced when fifth in the Grade 1 Malibu last time for Al Stall Jr.

Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 5:09. Gettysburg, a footnote in the Belmont Stakes history books, bids for three straight in optional claimer going two turns. He’s now in Chris Hartman’s barn, after being claimed three back from Robertino Diodoro, who claimed him from Steve Asmussen.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:13. The second of three Derby preps with 10 points to the winner is Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull, which marks another chance for Joe Clancy’s favorite Mihos to shine – this time against unbeaten Remsen winner Maximus Mischief and the 2-for-2 Federal Case.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:22. Oxford Comma is 3-for-3 at the 5 1/2-furlong trip on the grass and set for her New Orleans debut in $75,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial. She’s also won her last four starts – two optional claimers, the Claiming Crown Distaff [,]  and the Orleans Stakes.

Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 5:23. Seven-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds attracts all the usual suspects – Michael McCarthy (Polar), Jerry Hollendorfer (Koa), Doug O’Neill (Alleva), Richard Mandella (Omaha Beach) and John Sadler (Air Boss). No Bob Baffert? Guess all his burners already broke their maidens.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Godolphin’s Sunset Wish brings three-race win streak into $125,000 Martha Washington. Not the usual path for operation’s blue bloods, with starts at Arlington, Penn National, Fair Grounds and Delta Downs on her form.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:43. Another field of 3-year-old maidens go 6 furlongs in the finale. Bill Mott unveils Uncle Jamo, son of Uncle Mo who cost $560,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Florida juvenile sale.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:53. Thankfully racing department put the day’s final Derby prep, the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis, early enough on the card to follow the others from the East Coast. Gunmetal Gray got the West Point team thinking spring classics with victory in Grade 3 Sham last time. Can son of Exchange Rate duplicate that effort against Mucho Gusto and Nolo Contesto?

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Lighthawk finished off the board in first three starts in 2017 at Keeneland and 2018 at Oaklawn. Son of Pulpit returns for first start in nearly a year as a first-time gelding for Ron Moquett.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:23. McKinzie and Pavel might have merited some consideration in last week’s Pegasus but Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill, respectively, waited for the Grade 2 San Pasqual instead. McKinzie bounced back from dull run in Breeders’ Cup Classic with victory in Grade 1 Malibu and returns to more suited two-turn trip. Pavel hasn’t been out since 15th in the Group 1 Champions Cup Dec. 2 in Japan. Don’t count out Battle Of Midway, who always gives a good account.