The Saturday Special – Jan. 18

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We can always tell when a big racing day is on tap when the inbox fills with previews for Saturday cards carrying designated names.

The middle Saturday of January isn’t quite to the level of Derby Day, Breeders’ Cup Day or even Pegasus Day, but there’s plenty on tap with the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park, California Cup at Santa Anita Park and Road to Derby Kickoff at Fair Grounds.

Saturday’s cards at Laurel Park, Aqueduct and Tampa Bay Downs don’t carry monikers both all feature multiple stakes including a possible Kentucky Derby prep at the latter.

There’s plenty to dig into so let’s roll. Here’s your primer for Saturday, Jan. 18. Enjoy and good luck.

Ascot. Race 1. 7:40. And here comes six. Goshen rides a five-race win streak into the opener at Ascot. Three on the flat and two over hurdles, the son of Authorized has won his two hurdle starts by a combined 57 lengths.

Haydock. Race 2. 8:30. Windsor Avenue couldn’t handle Sam Spinner but that rival is on the bench and these rivals are in trouble in the Grade 2 novice chase.

Ascot. Race 3. 8:50. Wow, strong and select group of mares gather for a Grade 2 hurdle going 2 15/16 miles. Sensulano loses Leighton Aspell to favorite Papagana.

Haydock. Race 3. 9:05. Thebannerkingrebel versus Edwardstone. Yowza.

Ascot. Race 4: 9:25. Three-time winner Pic D’Orphy tries to win his first British race after a highly-regarded French career.

Haydock. Race 4. 9:40. Veteran Definitly Red needs a jolt back to return to his best in the Grade 2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase.

Haydock. Race 5. 10:15. The New One Unibet Hurdle. Cool to see a race named after the iconic hurdler. Just four but a strong four – Cornerstone Lad, Darasso, Pentland Hills and Ballyandy. Ring the bell.

Ascot. Race 6. 10:35. The race of the day. Defi Du Seuil has won 13 of 19 starts. Un De Sceaux has won 23 of 33. They finished a neck apart in the Tingle Creek. Today is the Clarence House. Cheltenham stratosphere, atmosphere.

Fair Grounds. Race 1. 1:00. Road to the Derby card starts with state-bred maiden for 3-year-old fillies.

Laurel Park. Race 3. 1:22. Needs Supervision returns home for $100,000 What A Summer to lead off four-pack of stakes in Maryland. She finished fourth last time in Grade 3 Go For Wand on Cigar Mile Day.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:26. Quixotic ran well to finish second at 23-1 in debut for Ralph Evans and trainer Jonathan Thomas. Son of Quality Road is a short price here to break maiden and give reason to think about our friend Rick Violette.

Fair Grounds. Race 2. 1:29. The $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner starts the stakes and features the return of Grade 1 winner Hog Creek Hustle, last seen finishing a decent sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He didn’t win in four tries in New Orleans last winter and sprint, three of those efforts coming in two-turn Derby preps. Bobby’s Wicked One is indeed the one to beat with a record of 4-for-5 locally and coming off sharp win in Thanksgiving Classic.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 3. 1:45. Seven Tampa Bay Derby hopefuls meet in $75,000 Pasco at 7 furlongs. Tough to sort Liam’s Lucky Charm, Golden Candy, No Getting Over Me, My Man Flintstone and Albert Park.

Laurel. Race 4. 1:50. Older state-bred fillies and mares go 1 mile in $75,000 Geisha. Anna’s Bandit, 10-for-17 at Laurel, stands out and won similar starts in her last two in midst of six-race winning streak.

Gulfstream Park. Race 6. 2:02. Eagerly, a member of Todd Pletcher’s Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer, makes first start as a gelding in 1-mile turf maiden.

Laurel. Race 5. 2:18. Alwaysmining ran well to be second in second start off layoff in Native Dancer and takes on John Jones, Bonus Points and Clubman in $75,000 Jennings.

Fair Grounds. Race 4. 2:27. Chestertown, $2 million 2-year-old in training buy last year, takes step up off maiden win over New York-breds last month. Good heat could produce some starters for next local Derby prep with Digital, Blackberry Wine, Strike Appeal, Healing and Race Driver in the field.

Laurel. Race 6. 2:51. Still Having Fun – read more on him below – would meet Tiz He The One, Arch Cat, Threes Over Deuces if he goes in $100,000 Fire Plug going 6 1/2 furlongs.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:03. Starship Jubilee should win $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.

Tampa. Race 6. 3:15. Shelter Island, fifth in stakes debut last time and in her second career start, drops to allowance ranks for 1-mile turf event for Chad Brown and Peter Brant.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 3:25. Fierce Lady, second in the Stillwater and winner of Seeking The Ante last summer at Saratoga, makes first start since second in Joseph A. Gimma in md-September in $100,000 Franklin Square for 3-year-old state-breds.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:34. Extravagant Kid showed he’s nearly as good on dirt as turf last time winning small off-the-grass stakes. Now he’s back on the dirt from the rail in $100,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint.

Tampa. Race 7. 3:46. Field of seven fillies and mares for $50,000 Wayward Lass.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:55. Tim Keefe cross-entered Still Having Fun here in the Grade 3 Toboggan – at preferred 7-furlong trip – and back home at Laurel. He’s 12-1 on the line in spot that marks return of last year’s Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens winner Mind Control, graded stakes winners Sunny Ridge and American Anthem and hard-knockers Nicodemus and T Loves A Fight.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:06. March To The Arch comes into $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf off three starts in Grade 1s, two Grade 2s and a Grade 3 in last six starts. He raced state-breds in late March at Tampa Bay Downs, won and should win here.

Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 4:32. The Sunshine Millions show makes a side trip to the West Coast for one act, the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf Sprint. A better race when run on the downhill course, 5 1/2-furlong turf stakes attracts Grade 3 winners Just Grazed Me and Apache Princess.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:38. The featured $200,000 Sunshine Millions Classic draws seven led by Red Crescent, Salute With Honor and Tap The Mojo.

Tampa. Race 9. 4:50. Three-year-old fillies take their turn in $125,000 Gasparilla, also at 7 furlongs. Eleven entered, including stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies ninth Two Sixty.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 4:52. Back to stakes and the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial for fillies and mares on the grass.

Fair Grounds. Race 10. 5:21. My Boy Jack, amazingly 6-1 in Justify’s Kentucky Derby, returns to the main track in Grade 3 Louisiana against Silver Dust, Blended Citizen, Gun It, Canadian classic winner Tone Broke and Mexican star Kukulkan.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:36. Transition to Cal-breds for the $150,000 California Cup Sprint. Fashionably Fast tries to make it five straight and three in a row in state-bred sprint stakes.

Turf Paradise. Race 7. 5:46. Arizona State fans will be all over the rematch of Tee Em Eye and Dreamy Girl in the $25,000 Sun Devil Sprint.

Fair Grounds. Race 11. 5:52. Several we mentioned in the Louisiana are cross-entered here for the $125,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley, including My Boy Jack and Blended Citizen. Mr. Misunderstood the one to beat from extreme outside off Grade 3 score at Churchill in mid-November.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 6:07. Peter Eurton said this week that veteran Ashleyluvssugar could make his final start in $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic. The 9-year-old doesn’t owe his connections a thing, with 10 wins, five graded stakes scores and more than $1.47 in earnings.

Fair Grounds. Race 12. 6:23. Finite showed she was best among non-Breeders’ Cup-bound 2-year-old fillies last fall in Kentucky with back-to-back wins in Rags To Riches and Grade 2 Golden Rod. Daughter of Munnins looks to get on Kentucky Oaks trail in $150,000 Silverbulletday, which also draws Portrait, His Glory and Pass The Plate.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:37. Bettor Trip Nick makes dirt debut off three straight wins – two in stakes – on synthetic in $200,000 California Cup Derby.

Fair Grounds. Race 13. 6:55. The Grade 3 Lecomte always garners a lot of attention – rightfully so as the lone graded Kentucky Derby prep of the weekend and considering it’s produced the likes of War Of Will, Oxbow, Ron The Greek and Hard Spun going back to 2007. So who could follow those stars? Mr. Monomoy certainly packs some appeal as half brother to Monomoy Girl and off to a good start for Brad Cox. Scabbard finished fourth in merry-go-round Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. And Mark Casse sends out Enforceable and Lynn’s Map looking for second straight win after War Of Will last year.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:07. Cal-bred fillies take their turn in $200,000 California Cup Oaks. The first four from the Golden State Juvenile – Been Studying Her, Smiling Shirlee, Warren’s Showtime and Cholula Lips – met again and flipped the order a bit in Soviet Problem at Los Al. They’re back in Arcadia this time around and at 1 mile on the grass.

Turfway Park. Race 7. 9:12. Don’t call it quits yet, there’s no football and this 6 1/2-furlong optional with a field of nine.

Charles Town Races. Race 7. 10:02. Eight entered for $35,000 White Alley Overnight at 6 1/2 furlongs. Victim Of Love ships in from Penn National off third in six-figure stakes at Laurel while Angel At War ships in from Maryland off fourth in different six-figure stakes at Laurel. She’s Quiet flies the flag for the home team.