The Saturday Special – March 18

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Another memorable Cheltenham Festival in the books, St. Patrick’s Day come and gone and an overload of college basketball the last two days present the perfect opportunity to shift attention a bit and soak in some quality racing from here in the U.S. Oaklawn Park and the Rebel Stakes take center stage this week and we’ve got the whole card covered in The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

Oaklawn is far from the only show though, with graded stakes at Santa Anita and Guflstream, an interesting 3-year-old race topping a five-stakes card at Laurel and plenty more from coast to coast.

There is action overseas – jumpers at Kempton, Fontwell, Uttoxeter, Newcastle and Limerick and flat racing at Wolverhampton – but we skipped it this week after gorging on Cheltenham. Check back next week and we’ll have a full slate. And we’ll have all the action from Meydan and the Dubai World Cup.

Here’s your primer for the third of four Saturdays in March. Enjoy and good luck.

Gulfstream Park. Race 4. 2:05 p.m. Nobody wants to go 9 furlongs on the grass? Allowance for older fillies and mares attracts only seven; perhaps My Girl Corey scared them off.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:20. Classy Class tried graded sprint company in last two starts and returns to allowance ranks for 6-furlong tilt that draws just four others.

Oaklawn Park. Race 2. 2:38. Connections of several in this two-turn allowance flirted with notion they might be classics contenders with recent stakes tries. Back to more realistic spot but it isn’t an easy one. Totality looks better than his 10th in the Grade 3 Lecomte so we’ll give him another shot.

Aqueduct. Race 5. 3:20. Portfolio Manager, third in the 2015 Champagne as a maiden, broke his maiden in late November and makes first try against winners going 6 furlongs.

Parx Racing. Race 8. 4:04. Here’s something you don’t see every day, or at every track. Siralfredthegreat makes first start since Sept. 14, 2014, without a trainer or owner change, and with a steady string of works.

Laurel Park. Race 7. 4:10. The stakes action gets underway with state-bred fillies and mares in $75,000 Conniver. The last time Bawlmer Hon faced Maryland-breds she won an allowance race in late November by 10 1/2 lengths.

Oaklawn. Race 5. 4:14. Field of eight 3-year-old fillies for 1-mile maiden. What A Star ran well in debut, finishing 3 1/2 clear of Sameeha in late January debut, and after the latter came back and ran well again that effort looked even better. Graduation time for daughter of Line Of David.

Laurel. Race 8. 4:40. Sonny Inspired returns to Maryland, after winning at Charles Town last time, for $75,000 Not For Love.

Oaklawn. Race 6. 4:45. Gary Stevens is back – did you see him win last Saturday aboard Shehastheritestuff at Santa Anita? – and he rides Love That Lute for Jack Van Berg in this 3-year-old allowance going 1 mile.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:50. Hot City Girl gave her connections reason to stay in training with victory over state-breds last time in Broadway. Daughter of City Zip returns to open company ranks in $125,000 Correction and she meets a few tough foes in Clothes Fall Off, Disco Chick and Kalabaka.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 5:08. We’re curious if King Power is named for Leicester City’s ground, the Thai retail group or something else entirely. Son of To Honor And Serve makes debut in 6-furlong maiden that also draws entries from barns of Eddie Kenneally (Burgameister), Michael Matz (Winter Union), Todd Pletcher (Tolstoy) and Mark Casse (Souper Wish).

Laurel. Race 9. 5:10. Twisted Tom, New York-bred son of Creative Cause who won last time at Aqueduct, ships down to take on locally based sophomores in $100,000 Private Terms. O Dionysis carries the flag for Maryland, off 3-length score in Miracle Wood.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 5:21. Terra Promessa is a win machine in Hot Springs, compiling a 5-for-5 mark that includes four stakes. She’s the standout in Grade 2 Azeri, which didn’t draw any shippers from California and only two from out of town in Eskenformoney (from Florida) and Power Of Snunner (from Louisiana).

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:39. One of the three graded stakes for older females on the same day – the Grade 2 Inside Information is at least a sprint going 7 furlongs. Curlin’s Approval had her way with opposition in last two starts, victories in Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie going 7 furlongs and Grade 2 Royal Delta going two turns. She shortens back up and looks tough again.

Laurel. Race 10. 5:40. The 3-year-old fillies take their turn in $100,000 Caesar’s Wish. The popular Crabcakes tries to get back on track after losing to Kentucky shipper in Wide Country last time, while Jenda’s Agenda ships in for Larry Jones off two nice wins at Fair Grounds. Don’t count out debut maiden winner Tickled Pink or Shacklefords Lady either, she’s 2-for-2 at Penn National.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:53. Insurgent ran well in first two starts, both around two turns like this 1-mile and 70-yard maiden, before getting freshening after the Churchill meet. One of two for Steve Asmussen, along with La Maquina Gris. Brendan Walsh looks to continue good meet with Multiplier.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:57. What happened to the grade for the Essex Handicap? A longtime graded stakes, this year’s edition isn’t officially but it’s got a graded-stakes caliber field. Grade 1 winner Mor Spirit ships in from California for Bob Baffert off good second in Grade 2 San Antonio, Dazzling Gem comes from Brad Cox’s string at Fair Grounds and Grade 2 winner Madefromlucky represents Todd Pletcher and looks to give Cheyenne Stables a bit of a lift after the loss of Mastery from the Triple Crown trail last week.

Laurel. Race 11. 6:10. Love the time change. Last week everything would have been finished in Maryland, but not this week with the $75,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial closing the card. Matt King Coal shipped down from New York for Linda Rice in mid-February to win allowance and looks to make it two in a row. Same for Bodhisattva, upset winner of the John B. Campbell.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 6:23. Brad Cox, atop the trainer standings as the meet starts to wind down, drops King’s Ghost in for $40,000 off more than eight months off in 1-mile allowance-optional.

Santa Anita Park. Race 7. 6:30. Cal-bred fillies and mares go 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill in $100,000 Irish O’Brien. Enola Gray is 2-for-2 on the course and 5-for-6 against Cal-breds.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 6:45. Coniah’s last three starts came in Grade 2 Raven Run, $300,000 Zia Park Oaks and Grade 1 La Brea, for three trainers. She’s with Bill Morey now and is the one to beat in $50,000 Camilla Urso going 6 furlongs.

Oaklawn. Race 10. 7:06. One could argue the Grade 2 Rebel is the best Kentucky Derby prep of the year so far. Petrov, Lookin At Lee and Uncontested lead the local contingent against top West Coast shippers American Anthem, second in the Grade 3 Sham in just his second start; and Royal Mo, winner of Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis for John Shirreffs last time out. And don’t forget Malagacy, all he’s done is win his two starts for Todd Pletcher by combined 22 lengths. Who’s the pick? Tough to go against Bob Baffert on the ship to Oaklawn, so it’s American Anthem.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:30. Vale Dori rides four-race win streak, three of those victories in Grade 2 stakes, into the Grade 1 Santa Margarita. Finest City, champion female sprinter and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint last year, stretches out to two turns for the first time on the main track off stylish comeback victory in Grade 2 Santa Monica. Looks like it’s between those two.