The Saturday Special – March 11

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Multiple Grade 1 winner Clairiere takes on Secret Oath in Saturday’s Grade 2 Azeri at Oaklawn Park. Coady Photography.

The Special returns after a brief hiatus. We couldn’t stay away, not with the stellar showdown between Clairiere and Secret Oath at Oaklawn Park and Kentucky Derby points on the line in the Tampa Bay Derby.

We preview those two races and more in the primer, along with some old favorites from the pages of The Saratoga Special. Speaking of Saratoga, great to see the stakes schedule released for the 2023 meeting. Less than 18 weeks until Opening Day. Make those reservations, book the house and get ready to put those ads in The Saratoga Special.

Here’s the Special for Saturday, March 11. Enjoy and good luck.

Names of the Day (Friday and Saturday).

Climate Change. Deauville. Second Race. Friday. The French-bred 3-year-old is out of Melting Ice.

Double Shot. Aqueduct. Second Race. The 6-year-old is by Bourbon Courage out of Elegant Finish.

Brew Pub. Aqueduct. Third Race. The 5-year-old is by Street Sense out of Wonder Brew.

By the Numbers

5: Wins for jockey Manny Franco Friday at Aqueduct.

16: Reserved units of 300 offered in the Cheltenham Festival fan village, a cheap alternative to hotels. It has been cancelled.

39: Stakes scheduled for the 2023 meeting at Del Mar, worth a record-tying $8,275,000.

42: Graded stakes on Canada’s 2023 schedule after the annual review by the Jockey Club of Canada’s Graded Stakes Committee. The slate includes five Grade 1s – the E.P. Taylor, Woodbine Mile, Natalma, Canadian International and Summer Stakes. The Canadian International returns after a brief hiatus.

1,999: Career wins for trainer Tony Dutrow. He has three horses entered at Tampa Bay Downs Saturday

Worth Repeating

“There are not a lot of opportunities for Harry’s Bar in Ireland at this time of the year and he is a real all-weather specialist, so we have to travel. In fairness, Wolverhampton is not that far from me. It is three and a bit hours of driving plus a boat trip, so it is not too bad. The horse is in great order.”
Trainer Ado McGuinness on Harry’s Bar, one of his two runners in the Spreadex Sports Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton

“It’s falling in there pretty nice. It’s the first major one that has the significance in a lot of ways. It’s got a good purse, which at this time of the year is attractive, and then it gives everybody a chance to see where they’re at against the very best. The only one that’s missing, probably, is Nest.”
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas about Secret Oath’s 4-year-old debut in the Azeri at Oaklawn Park

As for the racing…

Auteuil. Race 4. 7:58 a.m. Looking for graded steeplechase action? Here’s the Grade 3 Duc D’Anjou Chase for 4-year-olds. Goliath Du Rheu rates a long look at 3/2.

Sandown. Race 1. 8:15. Always a strong pre-Cheltenham card, Sandown serves up seven intriguing races that slide between the columns of next week’s spectacle. Juvenile hurdlers kick it off.

Sandown. Race 2. 8:50. Seventeen novice hurdlers rumble in the $96,000 EBH NH Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final. Consistently a strong race, this year’s version is a puzzler.

Sandown. Race 3. 9:25. Metier, 11/2 in the Supreme at Cheltenham in 2021, carries 168, co-highweight, in the Imperial Cup. Look low and find the winner in another captivating renewal. Bonus if you win next week.

Wolverhampton. Race 4. 9:40. Angel Bleu drops from Grade 1 sizzlers to the Lady Wulfruna Stakes.

Sandown. Race 4. 10:00. Nine mares line up for a listed bumper opportunity.

Navan. Race 4. 10:25. Any Second Now, second in last year’s Grand National, preps for this year’s running, in the Grade 2 Webster Chase. Busselton shakes off a brief freshening for Joseph O’Brien.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 11:55. Derby Day card starts with $8,000 claimer going 6 furlongs.

Tampa. Race 7 3:02. The $75,000 Columbia leads off the stakes slate. Freedom Trail looked good winning the Awad last fall on the grass and returns to the surface for trainer John Terranova here. Mo Stash makes his first start since finishing fourth, beaten just 3 lengths, in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Tampa. Race 8. 3:33. Skippylongstocking, seventh without much of an excuse in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup, ships from Palm Meadows for the Grade 3 Michelob Ultra Challenger to face Classic Causeway, Tax, Business Model, Trademark and others.

Tampa. Race 9. 4:04. Fillies and mares take their turn in the Grade 2 Hillsborough going 9 furlongs on the grass. Is there another Bleecker Street in this bunch?

Gulfstream Park. Race 8. 4:07. Frank’s Rockette blasted the field in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl last time and takes on another group of fillies and mares in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. Interesting group also features multiple stakes-placed Colorful Mischief and Drifaros, who rides four-race win streak for local connections.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:27. We’ll pull for our old friend and New York-bred stakes winner Shipsational, second last time out, in 1-mile allowance.

Tampa. Race 10. 4:45. Free Look makes first start since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in the Grade 2 Florida Oaks, which also draws Alpha Bella, Allamericanbeauty, Navy Goat and Dreaming Of Snow.

Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 4:50. Barber Road hasn’t come back quite the same as his 3-year-old season and takes fourth swing of the season in 9-furlong allowance worth $104,000.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 4:56. Rossa Veloce makes stakes debut as heavy favorite in the $100,000 Correction. She’s won three of four since being claimed for $32,000 and takes on fellow New York-bred Secret Love, Prodigy Doll, Fouette, Easy To Bless and others in 6-furlong stakes.

Tampa. Race 11. 5:15. Tapit Trice takes his turn and looks for Kentucky Derby points in the featured Grade 3 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, which also lures the 2-3-4 finishers from the Sam F. Davis in Groveland, Classic Car Wash and Classic Legacy. Tapit Trice won his second straight last time in runaway style at Gulfstream and makes his stakes debut along with stablemate Shesterkin.

Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 5:29. Forbidden Kingdom looks tough in the Grade 2 San Carlos presented by FanDuel. Second last time out in the Grade 1 Malibu, 4-year-old son of American Pharoah takes on Get Her Number shortening up and Spirit Of Makena stepping up.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:35. The co-featured $100,000 Captiva Island for fillies and mares on the grass.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 5:54. Race of the winter with last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath and multiple Grade 1 winner and Breeders’ Cup Distaff third Clairiere looming large in the Grade 2 Azeri.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 6:27. Chop Chop returns to the grass after disappointing in her last three in the $75,000 Allen Black Cat Lacombe Memorial. Daughter of City Of Light started her career on the turf and won back-to-back starts.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:59. Steve Asmussen keeps Pauline’s Pearl away from stablemate Clairiere and Brad Cox keeps A Mo Reay away from that one and Secret Oath in the Grade 1 Beholder Mile. Field of eight also includes Fun To Dream, winner of three stakes including the Grade 1 La Brea and Grade 2 Santa Monica.

Turfway Park. Race 7. 8:55. Candy Overload looks for second straight stakes win and third in last four starts in $125,000 Big Daddy Stakes.

One last thing, don’t forget to change those clocks. Spring ahead.