The Saturday Special – Jan. 4

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Welcome to 2020. Our team here at This Is Horse Racing hopes you enjoyed a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Now it’s time to get back to work, back to the routine and back to racing.

Fair enough, racing didn’t stop and actually picked up in earnest at the tail end of the holiday season with strong cards at in New York, Florida and California welcoming in the New Year.

More of the same this week with a five-stakes card at Gulfstream – including the Mucho Macho Man for aspiring classic hopefuls – and another early Kentucky Derby prep in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita set to start 2020.

Plenty of racing elsewhere, from Laurel to Parx to Fair Grounds, and overseas action from Sandown, Wincanton and Kempton. Check it out here in the first Saturday Special of 2020. Enjoy and good luck.

Sandown. Race 1. 7:10 a.m. Another stellar card at Sandown. Juvenile hurdlers kick it off.

Sandown. Race 2. 7:45. Indefatigable tries to climb out of the runner-up spot for Paul Webber. The 7-year-old mare needs to upend Silver Forever, 2-for-3 over hurdles for Paul Nicholls.

Sandown. Race 3. 8:20. Waikiki Waves rides the wave of four wins for Gary Moore.

Sandown. Race 4. 8:50. Johnbb retains Robbie Power for this handicap chase. Trained by Tom Lacey, the Irish-bred 6-year-old could climb the ladder.

Sandown. Race 5. 9:25. The feature. The Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle. An early Grade 1 attracts highly regarded Fiddlerontheroof, Hang In There and Son Of Camas. Cheltenham clues. Mark your cards.

Sandown. Race 6. 10:00. Awesome initiative as veteran chasers aim at $128,000 in this 3-mile handicap chase. Like seeing old friends at a Christmas party –  King’s Odyssey, Vieux Lion Rouge, Carol’s Destrier, Theatre Guide…

Wincanton. Race 6. 10:15. Come on Valdez. One time, my Son.

Sandown. Race 7. 10:35. A strong handicap hurdle to close the card.

Laurel Park. Race 3. 1:22 p.m. Tres Abbott (Day Of Honor), Tim Keefe (Lislaughlin), Jeremiah O’Dwyer (Amen Corner) and Mike Trombetta (Souper Highvoltage) send out first-time starters in 6-furlong maiden.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:26. Spiritual King, son of Violence who cost $250,000 at last year’s OBS April sale, makes debut for Todd Pletcher in 6-furlong state-bred allowance. The former lost debut by extended margin after contesting early pace going 7 furlongs Dec. 1 while the latter, homebred son of Smarty Jones for Someday Farm, makes first start since being gelded.

Kempton. Race 6. 1:40. Great buy. Pianissimo fetched £22,000 from The Queen and John Gosden at the Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale in October. The son of Teofilo has won two photos from two starts for Chris Butler and Anthony Carson.

Parx Racing. Race 5. 2:13. No getting around this one, John Servis with strong two-part entry of Harper and Dreams Untold in 6-furlong maiden for newly turned sophomores.

Gulfstream Park. Race 6. 2:30. The $75,000 Limehouse for 3-year-olds at 6 furlongs leads off the stakes action. Shivaree won a similar stakes last time for Ralph Nicks.

Parx. Race 6. 2:40. Mike Lauer ships Ruler Of The Nile from Kentucky for 7-furlong starter allowance. Now 5-year-old son of Pioneerof The Nile sold for $1 million at 2, wound up claimed three times at 3 and 4 (for $16,000, $40,000 and $8,000), won a Saratoga allowance and five times overall at 4 and finished 10th in Claiming Crown Iron Horse last time out at Gulfstream. What will 2020 bring?

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:00. The $100,000 Kitten’s Joy goes as Grade 3 for the first time thanks to a recent upgrade.

Laurel. Race 7. 3:20. Bye Bye Bertie, last seen breaking maiden in mid-August 2018, makes return in 6-furlong allowance for Hammy Smith.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 3:25. Repole-Rudy entry of Storm Prophet and Vincento look tough in 1-mile state-bred optional.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:30. Three-year-old fillies take their turn in $75,000 Glitter Woman. Spanish Point impressed in her first two starts for Jorge Abreu and looks to make it 3-for-3, while Sound Machine and Lavi hope to turn the tables after finishing second and third, respectively, in House Party Stakes last time out.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:55. Pauseforthecause, a perfect 8-for-8 in the money at the Big A, puts three-race win streak on the line in $100,000 La Verdad for older state-bred fillies and mares. She beat similar two back in Iroquois and open company last time in Garland of Roses.

Fair Grounds. Race 6. 3:55. Lewys Vaporizer, still going strong at age 8, bids for win No. 16 from the rail in 6-furlong starter optional for Tom Amoss.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:00. Back to the grass for $100,000 Ginger Brew. Abscond split the field in Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last time after winning the Grade 1 Natalma at Woodbine for Eddie Kenneally. Daughter of Blame will appreciate cut in class.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:30. Possible runners for the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth or even Florida Derby could emerge from $100,000 Mucho Macho Man. Chance It makes jump to open company after good run in Florida-bred ranks for Saffie Joseph Jr. while Street Sense winner South Bend makes Gulfstream debut for Stan Hough.

Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 4:32. Surprise surprise, Bob Baffert holds strong hand for Grade 3 Sham with Authentic and Azul Coast. Both come off debut maiden victories, the former at odds-on at Del Mar in early November, the latter at the Sham’s 1-mile trip in early December at Los Al.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 4:53. Chess Chief, who placed in two graded stakes last season, deserving favorite in 1 1/16-mile optional on the main track. The once promising Aurelius Maximus makes first start for Asmussen barn after finishing fourth in first start of more than a year on the sidelines last time out at Aqueduct. Fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne in 2018, son of Pioneerof The Nile made switch from Chad Brown’s barn in November.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:07. Seven older horses entered for Grade 2 San Gabriel going 9 furlongs on the grass. Desert Stone returns from layoff after back-to-back Grade 1 tries last spring while Cleopatra’s Strike tries to rebound to form that landed him victory in Grade 2 John Henry in late September.