The Saturday Special – July 1

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Everything’s about to get real in the coming weeks with the opening of Del Mar and Saratoga, but first is another packed day of action previewed here in The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

The action is spread out, starting as always in Europe with strong cards at Newmarket and The Curragh before shifting to North America. Woodbine celebrates Dominion Day with a loaded card to precede Sunday’s classic Queen’s Plate, Gulfstream Park hosts the Summit of Speed, Monmouth Park runs the day’s lone Grade 1 with the United Nations and Ellis Park opens for the season. All that and more in the first Saturday Special of July.

Enjoy, be safe and good luck.

Newmarket. Race 1. 9:05 a.m. The Fred Archer Stakes. Named after the legendary Tin Man, the mile and half handicap attracts Midterm who drops from group competition for Sir Michael Stoute and Red Vernon, who does the same for Ed Dunlop.

Newcastle. Race 2. 9:25. Don’t Touch and Kimberella look strong in the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes.

Newmarket. Race 2. 9:30. Cheveley Park’s Sainted made one start in 2015, she won it. She made two starts in 2016, winning one of them. She makes her 2017 debut.

The Curragh. Race 2. 9:35. Gordon Lord Byron did indeed turn back time two starts ago, the 9-year-old tries to do it again in the Creekside Dash.

Newmarket. Race 2. 9:40. The Empress Fillies’ Stakes entices the undefeated Dance Diva and 13 other juvenile fillies.

Newcastle. Race 3. 10:00. The Northumberland Vase, the consolation race for the Northumberland Plate, winds up with 12 entries. We’ll root for I Am Not Here.

The Curragh. Race 3. 10:10. Alexios Komnenos caught our eye last year, he makes his 3-year-old debut in the Celebration Stakes.

Newmarket. Race 3. 10:15. The Group 3 Criterion Stakes keeps the hits coming. Nine-time winner Breton Rock carries top weight against the likes of Home Of The Brave and Thikriyaat. We’ve always like Richard Pankhurst, who makes his 5-year-ol debut.

Newcastle. Race 4. 10:30. The Northumberland Plate, a 2 1/16-mile mainstay seems to have lost some of its charm now that it’s on the all-weather at Newcastle. Still a prize worth winning as owner Marwan Koukash will attest. Surprisingly, he only has Suegioo aimed at this year’s renewal. Around here, we’ve been fans of Champagne Champ for a while, maybe he springs at a big price. 

York. Race 5. 11:15. High-brow daughters of Medaglia d’Oro, Bated Breath, Invincible Spirit (2), Sayif and Galileo aim at to graduate in a $15,000 maiden. Yes, $15,000, that’s $12,000 less than the maiden at Hastings Park, which attracts daughters of Finality, High Cotton (2), Stephanotis, Rosberg (2) and Sungold.

The Curragh. Race 5. 11:40. Ryan Moore chooses Murillo over Rostropovich for the Group 2 Railway Stakes. British invaders Folk Tale and De Bruyne Horse go on the road. Gordon Elliott branches out with Beckford.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 11:55. The 14-race Summit of Speed card gets underway with 7 1/2-furlong (two turn … speed?) $10,000 claimer.

The Curragh. Race 7. 12:20. The Irish Derby. Rematch? You’ve got the rematch. Cracksman tries to make up a length on Wings Of Eagles from their clash in the Investec Derby.

Gulfstream. Race 2. 12:23. Todd Pletcher sends out two firsters – Channel Cat and Bon Raison – for Calumet Farm in 5-furlong turf maiden for 2-year-olds.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:52. Potentially more Saratoga clues in the $100,000 Kiss A Native, which draws a field of five led by Robert LaPenta’s homebred Dial One for Todd Pletcher.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:21. The $100,000 Brave Raj for 2-year-old fillies drew one more than it’s counterpart, the Kiss A Native. Classy Dancer won easily on the grass and switches to the dirt for Pletcher in 5 1/2-furlong heat.

Ellis Park. Race 1. 1:50. A tradition like none other, Opening Day at the Pea Patch. Rumor out of Western Kentucky is that corn is planted among the soy beans. The meet opens with a 6-furlong maiden claimer.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:52. If you like or dislike days packed with stakes then you might have emotion for the $75,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint. He designed the Summit of Speed and other stakes-packed programs and others have followed in line. Like it or not they look like they’re here to stay.

Belmont Park. Race 4. 3:09. State-breds stretch out to 1 1/16 miles for allowance. West Hills Giant is still going strong at age 7 while Jet Black looks to get back on track with a strong record at Belmont.

Woodbine. Race 5. 3:21. Ontario-bred fillies and mares go 7 furlongs in the $100,000 Zadracarta. Do you remember that Ontario-bred mare? A multiple stakes winner at Woodbine, she ended her career with close runner-up finish in Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in 1989.

Belmont. Race 5. 3:41. It’s time for 2-year-olds on the turf. Some early hints for Saratoga in 6-furlong maiden race for fillies.

Monmouth Park. Race 7. 3:51. Multiple New York-bred stakes winner Frosty Margarita ships down from Saratoga for 5 1/2-furlong allowance that also draws Behrnik’s Bank.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 4:00. They’re running babies on the grass out west, too. Field of 10 going 1 mile opens the card.

Woodbine. Race 7. 4:24. Another Ontario-bred event, the $125,000 Ontario Damsel going 1 mile on the grass for 3-year-old fillies. Silver Princess makes turf debut for Roger Attfield off back-to-back victories on the synthetic to start the season.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:30. The $75,000 Azalea for 3-year-old fillies, formerly a graded stakes and run at 7 furlongs, gets the meat of the Summit of Speed program rolling. Firefoot might be one for the top sophomore stakes down the road with a victory.

Ellis. Race 7. 4:40. Keep an eye on the Ellis 2-year-old maiden races, they’ve produced some top horses the last few years. Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and graded stakes winner Not This Time to name just two, from last year to boot.

Laurel Park. Race 8. 4:40. Not something one sees everyday, Bill Mott and Juddmonte Farms with a Maryland-bred. Ascertain fits that bill, she won last time out at Pimlico and looks to take another step up the ladder in open-company allowance going 6 furlongs.

Millarville. Race 5. 4:40. The $7,000 Millarville Sprint, yes, Millarville. The track’s slogan is “It Doesn’t Get Any More Local” and that’s good enough for us. Field of five for the day’s co-feature, average age of the starters is a shade over 8.

Belmont. Race 7. 4:46. Chad Brown sends out three in $100,000 Perfect Sting going 1 mile on the grass, including Grade 3 Intercontinental runner-up Conquest Babayaga. On Leave is 3-for-4 at Belmont and comes off good second in Grade 3 stakes on the Preakness undercard.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:02. Field of 11 for the Grade 3 Carry Back includes two from Pletcher’s barn in Benefactor and Blind Ambition, multiple stakes winner Mo Cash and five-time Gulfstream winner and stakes winner Three Rules.

Millarville. Race 6. 5:05. You didn’t think we were done with Millarville? Here’s the $10,000 Millarville Derby, which is open to 3-year-olds and up, but still run at 9 furlongs. Field of five features an Alberta-bred, two Cal-breds and two Kentucky-breds. The great melting pot a little south of Calgary.

Belmont. Race 8. 5:18. Wicked Macho found the water a bit deep going from maiden ranks to stakes company in Easy Goer. He returns to allowance ranks and faces state-breds for the first time going 6 furlongs.

Santa Anita. Race 4. 5:30. How loaded is the Baffert barn? Very. He sends out Danzing Candy in Grade 2 San Carlos, which also marks the return to training for Seth Benzel with Dubai import Cool Cowboy.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:34. Another puzzler with a field of 11, the Grade 2 Princess Rooney presented by Hardacre Farm. Lightstream ships in from New York off close third in Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses the day before the Belmont Stakes, while Todd Pletcher sends Kinsley Kisses down from his Saratoga base. Curlin’s Approval tries to recapture her form from the winter.

Belmont. Race 9. 5:50. Once one of the major stakes on the circuit, it’s a shame to see the Mother Goose as a Grade 2. Past winners include Cicada, Shuvee, Chris Evert, Ruffian, Davona Dale, Life’s Magic, Mom’s Command, Goodbye Halo, Go For Wand, Sky Beauty, Serena’s Song, Rachel Alexandra, Close Hatches and Untapable. This year’s edition doesn’t feature a graded stakes winner, perhaps a sign of the times. Still a good group that includes Gazelle runner-up and Kentucky Oaks third Lockdown, California shipper Vexatious and Black-Eyed Susan runner-up Lights Of Medina.

Monmouth. Race 11. 5:57. Itsinthepost liked getting away from Southern California when he shipped to Kentucky for Grade 2 Elkhorn and came away with a victory. He’s back on the East Coast for the Grade 1 United Nations against the likes of Beach Patrol, Messi, Oscar Nominated and fellow California shipper Liam The Charmer.

Woodbine. Race 10. 5:58. What better way to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the formation of Canada than the Grade 3 Dominion Day Handicap? Marathoners go 10 furlongs on the synthetic and the field includes Grade 2 winner Scuba for Brendan Walsh and Melmich and Ethical Funds, second and third in last year’s Grade 3 Valedictory.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 6:06. The Grade 3 Smile Sprint closes the stakes action. Imperial Hint won the Grade 3 General George back in mid February and takes three-race win streak into 6-furlong stakes while Awesome Banner looks to have found an easier spot after running in Grade 1 Carter and Grade 3 Maryland Sprint in last two starts.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:30. Neil Drysale doubles up with Juno and Madame Stripes as six fillies and mares go to post for Grade 3 Wilshire going 1 mile on the grass.