The Saturday Special – March 28

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Tip of the cap to the people keeping the game rolling along during these supremely trying times. Regardless of whether it should or shouldn’t be going on – we’ll leave those decisions to folks more in the know – the show goes on and it’s Florida Derby Day in South Florida.

The $1 million Florida Derby, which would have served as a final prep for many looking at the Kentucky Derby before it was rescheduled to early September, headlines a stellar card at Gulfstream Park to keep you busy while holed up at home. The Gulfstream card would have followed the rich Dubai World Cup program until that event was scrapped for 2020 due to the ongoing worldwide coronavirus crisis.

Racing fans can catch the Florida Derby and some of the undercard action during TVG’s “Trackside Live” program that will also appear from 4-8 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network.

Additional live racing will air Saturday and Sunday on the “America’s Day at the Races” program presented by America’s Best Racing and produced by NYRA from 1:30 to 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports1 Saturday.

Spoiler alert, shameless plug forthcoming. Racing fans can also listen to “The Winner’s Circle,” America’s Best Racing’s podcast presented by NYRA Bets this week with special guest Tom Law, managing editor of The Saratoga Special, This Is Horse Racing and ST Publishing. The podcast airs at 10 a.m. ET Saturdays on SB Nation Radio and also can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

But back to the action. The slate is a lot lighter than usual with Aqueduct, Camden (steeplechase meet), Fair Grounds, Fairmount Park, Charles Town Races, Laurel Park, Mahoning Valley, Parx Racing, Penn National Race Course, Sam Houston Race Park, Santa Anita Park, Sunland Park, Turf Paradise and Turfway Park all canceled for Saturday and the indefinite future. Santa Anita’s decision came Friday afternoon, just before the eight-race card was set to begin. 

A statement from the track said, “In accordance with instructions received from Los Angeles County Health Department, Santa Anita Park will temporarily close for live racing effective immediately in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We apologize for the late notice affecting (Friday’s) racing program, but Santa Anita is abiding by the instructions issued this morning by the California Horse Racing Board to operate under the sanction of the local health authorities.” 

That leaves Gulfstream, Golden Gate, Oaklawn and Tampa.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, March 28. Please be safe and healthy.

Sha Tin. Race 9. 5:15 a.m. For all you hunch players out there and in deference to one of the all-time greats of our game, bet Cot Campbell here. The 6-year-old son of Trippi is winless in 10 starts but managed a fourth in his most recent start.

Sha Tin. Race 10. 5:50. Just in case you can’t sleep during self-isolation, the Sha Tin card starts at 12:45 a.m. and finishes here with the feature. Transcendent looks strong to us.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 11:30. Two-turn turf allowance for fillies and mares opens the Florida Derby Day card.

Gulfstream. Race 2. Noon. Top Speed looked good winning belated debut last month and looks to take next step in 7-furlong optional for Phipps Stable and Shug McGaughey.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:20 p.m. Two-turn maiden claimer starts the “other” Saturday card in Florida.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:30. Seattle Seahawks fans take note, Largent looms large in two-turn turf optional for Todd Pletcher.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:00. First stakes of the day, the $100,000 Cutler Bay at 1 mile on the grass for 3-year-olds. How about the Summer Front colt Summer To Remember, if for no other reason that we’re hoping for just that in a few months. Vitalogy is one to beat though, off sharp comeback win in the Grade 3 Palm Beach last time.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:30. Network Effect, off since no-factor eighth in Grade 1 Cigar Mile in December, returns in 7-furlong optional that also marks comeback for Intrepid Heart.

Tampa. Race 4. 1:50. Christophe Clement (Malibeauty) and Graham Motion (Perfectcombination) send out first-time starters in 6-furlong maiden for fillies and mares.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:00. Field of 11 for the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope. Realm could start monster day for Barclay Tagg but he’s in the mix against the likes of You’re To Blame, American Tattoo, Harvey Wallbanger and fan favorite Bodexpress.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:30. The 3-year-old fillies take their turn in $100,000 Sanibel Island at 1 mile on the grass. Cheermeister won pair of graded stakes on the way to this spot and looks like the one to beat.

Tampa. Race 6. 2:52. The 3-year-old maidens on the grass are always tough at Tampa. Here’s one for $20,000 with runners for Godolphin and Michael Stidham (Fit For A King), Patricia Generazio and Luis Carvajal Jr. (Craycapade), Newtown Anner Stud and Kelsey Danner (Sunsation), Robert LaPenta and Bridlewood Farm and Jonathan Thomas (Doubly Blessed), Wimborne Farm and Ignacio Correas (Safe And Sound) and Jump Sucker Stable, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider and Christophe Clement (Vicarage).

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:00. Last year’s Toyota Blue Grass winner Vekoma makes his return in $75,000 Sir Shackleton. Off since finishing 12th – moved up a spot of course – in the Kentucky Derby, son of Candy Ride meets Jackson, Last Judgment, Home Base, He Hate Me and Bourbon Resolution in 7-furlong stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:34. Back to the grass for the $100,000 Sand Springs. Newspaperofrecord, unbeatable at 2 and super beatable at 3 with three defeats as the chalk, makes belated return in 1-mile stakes. She’s never raced at Gulfstream and will need a new rider with Irad Ortiz Jr. taking time away and Javier Castellano going to the sidelines this week with a positive test for Covid-19.

Tampa. Race 8. 3:55. Thirteen entered for 1 3/8-mile starter allowance on the grass, yes 13.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:17. Fillies and mares go long in $75,00 Orchid Stakes presented by Rood and Riddle. Who will like the 11 furlongs the best? Gentle Ruler and Mean Mary have already shown to like it, along with Elizabeth Way.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 3. 4:47. Zimba Warrior ships north from Desormeaux brothers Keith and Kent off sixth in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis and a t hird in the Grade 3 Sham in last two starts. Florida-bred son of Khozan heads field of five for 6-furlong optional.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:49. Tonalist’s Shape puts 5-for-5 mark on the line in first start around two turns in the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks. Daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist has progressed from 5 1/2, 6 1/2, 7 and 8 furlongs along the way but will get a test in here from Spice Is Nice, Lake Avenue and Lucrezia.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:26. Time to go long again on the grass here in the Grade 2 Kitten’s Joy Pan American. Zulu Alpha, 3-5 on the morning line off back-to-back wins in South Florida, takes on a few usual suspects in Channel Cat and Focus Group along with Bemma’s Boy and Galleon Mast in 1 1/2-mile stakes.

Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 5:34. Comical won the Grade 3 Schuylerville way back on Opening Day of last year’s Saratoga meet then ran at Del Mar and Santa Anita in graded stakes before changing barns and finishing fourth for Steve Asmussen in the $100,000 Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs. Daughter of Into Mischief ships from Fair Grounds for 1 1/16-mile allowance that also attracts stablemate Magic Dance, Getridofwhatailesu and Ready Orb Not.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 6:00. Here’s one for the current state of affairs – Social Paranoia in the Grade 3 Appleton.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:08. Just when the country need something it can count on, here’s the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes for older Arkansas-breds. Hoonani Road won it last year and returns to defend crown and Bandit Point and K J’s Nobility, winner of two local key preps.

Gulfstream. Race 14. 6:36. The featured Grade 1 Curlin Florida Derby, formerly a final prep for the Kentucky Derby and most likely now just a guaranteed berth with more than five months to go until the rescheduled Louisville classic. If Tiz The Law can run back to his win in Grade 3 Holy Bull last month it’s light out for this bunch, but anything less could equate to a win for Gouverneur Morris, Independence Hall or Ete Indian depending how the race shakes out.

Golden Gate. Race 8. 7:16. Who doesn’t need a little Wine And Whiskey given the current state of the world? It certainly won’t help the pandemic but could make it more bearable at home with the family. Not that we’re encouraging anything. Oh, and Wine And Whiskey is also one of seven entered in featured 1 1/16-mile optional on the synthetic.