The Saturday Special – Feb. 29

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A loaded day of racing around the world brings the Leap Day edition of The Saturday Special to a near overflow, with the inaugural Saudi Cup leading the way early and the nine graded stakes of the Fountain of Youth Day card at Gulfstream Park commanding attention late.

The primer covers all that and more, with stakes from Aqueduct, Delta Downs, Fair Grounds, Fonner Park and Santa Anita to keep you more than occupied on this extra day of 2020.

The $20 million Saudi Cup anchors it all and lured leading American runners Maximum Security, McKinzie, Mucho Gusto, Midnight Bisou and Tacitus to Riyadh for the monster card at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. The day features a strong undercard with runners from the U.S., Europe and Japan mixed in with the locals.

Fans in North America wanting to watch the main event can on Fox Sports 1 during a special one-hour broadcast of “America’s Day at the Races” at noon EDT. Post time for the Saudi Cup is approximately 12:40 p.m.

The first of 10 stakes on Gulfstream’s card goes shortly before post time of the Saudi Cup and rolls along until the finale, the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth that draw a field of 12. Kentucky Derby points are on the line – 50 to the winner; essentially an automatic bid to the May 2 classic – in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth.

Fox Sports 2 covers the Fountain of Youth and other stakes during another “America’s Day at the Races” show from 3-6:30 p.m.

That’s not all, with jump racing from Newbury, Kelso and Doncaster mixed in with some European all-weather action to kick start the big day.

Let’s dig in. Here’s your primer for Saturday, Feb. 29. See you in March.

King Abulaziz Racecourse. Race 1. 8:00 a.m. The $1 million Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup. Aidan O’Brien sends Mount Everest, sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and 14th in the Hong Kong Vase, for 1 5/16-mile turf event that also attracts globetrotting Japanese mare Deirdre.

King Abulaziz Racecourse. Race 2. 8:35. The $1 million ste 1351 Cup. The Brazilian-bred Ghoul and Scat Daddy colt Legends Of War fly the stars and stripes for the U.S. in 6 1/2-furlong turf stakes. Suedois, winner of the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in 2017 and a close third in the race last year, looks like the best of the Europeans.

Kelso. Race 1. 8:37. Brian Hughes’ cruise control has been turned off. Searching for his first champion jockey title, the northern-based jockey opened up 20 wins on Richard Johnson after the four-time reigning champion broke his arm five weeks ago. Well, Johnson is back, winning three races in two days and cutting into Hughes’ margin. Hughes rides Beat Box in the opener, one of six rides, at Kelso. Johnson, who was runner-up behind Tony McCoy for 16 consecutive seasons, rides six at Newbury.

King Abulaziz Racecourse. Race 3. 9:10. The $2.5 million Longines Turf Handicap. How’s this for a marathon, at 1 7/8 miles. Godolphin’s Cross Counter, last seen finishing eighth in the Melbourne Cup, leads strong European group that also includes George Strawbridge’s Call The Wind, True Self and Called To The Bar.

Doncaster. Race 2. 9:25. Dolos, second in the Haldon Gold Cup in November, finds a sweet spot in this 2-mile chase.

Newbury. Race 4. 9:40. It’s the time of year when the best of all divisions are put in bubble wrap for the Cheltenham Festival. Blame Fact isn’t the best but the son of Main has won three in a row for David Pipe.

Kelso. Race 3. 9:45. Grade 2 hurdlers aim at $66,500 purse. Hughes looks strong here on Clondaw Caitlin. The Irish-bred mare rides a three-race win streak into this seven-runner affair.

Lingfield. Race 4. 10:10. How good is The Perfect Crown? A runaway winner in November, the 3-year-old son of Hallowed Crown returns against listed stakes company.

Newbury. Race 5. 10:15. Newbury does its part to keep the kettle on with Grade 3 chasers lining up in the Greatwood Gold Cup. Secret Investor chased Gold Cup winner Native River three weeks ago. There are no Gold Cup winners in here.

Kelso. Race 4. 10:22. Seeyoutoday. Veteran Seeyouatmidnight returns from finishing 11th in the Grand National in April. The eight-time winner faces four rivals in the rust knocker.

Doncaster. Race 4. 10:35. Boldmere had won two in a row before a fall at Wetherby. The 7-year-old should right the ship here.

Navan. Race 5. 11:03. Willie Mullins has a 7-year-old mare, True Self, taking on the boys in the Longines Turf in Saudi Arabia and an 8-year-old mare, Cut The Mustard, taking on the boys in the Grade 3 Flyingbolt Novice Chase.

King Abulaziz Racecourse. Race 6. 11:10. The $800,000 Samba Saudi Derby. Peter Miller takes a swing at 1-mile dirt stakes with Billy Batts, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at 55-1 and the Baffle Stakes last time at 2-1. He’s one of two American-based runners along with Rowdy Yates for Steve Asmussen. The race does include American-breds Full Flat, Lake Causeway and Down On Da Bayou for international connections.

Doncaster. Race 5. 11:10. Promising novices Kepagge and Firak square off in a decent novice hurdle. The purse? Well, it’s like looking back at a Virginia Fall card in the 80s. Yeah, $7,500.

Newbury. Race 7. 11:25. The last horse we remember who either won or fell/unseated was Moscow Flyer, who had done exactly that in his first 24 starts over fences. Yeah, he won 19 of his first 24, falling or unshipping Barry Geraghty in the other five. Well, Master Tommytucker has a long way to go before he becomes Moscow Flyer but so far, the 9-year-old is emulating his system with three wins and three falls in his hurdle/chase career. He’s a penalty kick here, well, if he stands up.

King Abulaziz Racecourse. Race 7. 11:50. The $1.5 million Saudia Sprint. Six of the 13 runners here were bred in the U.S., including multiple Grade 1 winner and American-based Imperial Hint. He’s the one to beat, even off his third in Grade 3 Mr. Prospector. Captain Scotty won the Grade 2 Palos Verdes last time out for Peter Miller and gives the U.S. a strong 1-2 punch.

Gulfstream Park. Race 2. 11:59. High-dollar 2018 yearlings Ashiham ($800,000), Candy Machine ($475,000), Tiger’s Back ($370,000) and I’ll Fight Dempsey ($300,000) entered for debuts in 6-furlong maiden.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:28 p.m. The $100,000 Hutcheson at 6 furlongs leads off the stakes program. Shivaree finished well back of Mischevious Alex last time in the Grade 3 Swale but won’t face that one here. The multiple stakes-winning son of Awesome Of Course does face Smash Factor, Outnationonparade and Scarto.

King Abulaziz Racecourse. Race 8. 12:40. The inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup. All eyes on the Americans and rightfully so. The five runners that came from the U.S. for the world’s richest race have collectively won the Whitney, Pegasus World Cup Dirt, Florida Derby, Haskell, Cigar Mile, Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps, Personal Ensign and Wood Memorial, among other top stakes. Maximum Security, who could have added the Kentucky Derby to that list if not for his DQ last year, deserves the favorite’s role at the same 9-furlong trip he won the Haskell and Florida Derby. McKinzie and Mucho Gusto won’t go quietly for Bob Baffert, the former running fresh after finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the latter winning the Pegasus. And then there’s Tacitus. Perhaps this is the day for the Tapit colt who came close in the Derby, Belmont, Jim Dandy, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Midnight Bisou, last year’s champion older female in the U.S., is one of two females along with Ireland’s Magic Wand, second in the Pegasus World Cup Turf last time out.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 12:57. Vitalogy, who flew home to finish close second in Grade 3 Bourbon last fall at Keeneland before being forced to scratch from Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, makes sophomore debut from the outside post in Grade 3 Palm Beach.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:27. Fillies and mares take their turn in Grade 3 Honey Fox at 1 mile on the grass.

Fair Grounds. Race 1. 1:30. The NFL Combine certainly attracted plenty of attention in this weeks news cycle. How about a hunch play on Jalen Hurts in the opener, a state-bred $5,000 claimer? Roll Tide or Boomer Sooner?

Gulfstream. Race 6. 1:57. Two-turn optional squeezes in between the stakes action and this one marks return of last year’s UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait. He’s been off since a third in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby in early August.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 2:05. Good opener – 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds – with runners for John Sadler (Edgeway), Brad Cox (Triangle Park), Steve Asmussen (True Friend and Moon Date) and Jeremiah Englehart (Good Shabbos). The latter appeared in Englehart’s 2019 Opening Day Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:27. Always one of our favorites, the Grade 3 The Very One. If we didn’t throw the grade in there we could write, the The Very One. Well, I guess we did. And we’ll get another chance this spring at Pimlico. Grass marathon draws comebacking Ferdinanda, Romantic Pursuit, Empressof The Nile and English Affair and European import Queen Of Time.

Fair Grounds. Race 3. 2:28. Here’s the $75,000 Black Gold for 3-year-olds on the grass, a race named for the 1924 Kentucky Derby winner who is buried in the Fair Grounds infield. Safe money many down in New Orleans this week felt like they were buried under something after Mardi Gras.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 2:57. Another break in the stakes action for 1-mile maiden for 3-year-olds on the dirt. Mister Candy Ride and Precise Dancer fared well in debut efforts and meet $1.2 million 2-year-old purchase Hero d’Oro and Gimme Some Mo from the outside.

Laurel Park. Race 7. 3:20. Forest Fire won the Maryland Million Classic last October and promptly loss his next three starts. John Servis sends the son of Friesan Fire back to Laurel, where’s he’s 2-for-3 with a second, for 9-furlong optional.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:28. Time for 3-year-old fillies on the grass with the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride. Grade 1 winner Abscond ran well in first start of the year and should handle this bunch on her best.

Oaklawn. Race 4. 3:38. Another 3-year-old maiden, this one at 1 mile, and a good looking entry for Steve Asmussen in Engergizer and General Trev.

Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:50. Forest Spirit, homebred first-time starter by Freud for Blue Devil Racing Stable, was part of Carlos Martin’s Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer. Martin expected him to take a while and he was right. They all might be running for second if Scuttlebuzz runs back to his debut in 6 1/2-furlong state-bred maiden.

Oaklawn. Race 5. 4:08. The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials will be in the books by post time for 6-furlong allowance for fillies and mares, but running fans won’t be able to resist the Super Saver filly Marathon Queen.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:53. Extra Mile loved stretching out and off going in maiden win, now Klein Racing’s homebred son of Country Day takes next step in Louisiana-bred allowance.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 3:59. The Grade 2 Davona Dale features two big questions: Will Tonalist’s Shape run her record to 5-for-5, and how good is Spice Is Nice? Anyone who saw the latter’s 12-length romp Jan. 12 is eager to find out. Best of luck to the other 3-year-old fillies in the field.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:30. Eclectic bunch for the Grade 3 Canadian Turf.

Oaklawn. Race 6. 4:39. Irish Mischief looks tough while Classy Act tries to call on her back class in 6-furlong optional for fillies and mares.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:50. Time to stretch out in the $100,000 Bernardini at 1 5/16 miles. Backsideofthemoon loves the Big A and won’t have to deal with Mr. Buff this time.

Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 4:57. Galilean flirted with a possible Triple Crown run last year after a third in a division of the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn. He finished fifth in the Arkansas Derby before going to the sidelines and now makes return in 6 1/2-furlong optional in his first start for John Sadler.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:01. Phat Man takes the next step up the ladder after winning Grade 3 Fred Hooper on Pegasus Day. He’s one of the top threats in Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile, along with Bodexpress, Haikal, Zenden, Mr Freze and Hog Creek Hustle.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:22. Co-featured $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace for older state-breds on the grass.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:28. The crab was awesome at Le Tub back in January. Let’s see if this Le Tub, a daughter of Bodemeister, can fare as well in 1-mile turf maiden.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 5:32. One of our old favorites, Nessy, launches 7-year-old campaign in Grade 2 Mac Diarmida. Distance specialists unite in 11-furlong event, including Pegasus Turf winner Zulu Alpha, Sadler’s Joy, A Thread Of Blue, Channel Maker and Spooky Channel.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. All eyes on the 3-year-olds in about a half-hour down in South Florida, but this 1-mile optional could produce a starter or two for next month’s Rebel Stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 14. 6:04. The main event, the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth. All eyes on Dennis’ Moment, who lost all chance with a terrible start at odds-on in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Connections say he’s ready for sophomore bow on the way to possible spot in the Kentucky Derby field. The main opposition comes from his outside with As Seen On Tv, Shotski, Ete Indien and Chance It the biggest threats. The latter, 4-for-6 with two seconds for Saffie Joseph Jr., drew tough outside post in field of 12.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Who doesn’t have a little spring fever these days? Especially here on Leap Day. Here’s the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes, where Break Even begins her 2020 campaign after winning six of seven as a 3-year-old last year.

Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:22. The featured $10,000 Bold Accent attracts seven fillies and mares who go a half-mile. Wanderintheforest won a race at last year’s meet and brings 3-for-6 mark to the table but local fan favorite Love At Night will be super tough.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:30. Smooth Like Strait, Goliad and Last Opportunity – the first three from last year’s Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille at Del Mar – meet again in $100,000 Pasadena for 3-year-olds on the grass.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 6:37. Faithful followers of the primer know we love a good 3-year-old maiden finale in Hot Springs. Here’s another, at 1 mile, with a field of 10.

Delta Downs. Race 8. 9:56. Who’s still rolling? Congrats. Here’s the $70,000 Big Drama at 7 furlongs. That’s two turns folks.

Delta. Race 10. 10:52. One last race, the $70,000 Owner Appreciation Cup at 1 mile (again, two turns). Underpressure loves it in Vinton. Bet him, cash and get to bed.