The Saturday Special – Jan. 27

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All eyes on South Florida with newly crowned Horse of the Year Gun Runner set to make his final Saturday in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park, just one of several races previewed in this week’s edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

The Pegasus is the headliner of Gulfstream’s card that also includes seven other stakes, four of them graded events. The brainchild of Frank Stronach and designed as one final potential showcase day – or better yet, payday – for racing’s stars headed off to stud, the Pegasus delivered last year with California Chrome and again in 2018 with Gun Runner. California Chrome didn’t get it done in his finale, but he met a tough foe in Arrogate. No such opposition awaits Gun Runner this year.

A smattering of other stakes are set around the country, including the Grade 3 Toboggan at Aqueduct, four stakes at Laurel and four California-bred events at Santa Anita.

All of that and more make for a big day of racing the weekend before the Super Bowl. Here’s your primer for Saturday, Jan. 27. Take care, good luck and see you in February.

Cheltenham. Race 1. 7:40. Here she is. The best 4-year-old filly in the world (easy, Down Royal, easy). Apple’s Shakira makes it four in a row in the opener at our favorite course.

Cheltenham. Race 2. 8:15. The Tizzard train needs to come to life. Sizing Tennessee stokes it here.

Doncaster. Race 2. 8:30. Dynamic novice chaser Sceau Royal aims at his third win in a row, the French-bred takes on three rivals in the Lightning Novices’ Chase.

Cheltenham. Race 3. 8:50. Breath of fresh air? Bryony Frost has been a hurricane of fresh air this season. She’s talented, she’s energetic and she keeps her season on the crest with Frodon in the Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase. We’ve always loved O O Seven, maybe he rights the ship here.

Doncaster. Race 3. 9:05. Simon Munir and Isaac Souede could have a big day, Callett Mad and Indian Hawk could complete the exacta and daily double (with Sceau Royal) in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle.

Cheltenham. Race 4. 9:25. Bristol De Mai couldn’t handle Might Bite in the King George but could climb back in the Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase.

Doncaster. Race 4. 9:40. Good to see a different owner, trainer and jockey with a good horse. Maria’s Benefit tries to win her fifth in a row for Wells, Edmunds and Gethings. The 6-year-old mare looks strong in the OLBG.com Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle. Tough race.

Fairyhouse. Race 4. 9:45. Remember the great Solerina? Here’s her race. Crackerdancer, just getting started at the age of 8, tries to make it five in a row.

Cheltenham. Race 5. 10:00. Tikkanbar makes it three in a row, aiming at the Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle.

Doncaster. Race 5. 10:15. L’Ami Serge tries to tack on another win for Munir and Souede. We’ve been big fans of Thumb Stone Blues, perhaps, today is the day.

Cheltenham. Race 6. 10:35. Stop, take note, appreciate what you have and root for Beer Googles in the Cleeve Hurdle. Rest in peace, Richard Woollacott.

Doncaster. Race 6. 10:50. This was a lot more exciting when Valdez was entered. He’s waiting. And Bigmartre is winning.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 11:30 a.m. Early start to Pegasus Day with 1 1/16-mile maiden on the grass for 3-year-old fillies. Moi cost a lot – $750,000 – but hasn’t shown much yet in two starts.

Gulfstream. Race 2. Noon. Another batch of maiden 3-year-old fillies, this group goes 7 furlongs on the main track. Same could be said for Beyond Grace that was said in opener about her stablemate. She cost $1.5 million and is 0-for-2 so far for Larry Best and Chad Brown.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:30. First stakes of the day is Grade 3 La Prevoyante going long on the grass. Apple Betty closed her 4-year-old season with sharp score in Grade 3 Dowager at Keeneland going same distance and is the one to beat.

Laurel Park. Race 2. 1:00. Graham Motion adds blinkers and Lasix for Hot Cha, 3-year-old daughter of Bernardini who finished third in only start back in October. She and stablemate Malibu Surprise standout in 1-mile maiden for 3-year-old fillies.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:00. Straight 3-year-olds going 1 mile on the main track in this maiden heat. Point To Remember, Stronach homebred son of Point Of Entry who finished second in debut back in November at Aqueduct, is one of several with a chance. Demolition, Life’s A Parlay and Personal Time are others.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:20. Takaful stayed in New York while most of the top-flight runners for the Maktoum family and Kiaran McLaughlin went to Florida. He’s the standout in the Grade 3 Toboggan.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:30. Back to grass for 1 1/16-mile maiden for 3-year-olds.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:01. Big money for the Ladies’ Turf Sprint going 5 furlongs on the grass. Justa Lady, second in Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County last fall at Keeneland, joined stablemate and Horse of the Year Gun Runner on plane from Fair Grounds and looks to snag a piece of the $175,000 pot.

Laurel. Race 5. 2:30. Ben Colebrook gives Enrage another try in Maryland in the $100,000 Marshua. Daughter of Algorithms finished second in Gin Talking last month and doesn’t meet the winner, Strategic Dreams, in this 6-furlong stakes. She does run into Limited View and Off My Stage.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:32. Eight Town hasn’t done anything wrong since seventh in debut in early August at Saratoga for Brian Lynch. He’s won three straight and takes step up in class for Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper, which also draws Tale Of Silence, First Growth, Tommy Macho and Beasley.

Fair Grounds. Race 3. 3:03. Ninety One Assault ran well in back-to-back starts at Fair Grounds for Tom Morley and looks like the one to beat in similar Louisiana-bred allowance on the grass at 1-mile.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:04. Remember our man Nessy? We wrote about him in Ian Wilkes’ Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer at Saratoga and in the recap of the Grade 3 Sycamore last fall at Keeneland. He’s in with a solid chance in Grade 3 W. L. McKnight Handicap going 12 furlongs on the grass.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 3:20. Collective Effort and Belleville Spring are pretty consistent so far in their careers, but they area winless in a combined 10 starts. It might be their time in state-bred maiden going 6 furlongs.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 6. 6:25. Tough to see Hawana going off at her morning-line price of 10-1 in two-turn allowance, but she could be a decent price against this group.

Laurel. Race 7. 3:30. Afleet Willy didn’t appreciate being shortened up last time, finishing eighth of 10 going 6 furlongs, and he’s back to a route in the $100,000 Native Dancer. John Jones looks to make it back-to-back stakes wins after successful defense of his title in the Jennings last time.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:38. Curlin’s Approval is back to defend title in Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. She comes off second going 1 mile in Grade 3 Rampart last month and shortens up to more optimum 7-furlong trip.

Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 3:47. The Cal Cup/Sunshine Millions program gets underway with the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50. Field of nine for state-bred allowance at 1 mile. Cotton Candy Cutie and North End are coupled and most likely a short price. Go with Tiz R Bella going turf to dirt for Jim Bond.

Laurel. Race 8. 4:00. Whirlin Curlin and Still Having Fun renew budding rivalry in the $100,000 Frank Whiteley Jr. Those two finished 1-2 in Maryland Juvenile Futurity in early December, then Whirlin Curlin came back to finish dull fifth in the Heft Stakes. Still Having Fun trained up to this, and added a few owners in the process.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:14. The stakes keep rolling along. Here’s the $175,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint going – you guessed it – 5 furlongs on the grass. Richard’s Boy just missed to stablemate Stormy Liberal to key exacta finish for Peter Miller in Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. That one stayed home and he looks tough against the likes of Pay Any Price, Tombelaine, Blind Ambition and Rainbow Heir.

Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 4:19. Masochistic, a brilliant sprinter at the center of much controversy during his career, debuts for Bob Baffert and makes first start since May 6 in $150,000 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint. If he’s close to his best this group is in deep trouble.

Laurel. Race 9. 4:30. Fillies and mares stretch out to 1 1/16 miles for the $100,000 Nellie Morse. Ben Colebrook takes logical step with Julerette, the winner of three straight in allowance company in Kentucky.

Oaklawn Park. Race 6. 4:39. Two-turn allowance draws the likes of Futile, Sticksstatelydude, Dan The Go To Man and Rated R Superstar.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:50. Grade 1 winner Celestine is back for a 6-year-old campaign and she starts in the $125,000 South Beach going 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

Turfway Park. Race 1. 5:15. The future home of the Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes – we couldn’t resist! – starts its Saturday card with a $5,000 claimer going 5 furlongs.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:25. Field of 13 Cal-bred sophomores for $100,000 California Cup Turf Sprint. Heck Yeah ran well in debut, but that was on the dirt at Los Al.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:31. Silver Dust, who was on the Triple Crown trail last winter and spring at Oaklawn, makes first start for Bret Calhoun in two-turn allowance.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:35. The headlining Pegasus World Cup is the swan song for Gun Runner, who meets several he’s whipped in the past. Collected came the closest to him in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing 3 1/2 lengths back in second while recently crowned champion 3-year-old West Coast checked in third in that same race. Those two form powerful entry for Bob Baffert, who won last year with Arrogate and is now the hunter. Sharp Azteca stretched his speed around two turns winning Grade 3 Monmouth Cup last summer and is proven at a mile, but this is 1 1/8 miles and a different scenario than those races. What about a bomb for a longshot? Gunnevera always tries, Seeking The Soul loves distance and would you really be stunned to see Stellar Wind improve after a month with Chad Brown? You can try, but all signs point to the big horse. Enjoy.

Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 5:38. Steve Asmussen could add another stakes win within minutes of Gun Runner’s attempt in the Pegasus when Chanteline goes in $125,000 American Beauty. She comes off three straight races on the grass, including win in 5 1/2-furlong stakes at Fair Grounds, but is proven on the main track and in Hot Springs.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. Sprint allowance for older horses closes the card.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:37. The featured $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic going 9 furlongs on the grass. He Will exits back-to-back graded stakes on the grass after victory in the restricted Lure Stakes over Breeders’ Cup Weekend. He’ll get a test from Rye, Camino Del Paraiso and Smokey Image.