The Saturday Special – Feb. 3

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A three-pack of Kentucky Derby preps, the return of champion sprinter Roy H and tops the docket this week and potential tune-up for either the Big ‘Cap or Dubai World Cup on the West Coast highlight this week’s loaded edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

Gulfstream Park, a week removed from the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, sets the pace with a 12-race card that features five graded stakes including the Grade 2 Holy Bull for 3-year-old classic hopefuls. Santa Anita Park also rolls out a strong program with four graded events on its nine-race Saturday card.

The action starts early and rolls on all day, the perfect tune-up for Sunday’s Super Bowl festivities.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, Feb. 3. Take care and good luck.

Sandown. Race 1. 7:40. A typical solid Saturday Sandown card gets underway with novice hurdlers. French import Countistar looked strong in December for McManus and Henderson.

Leopardstown. Race 1. 8:10. The first day of the Dublin Racing Festival starts right here. Dortmund Park tries to make it 5-for-6 in his burgeoning career.

Sandown. Race 2. 8:15. Cepage hasn’t won since December, 2016, but the 6-year-old French-bred chaser has produced strong efforts. He looms large against five rivals in this handicap chase.

Musselburgh. Race 2. 8:30. Promising novice Keeper Hill aims for his third chase win this season as he heads north for Warren Greatrex. Go to the window on Peter The Mayo Man.

Leopardstown. Race 2. 8:45. If you could watch the Dublin Racing Festival with one person, wouldn’t you choose Ruby Walsh? The veteran jockey sits it out with a broken leg, he’ll be taking notes for Cheltenham. Walsh’s ride, Min, looks strong in the Dublin Chase. Walsh’s ride, Yorkhill, looks strong as well.

Sandown. Race 3. 8:50. Paid workout. Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’air (12-for-15 in his stellar career) tunes up for Cheltenham in this 2-mile, two-rival walk around the block.

Leopardstown. Race 3. 9:20. Footpad seeks to sustain his unbeaten chasing record in the Grade 1 Novice Chase.

Sandown. Race 4. 9:25. Electric group of novice chasers clash in the Grade 1 Betfred TV Scilly Novices’ Chase. Cyrname, Kalondra and Terrefort look the largest.

Wetherby. Race 4. 9:40. Ballyoptic avoids Black Corton but takes on Captain Chaos in this Grade 2 chase.

Leopardstown. Race 4. 9:55. The Coral Sandyford Handicap Chase attracts our old friend Tully East. Did Sean ever tell you about his late double at Cheltenham…?

Sandown. Race 5. 10:00. The Grade 3 Betfred Heroes Handicap Hurdle attracts an eclectic group that includes two-time winner Topofthegame, veteran chaser Buywise who switches back to hurdles and Irish raider Folsom Blues who attracts Barry Geraghty for Gordon Elliott.

Lingfield. Race 5. 10:05. The all-weather dross has a ray of sun here with the Betway Winter Derby Trial. The 10-furlong stake attracts hard-hitting Petite Jack, Italian-raced Red Label and American-bred Utmost for Strawbridge, Hass and Gosden.

Musselburgh. Race 5. 10:15. The wide-smiling, hard-riding Bryony Frost tries to add to her Saturday haul with a win on veteran Southfield Theatre in this handicap chase.

Leopardstown. Race 5. 10:30. The hits just keep on coming. The once-invincible Faugheen tries to right his ship after suffering just his second career defeat (he’s won 14 races) back in December. It won’t be easy with stablemate Melon, British raider Defi Du Seuil, veteran Jezki, Coral Cup winner Supasundae and Mick Jazz, owned by our own George P. Mahoney.

Sandown. Race 6. 10:35. Holly Bush Henry tries to win two in a row. It won’t matter to trainer Phillip Middleton, the money is already in the bank. Holly Bush Henry won a handicap chase, clinching a £50,000 betting score for Middleton back in January. Yes, £50,000. the veteran trainer told the Racing Post, “It’s an expensive game and you need a few touches to make it pay. That said, I’m probably breaking even!”

Leopardstown. Race 6. 11:05. Don’t walk the dog until later, the bell’s still ringing with a handicap hurdle worth $119,500. Be warned, Tony Martin has Tudor City in this 29-runner corker.

Musselburgh. Race 7. 11:20. Strong card closes with hunter chasers. Our favorite hunter chaser, Wonderful Charm, tunes up for Cheltenham.

Leopardstown. Race 7. 11:40. One more for good measure, the Goffs Future Stars bumper completes a card for the ages.

Gulfstream Park. Race 4. 1:30 p.m. Strike Power impressed in debut at 12-1 and looks to make it two straight for Mark Hennig and Courtlandt Farms in Grade 3 Swale. Big purse – $200,000 – and a field of six that also includes Tricks To Doo, Diamond King and Piven.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:30. Second graded stakes of the day in South Florida is the $100,000 Sweetest Chant for 3-year-old fillies. No surprise Chad Brown is well represented in Grade 3 event going 1 mile on the grass with Grade 3-placed Data Dependent and European import Salsa Bella. They all could be chasing Thewayiam for Graham Motion.

Laurel Park. Race 6. 3:00. Pretty even group for 1 1/16-mile allowance for fillies and mares. We’ll reach a bit with Shackle Me Good, she’s 3-for-5 at the track and going first off claim for Ferris Allen.

Oaklawn Park. Race 3. 3:08. The career of one-time 2016 Blue Grass favorite Zulu takes another turn as he makes Hot Springs debut in 1 1/16-mile allowance against Shotgun Cowboy, former stablemate Zambian Dream and Shut The Box.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 3:30 p.m. A dozen 3-year-old fillies for 1-mile maiden on the grass to start the day on the West Coast

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:37. Cool 6 1/2-furlong maiden race for 3-year-olds includes Korean-bred New Legend for Dale Romans, half to graded stakes winner Strike It Rich in Tabia, $400,000 2-year-old buy Dream Friend for Todd Pletcher and Tizway firster Argonne for Jim Bond.

Santa Anita. Race 2. 4:00. Curly’s Rocket just missed breaking maiden last time going 5 1/2 furlongs. Son of Into Mischief goes 6 furlongs here against stablemate Once On Whiskey and Core Beliefs, who finished just behind after a bump at the start.

Laurel. Race 8. 4:00. Lewisfield likes it at Laurel and he’s back again from Charles Town for 6-furlong allowance.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 4:05. Who else would you bet in 6 1/2-furlong state-bred allowance the day before the Super Bowl besides Bavaro?

Santa Anita. Race 3. 4:30. Roy H won five of six last season, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at nearly 5-1, en route to champion male sprinter honors. He begins title defense against four opponents in Grade 2 Palos Verdes.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:35. The first of three big early February Derby preps is the Grade 3 Withers, now a 9-furlong event after being 1 1/16 miles the last few years on the inner track and once a 1-mile springtime stakes at Belmont Park. But enough history lessons. Firenze Fire puts his 3-for-4 mark in New York on the line and tries to win going two turns for the first time. Avery Island was best-of-rest second on Catholic Boy in Grade 2 Remsen in early December and returns to New York after training in South Florida. Todd Pletcher sends out two from his Belmont winter string in Marconi and Coltandmississippi.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:43. Miss Mo Mentum, who loved the wet track last time winning the Hut Hut Stakes, takes step up in Grade 3 Forward Gal against the likes of three-time stakes winner Take Charge Paula and impressive maiden winners Violent Times and My Miss Lilly. Don’t count out Sultry.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 5:09. Rocking The Boat returns from short freshening in 6-furlong allowance.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:16. Untamed Domain ran huge in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, finishing second to Mendelssohn. Now it’s time to start 3-year-old campaign and Grade 2 winner faces nine others in Grade 3 Dania Beach going 1 mile on the grass. Cuestion de Tiempo could be value at 15-1 off back-to-back wins on the grass at Tampa for Ignacio Correas.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:30. Time to get serious on the Derby Trail with 10 points on the line in Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis. Interesting group for 1 1/16-mile stakes, including last-out maiden winners Peace, Lombo, Dark Vader and Pepe Tono, Bob Baffert’s maiden Regulate and somewhat proven turf horses Inscom and Ayacara.

Fair Grounds Race 8. 5:35. Stonestreet homebred Lesley May improved stretching out last time and figures to break maiden for Brendan Walsh in 1-mile and 70-yard event for 3-year-old fillies.

Sunland Park. Race 6. 5:37. Judge Lanier Racing of Conquest Mo Money fame plunked down the $600 early nomination fee to make Sphene eligible for the Triple Crown. Son of Bodemeister makes debut from from post 10 in 6 1/2-furlong maiden for trainer Miguel Hernandez.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Ivan Fallunovalot is back for another run in $125,000 King Cotton Stakes, a race he won in 2015 and 2016. He finished fourth last year shortly after winning the Frank. J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash. Wilbo beat the local favorite last time in allowance-optional prep and is back, along with the third-place finisher that day in Recount.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:49. The Grade 2 Holy Bull follows shortly after the Robert B. Lewis and features Grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy, the first two from the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in Enticed and Tiz Mischief, multiple graded stakes-placed Hollywood Star and the highly regarded duo of Mississippi and Audible. Good race.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Mitole, second in similar spot last month, should break maiden in 6-furlong finale for Heiligbrodts and Steve Asmussen.

Turfway Park. Race 3. 6:15. Tip of the cap to the racing office for writing this 10-furlong starter allowance.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:30. Itsinthepost won the Grade 2 San Gabriel last time in 2018 bow and looks to keep rolling in Grade 2 San Marcos going 1 1/4 miles. A few he beat that day, including runner-up Flamboyant and third-place Editore, are back for another try.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:00. The Grade 2 San Pasqual might produce a starter or two for next month’s Santa Anita Handicap or Dubai World Cup. The connections of Mubtaahij, runner-up to California Chrome in 2016 and fourth in Arrogate’s masterpiece last year, surely would venture the Dubai with a good effort. He comes off third in Grade 3 Native Diver in late November behind Prime Attraction and Irish Freedom, who are also entered here. Strong field also includes Pavel, Accelerate and Top Of The Game.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:30. Fillies and mares go down the hill in 6 1/2-furlong turf allowance finale.

Turfway. Race 9. 9:15. Still going strong? Take a look at this 6 1/2-furlong allowance featuring Prince Hansen, Mooose and Twinsanity.