The Saturday Special – February 25

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New Orleans is in the spotlight this week – not for Mardi Gras, even though it’s next week – but as the latest stop on the Kentucky Derby trail. A loaded card at Fair Grounds highlights this week’s edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Pin Oak Stud and there’s plenty of lagniappe at other racetracks around the world to keep you occupied.

The Risen Star and Rachel Alexandra, two 3-year-old races named for a couple legends of the game, top the big card at Fair Grounds and the former offers significant points toward a spot in the Derby field. The latter is a Kentucky Oaks prep and offers points to that race, too, but it seems there’s more buzz for the Derby every year so we’ll just leave it at that.

Well, let’s get to it. Here’s your primer for Saturday, February 25. See you in March.

Lingfield. Race 1. 8:30 a.m. Start the weekend right, bet all you want on Oud Metha Bridge.

Fairyhouse. Race 1. 8:45. The Irish are always loaded with juvenile hurdlers for Cheltenham. Landofhopeandglory could be the best of all.

Kempton. Race 2. 8:50. Never thought we’d feel nostalgic about hurdle racing at Kempton, but the clock continues to tick. Charli Parcs leads a progressive group of juvenile hurdlers.

Lingfield. Race 2. 9:05. Stakes action starts here with listed sprinters bred in Italy, Ireland, Britain and America.

Kempton. Race 3. 9:25. Frodon leads a compact field of four in the Pendil Novices’ Chase.

Newcastle. Race 3. 9:45. Nearly $100,000 on the line for handicap chasers in the Betfred Eider Chase. The enigmatic Gevrey Chambertin will jump well and loll along on or near the lead. Will he last? Maybe one of these days.

Kempton. Race 4. 10:00. Peter The Mayo Man has impressed us all year; he takes on the likes of Capitaine, Elgin and River Wylde in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.

Lingfield. Race 4. 10:15. Mutakayyef, third in the Woodbine Mile, returns in the Group 3 Betway Winter Derby Stakes. He won’t face Tepin here.

Fairyhouse. Race 4. 10:30. Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere tries to right his career in the Bobbyjo Chase. Gigginstown goes three deep in the handicap chase.

Kempton. Race 5. 10:35. Slippers Madden departed Ireland for a rejuvenation in Britain. It could start here as he guides Fingerontheswitch in the Betbright Handicap Chase.

Laurel Park. Race 1. 12:30 p.m. The Winter Carnival came and went. Opener is $5,000 claimer going 1 1/16 miles.

Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 2:00. Five of the seven 3-year-olds entered for 5 1/2-furlong maiden are first-timers, including $750,000 Tapit colt Last Stage, $400,000  Unbridled’s Song colt Blue Buff and WinStar homebred Copper Town.

Fair Grounds. Race 3. 2:24. Tiznoble chased One Mean Man, who goes later in graded turf stakes, when second last time in Woodchopper making first start off the claim for Michael Stidham. Drops back to allowance company and looks tough in this spot.

Laurel. Race 5. 2:30. Saw some noise on social media last weekend about Gulfstream and Laurel post times bumping together; it happens here, too, with 3-year-old filly maiden in Maryland up against a small stakes in Florida.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:30. The three on the inside – Santini, Squadron and Uncle B – look like they’ve got the edge in $75,000 Texas Glitter.

Fair Grounds. Race 4. 2:51. Rehearsed closed well in debut for Neil Howard and faces familiar foe in Astrollinthepark and others in 6-furlong maiden for 2-year-old fillies that appears restricted to high-profile barns.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:01. Aikenetta ran well to be second in similar turf sprint maiden in late July at Saratoga then went to the shelf. She’s back with a steady work tab for Todd Pletcher.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 3:18. First stakes on the card, the $50,000 Colonel Power going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass. Green Mask, fifth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and winner locally last time in Bonapaw on the course and at the trip, might get big day rolling for Brad Cox.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 1. 3:45. European soccer fans will be all about Bundesliga, a 4-year-old gelding by Concord Point who used to race for Kaleem Shah of Bayern and Dortmund fame, in $10,500 to $12,500 claimer.

Fair Grounds. Race 6. 3:45. Medaglia d’Oro colt Extricate cost $1.1 million at 2015 Keeneland September sale and makes debut going 6 furlongs for Steve Asmusen. That purchase price is more than the rest of the field combined, but you know how that sometimes goes … the bargain-buys  can win. So who are they? How about Sparty Boy, who cost $30,000; or Zaevion, who cost $25,000?

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 8. 3:55. Sometimes it feels like we write it every week, amazed at the competition in grass races at Tampa for small purses. Here’s a $22,500 allowance with entrants from Glen Hill Farm and Tom Proctor, Stuart Janney III and Shug McGaughey, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider and Bill Mott and John and Susan Moore and Arnaud Delacour. And don’t forget our favorite Tobias on the also-eligible list.

Laurel. Race 8. 4:00. Fans of Matt Jones and his Kentucky Sports Radio program will either be on board or totally against Jrock, nom de plum of a frequent caller and also a 5-year-old Deputy Storm gelding who gets Trevor McCarthy for 6-furlong allowance.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:12. Good field for $50,000 Daisy Devine. Believe In Bertie ran huge in last two starts, including Pago Hop, while Kitten’s Roar looks to make it two in a row against familiar foes off Marie Krantz Memorial victory. Freudie Anne carries the flag for the New York-breds but needs to step up.

Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 4:30. Cal-breds sprint down the hill in $100,000 Sensational Star. Betty Bambino loves the course, with six wins in seven starts, including the Grade 3 San Simeon in 2016 and Grade 3 Daytona in 2014.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:34. Barclay Tagg  hoped to run Highland Sky back in the Saranac at the end of the 2016 Saratoga meet after he finished second in Grade 1 Belmont Derby. That didn’t happen, but he is back for this good allowance on the grass.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:39. Will the Eagle land? Son of Candy Ride, winner of last year’s Grade 3 Ben Ali, makes first start since July 9 in the Grade 2 Suburban in strong renewal of Grade 3 Mineshaft. International Star, 4-for-6 in New Orleans and coming off an even longer layoff, among others in the field.

Oaklawn Park. Race 6. 4:39. Pageant Material, daughter of Bernardini out of Crown of Diamonds, makes Hot Springs debut and first start for J. R. Caldwell in two-turn allowance.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:50. The star of the Little Guys Stable Tour in 2016, Yorkiepoo Princess tries to add another stakes in $150,000 Busher for trainer Eddie Barker. Daughter of Kantharos whipped Tiz Rae Anna, Banty’s Girl and Bride Street last time in Ruthless and they’re back again, along with Thirstforthecup and No Sweat for Todd Pletcher and Full House for Jimmy Jerkens.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:05. The second edition of the Melody Of Colors Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going 5 furlongs on the grass. Plenty of European imports to choose from, including Grizzel, Fields Of Song and Somebody To Love. The latter two make their second starts in the U.S.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:06. Valadorna impressed with runner-up finish in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies off a maiden victory at Keeneland. She returned to win at 1-10 in local allowance and tops field for Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra. Farrell is no slouch in this spot, off back-to-back stakes wins, while Untapped aims to get back on track.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 5:09. Chief Of Staff … well, we’ll just leave it at that.

Fair Grounds. Race 10. 5:33. We mentioned One Mean Man above. He’s in touch in Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap against the likes of Granny’s Kitten, Western Reserve, Greengrassofyoming and Enterprising. It’s Oscar weekend, so why not Oscar Nominated? And while we’re at it, who’s your pick for Best Picture?

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:35. The Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint marks the return of two-time graded stakes winner Unified but it’s no easy spot against Grade 1 winner Mind Your Biscuits, Grade 2 winner Delta Bluesman and Sunshine Millions winner Early Entry.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Arkansas-breds take their turn in the spotlight in $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes going 6 furlongs. Weast Hill won it last year for Brad Cox and he’s unbeaten in six tries against fellow state-breds for owner and breeder Starsky Weast. We need to do a story on Starsky Weast.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:00. Field of eight for 10-furlong grass allowance. Hayabusa One exits back-to-back fourths after impressive U.S. debut at Keeneland in October.

Rillito. Race 7. 6:00. Week 2 in Tucson and the feature is the $5,000 John K. Goodman. The Oregon-bred Cantchaco brings three-race win streak into 6-furlong affair, but that was last year. Cant Do The Danse might benefit from recent races and goes first off the Turf Paradise claim.

Fair Grounds. Race 11. 6:00. Kentucky Derby preps are getting more valuable and the Risen Star carries more than Grade 2 status and a $400,000 purse. The winner gets 50 points and a virtual lock on a starting spot for the Derby. Not surprisingly a big field lined up. Fourteen were drawn but three – So Conflated, Takeoff and It’s Your Nickel – were expected to scratch. The remaining field is led by Remsen winner Mo Town, four of the first five from the Lecomte in Guest Suite, Untrapped, Arklow and Shareholder Value and impressive maiden winner Local Hero.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Second-crop sire Dialed In is in the midst of continued run of success and Live Round might be his latest winner for Harry Rosenblum and Wayne Catalano.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:30. Will this group of 11 3-year-old maidens have a say in any races of consequence later this year? They’ll need to graduate from this 7-furlong event first.

Golden Gate. Race 8. 7:15. Street Lad at 6-1 on the line for Jerry Hollendorfer and Frank Alvarado fresh off the maiden win and into two-turn allowance? We’ll take that price.

Charles Town Races. Race 5. 8:55. Check out the form on Moon Star Magic. Two seconds, then an eighth followed by two thirds. What’s next, a ninth? Or maybe a win in two-turn 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight for older females.

Turfway Park. Race 8. 9:38. Still going strong? Check out this 1-mile allowance for 3-year-old fillies. Only a field of six but it’s a decent group and might produce a Bourbonette starter or two.