The Saturday Special – March 17

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March Madness in full effect this week with a pair of Kentucky Derby preps, a Grade 1 in Southern California and a two-turn test for a Maryland-based colt who might wind up in the classics tops this week’s edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

Oh, and that other version of the madness with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in full swing, with upsets marking the opening round and a big weekend ahead.

The focus of our attention as always this St. Patrick’s Day is on the racetrack and not necessarily the hardwood – despite another potential Sweet 16 appearance for the Kentucky Wildcats – and the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park and Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park the key races of the weekend. That wasn’t a typo either, that’s the new name of the race known long ago as the Jim Beam Stakes and more recently as the Spiral.

The action overseas is significantly lighter with Cheltenham closing another memorable Festival Friday and just a smattering of jump and all-weather meetings.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, March 17. Good luck.

Turfway Park. Race 1. 1:10 p.m. Biggest day in Northern Kentucky – a little earlier on the calendar than usual – starts with 1-mile allowance in front of the crowd. Good move.

Aqueduct. Race 2. 1:50. Go Get The Munny won by 7 1/4 in debut Feb. 1, Gleason won by 5 1/2 doing the same Jan. 20. They’re standouts in this 1-mile allowance.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 2:05. Rebel Day starts with $84,000 allowance going 1 1/16 miles. Torrent, third last time in Grade 3 Bayakoa, probably could go in Azeri later in the day but Ron Moquett opts for this spot instead and runs into the 3-for-4 Jenda’s Agenda for Larry Jones.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:21. Todd Pletcher unveils Creative Princess, daughter of Uncle Mo who cost $160,000 at Keeneland September in 2016, for Mike Repole in 1-mile maiden for 3-year-old fillies.

Fair Grounds. Race 3. 3:03. Silla Manila comes off freshening for Tom Proctor in 5 1/2-furlong turf maiden. Daughter of Majesticperfection finished a good fourth in similar spot on yielding ground last September at Kentucky Downs. Lynah Rink and firster Sirenusa should also factor.

Laurel Park. Race 5. 3:10. Mike Trombetta entered two first-timers – Our Anthem and No Trespassing – for Live Oak in 6-furlong maiden. Good field also includes Piece Of Candy for Brittany Trimble, More Better for Jason Egan and Tapriella for Tim Keefe.

Aqueduct. Race 5. 3:23. Frostie Anne and Cotton Candy Cutie are strong entry for Rudy Rodriguez in 1-mile state-bred allowance.

Gulfstream Park. Race 8. 3:31. Big price tags for the first four inside posts in 6 1/2-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds – Central Command ($575,000), Scrapper ($600,000), Candygram ($300,000), First Commander ($475,000).

Turfway. Race 6. 3:33. The first stakes of the day is $75,000 Latonia for fillies and mares. Out-of-towners dominate the entries with Mark Casse (Alpine Sky), Jimmy Jerkens (Bombshell), Larry Jones (Proud And Fearless) and Gary Contessa (Inconclusive) among the field of 12.

Laurel. Race 6. 3:40. My Magician goes for fifth stakes victory against eight Maryland-breds in $75,000 Conniver going 7 furlongs.

Oaklawn. Race 4. 3:43. Twist Off, Animus and Into My Dreams look like the type that might be stuck in the maiden ranks for a while. Which will escape in this 9-furlong test?

Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:54. Irish Creed. It’s St. Patrick’s Day isn’t it?

Santa Anita Park. Race 3. 4:00. State-bred turf sprint specialists line up for $100,000 Irish O’Brien going down the hill.

Turfway. Race 7. 4:04. Three-year-olds not quite ready for the prime time go in $75,000 Rushaway, 1 1/16-mile stakes that produced such winners as Yankee Victor, Brass Hat and High Cotton through the years. Oskar Blues surprised in debut at Saratoga, winning at 33-1, then lost three straight to end the year. He’s set for 3-year-old debut from good rail post.

Laurel. Race 7. 4:10. Jose Corrales said he felt like Bob Baffert after saddling Something Awesome to victory in the snow during the Winter Carnival last month. He looks to do an impersonation of some other Hall of Famers when he tries to stretch out some of Awesome Again from 7 furlongs to 9 furlongs in the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:33. Bonner Young’s homebred Ghostzapper gelding Blacksburg, who Barclay Tagg said was “going to be a very nice horse” in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer, makes debut in 7 ½-furlong turf maiden.

Turfway. Race 8. 4:38. The $100,000 Kentucky Cup Classic returns to the circuit after a brief hiatus. Fast And Accurate won the Grade 3 Spiral last year to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby field. He’s won two of four at Turfway but most overcome post 10. Strong group also includes his stablemates Camelot Kitten and Designed For War, and Royal Son, Senior Investment, Chip Leader and The Truth Or Else.

Laurel. Race 8. 4:40. Limited View, the winner of four of six last year and her only start this year in Marshua in late January, makes return in 1-mile Beyond The Wire. One-mile stakes also draws Mo Shopping, Smokinpaddylassie and Fools Gold.

Oaklawn. Race 6. 4:46. South Beach ran to his price tag – $1.8 million – winning belated debut as the favorite last month. That win came at 6 furlongs and son of Tapit stretches out to 1 1/16 miles in this allowance that also draws Powerful Ally and Chris And Dave.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:56. Quezon missed a chance to run in Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie and connections opted to keep her in training for a bit more before heading to the breeding shed. She’ll be tough in the $100,000 Correction against Startwithsilver, Sounds Delicious, Spice Lady and Nisha.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:04. Jordan’s Henny, who upset the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie at 59-1, looks to add the Grade 2 Inside Information to her resume that includes good runs last winter in Grade 2 Davona Dale and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. Rich Mommy and Moonlit Promise, third and fourth in Hurricane Bertie, are back for another try.

Laurel. Race 9. 5:10. Field of 10 Maryland-breds for $75,000 Not For Love includes Lewisfield, Struth, It’s The Journey and John Jones.

Turfway. Race 9. 5:14. Bet She Wins, winner of Arlington-Washington Lassie on synthetic last September at Arlington Park and sixth at 5-1 in Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades, makes return in $100,000 DRF Bets Bourbonette. Grade 3 stakes offers 20 points to the winner for a spot in the Kentucky Oaks field and also includes California Oaks winner Consolida.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 5:18. Mitole looks to bounce back from defeat at odds-on in Gazebo Stakes last time in 6-furlong allowance.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:35. Solid field for 6-furlong allowance includes familiar names Forevamo and Fish Trappe Road.

Laurel. Race 10. 5:40. Still Having Fun won going 6, 7 and 8 furlongs. Now he looks to go two turns and 1 1/16 miles for the first time in $100,000 Private Terms. Familiar and new faces dot the field, including Whirlin Curlin, Diamond King, Bal Harbour and California Night.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:55. The $300,000 Essex Handicap isn’t graded this year but it attracts a graded-quality field led by Dazzling Gem, Hedge Fund, Untrapped and Multiplier.

Turfway. Race 10. 6:00. The newly named $200,000 Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks goes through Todd Pletcher with Pony Up, who tried dirt last time and returns to more favorable surface; and Hazit, son of War Front who is 2-for-4 and set for synthetic debut. Field of 12 also includes Ride A Comet, Blended Citizen, Mugaritz, Archaggelos and Magicalmeister.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:03. Inveniam Viam returns to state-bred ranks and takes on 10 other fillies and mares in $60,000 Red Camelia going 1 mile on the grass. She won her last two against Louisiana-breds before back-to-back tries against open company for Brad Cox.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 6:15. Jeff Mullins ships Symposium north for $50,000 Camilla Urso. Daughter of Exceed And Excel won going 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill the last time she raced, back in June.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:30. Heck Yeah, 3-for-3 against Cal-breds, takes on open stakes winner Pubilius Syrus, stablemate Ax Man, Inscom, River Boyne and others in $200,000 Pasadena going 1 mile on the grass.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:32. The last serious prep for the Grade 1 Apple Blossom is the Grade 2 Azeri, which features the first two from the Bayakoa in Streamline and Terra Promessa, Grade 2 winner Actress and graded winners Farrell, Tiger Moth, Martini Glass and Blue Prize. Good race.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:00. Mopotism looks to take advantage of absence of Unique Bella in Grade 1 Santa Margarita. Daughter of Uncle Mo doesn’t win much – only three times in 16 starts – but she dances all the big dances in Grade 1 Alabama, Cotillion, Breeders’ Cup Distaff and La Brea. Strong field also includes Fault, La Force, Mended, Majestic Heat and Bishop’s Pond.

Turfway. Race 12. 7:07. Don’t dash off just yet for a 3-way at Skyline; finale is 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies. Alter Issues should win for Mike Maker and Three Diamonds Farm.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 7:09. The featured Grade 2 Rebel offers a big purse of $900,000 and 50 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. A good field is set, including Solomini from Bob Baffert’s powerful California string, Magnum Moon from Todd Pletcher’s Florida contingent and Curlin’s Honor from Mark Casse’s group in New Orleans. Don’t count out the locals either, with Hopeful winner Sporting Chance, Combatant and Title Ready leading the charge.