The Saturday Special – March 4

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The road rolls along – less than two weeks until Cheltenham and about two months until the Kentucky Derby – as this week’s Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud sets the stage for a monster afternoon in South Florida, a useful prep in New York and a smattering of other stakes around the country.

The day gets rolling early as always overseas, in Australia and Dubai followed by a full slate of jump races to get you in the mood for the March 14 opening of the Cheltenham Festival. The stars will be out at Gulfstream Park, particularly the 3-year-olds with eyes on the Derby in nine weeks’ time, and Aqueduct hosts the Grade 3 Gotham for the sophomores.

Here’s your primer for March 4, which for many years marked the day of the presidential inauguration. Good luck and enjoy.

Randwick. Race 7. 12:10 a.m. Saturday is Saturday. Just in case you’re coming in from a Friday night on the town, there’s action from Down Under. The Group 1 Girvan Waugh Guineas, worth $1 million, attracts sons of More Than Ready and Uncle Mo at the top of the market.

Flemington. Race 7. 12:30 a.m. Still going strong? Here’s the Australian Guineas, a Group 1 worth $750,000. Hey Doc looks like a winner to us.

Meydan. Race 1. 7:00. So, your choice was to stay up all night watching Australian racing and The Big Lebowski on HBO or catch a few hours of sleep. Surely, you picked the latter. Well, you should be rested for a strong card in Dubai, led off by this $250,000 listed stakes, which looks like a USA dirt race with sons of Hansen, Hard Spun, Speightstown, Archarcharch, Sky Mesa, Stormy Atlantic and other American-based stallions.

Meydan. Race 2. 7:35. Group 3 sprint keeps the fire stoked. The one and only Reynaldothewizard, at 11, seeks win No. 12. Remember when he ran in Saratoga? Find the quote about him in The Special and you’ll get a prize.

Meydan. Race 3. 8:10. Godolphin opens the valve here, sending out four to try to upend $5.3 million earner Postponed.

Meydan. Race 4. 8:45. Eight-year-old veteran Le Bernardin won the Al Maktoum Challenge in December. He takes on 12 rivals in this Group 3 stakes.

Newbury. Race 2. 9:05. One of the better initiatives we’ve seen in a while is the creation of the veteran chase series in Britain. Restricted to horses 10 years old and up, rated 0-150. Count on stellar jumping and close finishes. Old friends Rocky Creek, Just A Par, Harry Topper, Katenko, Shotavodka and others clash – it’s like walking into Cheers and seeing Cliff and Norm on the corner stools.

Meydan. Race 5. 9:20. Jungle Cat sparred in the King’s Stand, July Cup and King George this summer. This is not the King’s Stand, July Cup or King George.

Newbury. Race 3. 9:40. Veteran Melodic Rendezvous tried hard against Yanworth two weeks ago. He’s back for more, carrying top weight and facing Cheltenham third Bloody Mary as she makes her seasonal reappearance in this handicap hurdle.

Meydan. Race 6. 9:55. The world’s favorite horse, Lani, returns in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge.

Doncaster. Race 3. 10:00. Lastbutnotleast and Happy Diva lead a competitive group of mares in this listed novice hurdle. 

Lingfield. Race 3. 10:10. Miss Mirabeau wins this. No price, quit complaining.

Newbury. Race 4. 10:15. Enjoy the last bastions of quality racing before the Cheltenham lull. The Grade 3 William Hill Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase attracts Vibrato Valtat and Oldgrangewood.

Kelso. Race 3. 10:25. The Kelso Novices’ Hurdle, a Grade 2, attracts just five but a strong five, led by Capitaine and Mount Mews.

Meydan. Race 7. 10:30. Decorated Knight has developed into a steady campaigner, winning three of his last four, including a prep at Lingfield in February. He should win the finale.

Doncaster. Race 4. 10:35. The Last Samuri, aiming at improving one place from his runner-up finish in last year’s Grand National, makes his 2017 debut in the Grimthorpe for Kim Bailey and David Bass.

Kelso. Race 4. 11:00. Tenor Nivernais put on a gallant display two weeks ago, he wheels back quickly for Venetia Williams and needs to turn back Le Mercurey.

Lingfield. Race 5. 11:20. The Spring Cup Stakes offers a decent purse of $55,000 for sprinters on the synthetic. American-bred High Acclaim looks strong.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. Best card of the year in South Florida – sorry Pegasus World Cup – gets underway with two-turn allowance for 3-year-olds. Always Dreaming could get himself into the classics picture with another good effort for Todd Pletcher off monster maiden score at Tampa.

Gulfstream. Race 2. 12:30. Sentry didn’t appear on Shug McGaughey’s Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer, so we don’t have much inside info beyond the colt’s pedigree. First-time starter by Smart Strike out of Danzig mare Gaze is full brother to graded stakes winner Air Support.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 1:00. Eastport was lost early and running well late in 7-furlong debut in late January. Malibu Moon colt makes second start and stretches out for Shug McGaughey, facing familiar foes in Borsa Vento and Blind Ambition.

Aqueduct. Race 1. 1:20. No earlier post as expected with only nine races on tap for Gotham Day. Opener is $25,000 claimer going 6 furlongs. Brewing makes first start off the claim and off nearly seven-month break for Charlton Baker.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:30. First stakes on the card, the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride for 3-year-old fillies on the grass. Coasted showed how good she was last year winning the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga and finishing late-running second in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. Daughter of Tizway makes 2017 debut for Leah Gyarmati and owner Jeff Treadway.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 2:00. Connections of Bird Song and Realm are undoubtedly pleased to not see Tommy Macho in Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper but they still must contend with Greenpointcrusader, War Story and Tale Of S’avall in 1-mile stakes.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:20. Genre, third in last year’s Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster and on the board in back-to-back graded stakes tries in South Florida, gets bit of class relief in $150,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational. Isabelle looks like main threat but must show same form in open company as she does in state-bred events.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:30. Heavyweights Catch A Glimpse and Celestine will give each other – and the other seven entered – all they can handle in $100,000 Sand Springs going 1 mile on the grass.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:01. Suffused puts run of consistency to the test again in $100,000 The Very One going 1 3/16 miles on the grass.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:32. Big field of 13 for 3-year-old maiden going 7 furlongs on the main track. Ten of them are first-time starters, including Caviar Czar for Pletcher, Myakka River for Shug, Timeline for Chad and Fayeq for Kiaran.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 7. 3:45. Jumby Bay exits back-to-back runner-up finishes in local stakes for Todd Pletcher while Teresa Z makes first start for Anthony Margotta after moving from Pletcher barn in 7-furlong allowance for 3-year-old fillies.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:03. Brad Cox ships Cowboy Culture in from New Orleans for Grade 3 Palm Beach. Son of Quality Road is 3-for-3, all at a mile on the grass, and brings Florent Geroux with him for 1 1/16-mile stakes test.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 4:20. Vorticity looked like colt with tremendous upside after finishing second in Grade 3 Jerome and Grade 3 Withers to start his 3-year-old campaign last year for Cal Lynch. An injury derailed son of Distorted Humor, who makes belated return in 6-furlong allowance against the likes of seasoned winter competitors Story To Tell, Alright Alright, Furyofthenorseman, El CHarro and Still Krz.

Tampa Bay. Race 8. 4:22. Turf-to-dirt for Upper Room as Harlan’s Holiday colt tries to break maiden for Arnaud Delacour, WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:34. How’s this for a stakes? Field of 14 3-year-old fillies, including Grade 1 winner Pretty City Dancer and Grade 2 winner Miss Sky Warrior, for Grade 2 Davona Dale. This one offers 50 points to the winner toward a spot in the Kentucky Oaks field.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 4:45. Freudie Anne and Dynazar were 1-2 in 1-mile turf allowance Feb. 4 and meet again at same course and trip. Problem is I’m A Chatterbox is also in the field as daughter of Munnings tries the turf for the first time. She won the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster last fall to earn return trip to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:50. First of two 85-point races, offering 50 to the winner and a $300,000 purse, is the Grade 3 Gotham. El Areeb whipped a few of these in Grade 3 Jerome and Grade 3 Withers but didn’t scare everyone off as nine others line up for 1 1/16-mile test. That group includes Southern California shipper So Conflated, the 2-for-2 Action Everyday for Todd Pletcher and Apartfromthecrowd and Cloud Computing for Chad Brown.

Tampa Bay. Race 9. 4:53. Bill Mott adds blinkers for Realism after decent effort off the bench. Daughter of First Defence looks good in 1-mile turf maiden, although Secede will undoubtedly run better in second start off freshening for Christophe Clement.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:05. Heart To Heart suffered first loss in four starts on local course last time and looks to make amends in Grade 3 Canadian Turf.

Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 5:09. Rockshaw looked sharp in allowance prep for $125,000 Gazebo, which attracts seven other 3-year-olds with eyes on top sophomore sprints down the road. Doug O’Neill ships Artistocratic in from California while Prados Way and Laughingsaintssong look to show the Space City as Sam Houston was a useful prep.

Hawthorne Race Course. Race 1. 5:10. Live racing returned to the Chicago area Friday and the first Saturday card of the 2017 season gets rolling with a $5,000 claimer. Do we have a pick? Of course, Diminishing Return.

Tampa Bay. Race 10. 5:24. Cause Ioya, Illinois-bred daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of graded stakes winner Ioya Two, shortens up and comes off layoff for Team Block in 1 1/16-mile turf allowance for older fillies and mares. She won at the trip back in August then faced tougher in back-to-back starts.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:35. Mike Maker looks loaded in Grade 2 Mac Diarmida, sending out Charming Kitten, Bigger Picture and Taghleeb in 11-furlong turf test. Plenty of other major players in here, too, with Wake Forest and Mr Maybe representing Chad Brown and Patterson Cross for Bill Mott.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Fantastic Style ships in for Doug O’Neill and Kaleem Shah after trying champion and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Finest City last time out in Grade 2 Santa Monica. She looks tough in $125,000 Spring Fever against Kathballu, Marquee Miss and others.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 5:49. Older state-breds go 1 mile on the grass in $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace. Trust Factor is 2-for-3 on the course, albeit in the allowance ranks, but might be good enough stepping up a bit.

Santa Anita Park. Race 6. 6:00. Unique Bella whipped fellow 3-year-old fillies in back-to-back graded stakes attempts and predictable rallying cry called for her connections to take on males. Why? She can continue to make quick work in her division, although the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel might not be as easy with Grade 1 winners Abel Tasman and Noted And Quoted in the field.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 6:05. Irish War Cry snuck up on the field in Grade 2 Holy Bull but most likely won’t get it so easy this time in Grade 2 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth. New Jersey-bred son of Curlin faces 10 other classic hopefuls, including Holy Bull runner-up Gunnevera, two-time Grade 1-winning juvenile Practical Joke and Grade 2 turf stakes winner Made You Look.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:30. Remember Danzing Candy? Last seen in the Grade 3 Affirmed in July, son of Twirling Candy finished 15th after setting swift pace as expected in last year’s Kentucky Derby. He tries the turf in $75,000 Joe Hernandez going down the hill.

Hawthorne. Race 4. 6:40. Go Beeja will appreciate the drop in class after decent back-to-back tries in South Florida for Larry Rivelli.

Turfway Park. Race 6. 8:40. No points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby but the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial will no doubt determine a few starters for the Spiral in three weeks’ time. A dozen line up, including WEBN winner En Hanse, It’s Your Nickel and Hot Dad. Mike Maker trains two of those – En Hanse and Hot Dad – along with Hunka Burning Love and Gorgeous Kitten, and he’s got Prince Hansen on the also-eligible list.

Turfway. Race 7. 9:09. Secretariat Humor is 2-for-2 on American synthetics since coming over from France last year. Daughter of Distorted Humor once brought more than $800,000 at a breeze-up sale in Europe and she runs for $24,300 in this 6-furlong allowance.

Turfway. Race 8. 9:38. Shezappealing treks north from Keeneland’s Rice Road complex and her debut going 1 mile on the Poly for Charlie LoPresti.