The Saturday Special – March 7

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A 29-minute stretch Saturday could significantly shake up the complexion of the Kentucky Derby field with three key preps for the May 2 classic on tap to highlight a busy day of racing amidst growing worldwide concern over the Coronavirus.

The outbreak hasn’t caused any disruption of racing here in the U.S. but Meydan Racecourse in Dubai will run its Super Saturday card, which includes several preps for the Dubai World Cup program later this month, without spectators. Other tracks around the world, including those in South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and France, have staged meetings without on-track crowds. The Cheltenham Festival, always a highlight for our team and jump racing fans worldwide, will run as usual next week in England.

But back to things here in the U.S. The three Derby preps –Tampa Bay Derby, Gotham and San Felipe – offer plenty of points toward a spot in the starting gate in Louisville May 2 and feature plenty of players for the spring classics. They also headline strong cards at their respective tracks on a day that also features the Big ‘Cap, Kilroe Mile and more.

We’ve done the homework and present the primer for Saturday, March 7. Here you go, good luck.

Meydan Racecourse. Race 1. 7:00 a.m. Overflow field of 3-year-olds for $300,000 Al Bastikiya at 1 3/16 miles. Several from the UAE Two Thousand Guineas land in this spot and avoid Fore Left.

Meydan. Race 2. 7:35. Another large field for Group 3 Mahab al Shimaal, a 6-furlong prep for the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Doug O’Neill shortens up with Fight On, fourth to Gift Box back in December in the Grade 2 San Antonio at Santa Anita Park. Son of Into Mischief didn’t make impression in first three Dubai starts.

Meydan. Race 3. 8:10. Space Blues, placed in two Group 1 turf sprints last summer at Deauville, looks like a standout for the Group 3 Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint. Doug O’Neill tries to get a piece of the $300,000 purse with the entry of ex-claimers Torosay and Wildman Jack.

Meydan. Race 4. 8:45. Tough group to sort in the Grade 3 Burf Nahaar, a 1-mile stakes worth $350,000.

Meydan. Race 5. 9:20. Godolphin holds strong hand in Group 1 Jebel Hatta at 9 furlongs on the turf, led by Barney Roy and Dream Castle.

Wolverhampton. Race 3. 9:45. Urban Icon gets back to work in the Bombardier Lady Wulfruna Stakes. The son of Cityscape kept high class last season, placing in a Group 3 stakes in April.

Meydan. Race 6. 9:55. Final serious prep for the Dubai World Cup for those that didn’t venture to the Saudi Cup, the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 brings together Round 2 runner-up Military Law, ex-American runner Quip, Matterhorn and Desert Fire.

Meydan. Race 7. 10:30. Group 1 winner Defoe and multiple group stakes winner Desert Encounter line up side by side from the inside in Group 2 Dubai City of Gold going 12 furlongs on the grass.

Ayr. Race 5. 11:15. The champion jockey race goes through Ayr. With the cancellation of the Imperial Cup card at Sandown, Brian Hughes and Richard Johnson wind up at Ayr with the duo squaring off for the first time in this handicap hurdle. Hughes Picks up a spare on veteran Top Billing while Johnson meets Aero Majestic for the far-flung net of Irish-based Gordon Elliott. The jump jockey’s life can’t be summed up better than this, here are the two champion protagonists, with Cheltenham looming, hammering their planks for shares of the $8,500 purse.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. Noon. Cleverly named Seize The Hay, a Kentucky-bred son of Carpe Diem, makes debut in 9-furlong turf maiden for Todd Pletcher.

Gowran Park. Race 6. 12:10 p.m. Aloneamongmillions has been aloneamongrivals in four point-to-point wins, he makes his National Hunt debut here for the ever-strong Derek O’Connor, who you’ll see next week at Cheltenham.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 1. 12:15. Tampa Bay Derby Day starts with two-turn optional on the main track.

Gowran Park. Race 7. 12:40. Coqolino makes his debut for Gordon Elliott and J.P. McManus, fresh out of a 12-length romp in a December point-to-point.

Tampa. Race 2. 12:48. J P’s Delight lost for the first time in the Grade 2 Inside Information and drops into better spot here in 7-furlong handicap worth $40,000.

Mahoning Valley Race Course. Race 3. 1:10. Try Try Again does just that in start No. 9, 6-furlong open-company maiden.

Tampa. Race 3. 1:18. Turf maidens always draw a crowd and this 1-mile event for 3-year-old fillies follows suit.

Aqueduct. Race 1. 1:30. Sure signs of (almost) spring in the Northeast – a later post to start the day at the Big A. Speaking of the pending change in season, don’t forget to roll those clocks ahead Saturday night.

Chelmsford City. Race 3. 1:30. Synthetic racing has come a long way in England. Beautiful Illusion, a daughter of Shamardal and Long Lashes, will make it 2-for-2 for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby.

Mahoning Valley. Race 4. 1:38. The veteran mare Natural Bling makes start No. 76 seeking 10th victory in 6-furlong allowance. Nine-year-old Ohio-bred by Too Much Bling sports 5-10-3 record in 32 local starts.

Aqueduct. Race 2. 1:58. We tried to hustle Marialice Coffey to give us a horse or two for the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with the Little Guys since she’s appeared there in the past. She declined but might have offered up Alphadora, who broke her maiden last time and could factor in 1-mile state-bred allowance for fillies and mares.

Tampa. Race 5. 2:18. A dozen fillies and mares for 1-mile allowance on the grass.

Chelmsford City. Race 5. 2:20. One of our all-time favorites, Red Verdon, returns for his first start since finishing eighth in the Caulfield Cup in Australia in October. Trained by Ed Dunlop, the American-bred son of Lemon Drop Kid tries to add to his $573,664 career bankroll. Tough race, he takes on Mildenberger, Weekender and Eddystone Rock.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 2:30. Big ‘Cap Day starts with 1-mile maiden claimer on the grass.

Tampa. Race 7. 3:18. The $75,000 Columbia for 3-year-olds on the grass opens the stakes action. Doc Boy ran well in two similar stakes last season for Michael Stidham and comes off layoff while Chapalu returns to the grass after being drilled on the dirt in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.

Fonner Park. Race 3. 3:28. Would love to hear the story behind the name of the Divine Park mare Zyxyz.

Parx Racing. Race 7. 3:37. Dixie Serenade is short price for 6-furlong state-bred allowance but she frequently finishes second, including seven times in 12 starts locally.

Oaklawn Park. Race 4. 3:38. Liam’s Pride appreciated the cutback to 6 furlongs last time and goes same trip looking to break maiden for Doug O’Neill.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:38. Don Bourbon and Giocare, second and third, respectively, in early February maiden at Tampa, meet again in 1 1/16-mile maiden on the main track.

Laurel Park. Race 8. 3:49. Pretty Edgy takes next step in search of third win from as many starts in 7-furlong allowance.

Tampa. Race 8. 3:55. King For A Day, who holds distinction as lone horse to finish ahead of champion Maximum Security, among the field of eight for the Grade 3 Challenger.

Santa Anita. Race 4. 4:00. Flagstaff and Roadster, 1-2 in the Damascus Stakes on Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard last fall, meet again in Grade 2 San Carlos. They’re joined by four others in 7-furlong stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:09. Shekky Shebaz, fourth in turf sprint stakes Pegasus World Cup Day, returns in $75,000 Silks Run.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 4:18. Joevia’s comeback took a detour last time in the Grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn but the 2019 Belmont Stakes third returns to New York, where he won two back, for $125,000 Stymie. Competitive field of seven also includes Diamond King, Wicked Trick and American Anthem.

Tampa. Race 9. 4:25. Back to the grass for the Grade 2 Hillsborough. Starship Jubilee and Magic Star, 1-2 in the Grade 3 Suwanee River last month at Gulfstream, will be tough in 9-furlong stakes.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 4:30. Got Stormy returns to West Coast to take on males in Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile. Multiple Grade 1 winner prepped with fourth in Grade 3 Endeavour at Tampa and will need to bring it against the likes of River Boyne, Ohio, Frontier Market and True Valour.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:46. Greg Sacco – who also sends out Joevia – could cap big day when he runs Grade 1 winner Mind Control in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap. The winner of the 2018 Hopeful and 2019 H. Allen Jerkens won the Grade 3 Toboggan last time over similar.

Tampa. Race 10. 4:55. Walk In Marrekesh, who missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf when her connections didn’t like how she shipped to Californa last fall, makes 2020 debut in Grade 3 Florida Oaks. Second in the Grade 1 Natalma, Irish-bred filly meets 11 opponents that include Micheline, Outburst, New York Groove and Ivyetsu.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 5:00. No, you’re not missing a page. Field of four, yes four, for 6 1/2-furlong maiden for female 3-year-olds and up. Gamine cost $1.8 million last year and makes debut for Bob Baffert.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:12. Fillies and mares take their turn at turf sprint in $75,000 Captiva Island.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 5:15. The Derby pulls all the air out of the room but the Kentucky Oaks also figures to see some contenders emerge Saturday, including from the $250,000 Busher Invitational. Not graded – at least this year – 1-mile stakes draws the first two form the Grade 2 Demoiselle in Lake Avenue and Maedean and the stakes-placed trio Mo City, Panthera Onca and Water White

Santa Anita. Race 7. 5:30. Back to stakes action and the $75,000 China Doll at 1 mile on the grass for 3-year-old fillies.

Tampa Bay. Race 11. 5:32. The Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby leads off trio of key classic preps and features a field of 12. Sole Volante won the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and looks to take the next step while Chance It, scratched from last week’s Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth because of a bad draw, tries to get back on track.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:38. Share The Upside and Whitmore meet again in $150,000 Hot Springs after 1-2 finish in similar sprint stakes last month. The former did it all on front end last time but might have company in Firecrow (Whitmore’s stablemate).

Aqueduct. Race 10. 5:42. The Grade 3 Gotham. Mischevious Alex – that’s the correct incorrect spelling we hear – headlines $300,000 stakes that also offers 50 points to the winner toward spot in Kentucky Derby field. Son of Into Mischief ships from Florida, where he won the Grade 3 Swale going 7 furlongs. He’s one of five coming in from warmer locales in the south, along with Attachment Rate, Necker Island, Flap Jack and Untitled.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:43. Stick around for the finale, a 7 1/2-furlong allowance on the grass for fillies and mares.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:48. Brad Cox holds strong hand in $75,000 Allen Black Cat Lacombe Memorial with Dominga, second in small stakes last time, and Kentucky Downs stakes winner Jezebel’s Kitten.

Fonner. Race 8. 5:53. How about this one? Zoot Suit, a former member of Peter Pugh’s barn and part of the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with the Little Guys, makes his 32nd start seeking ninth win in the day’s sub-featured $9,200 allowance. Oh and he won the Grasmick last time out, one of the meet’s big events.

Tampa. Race 12. 6:00. One-mile maiden on the grass for 3-year-old fillies closes the card. Stop War won’t get you out in the event of a bad day but should win.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 6:01. What will the Derby field look like after the Grade 2 San Felipe? Authentic could move into one of favorite’s roles – if the son of Into Mischief isn’t already there – with victory in $400,000 stakes that also offers 50 points toward a spot in the gate in Louisville. Bob Baffert also runs the unbeaten Thousand Words. Storm The Court, last year’s champion 2-year-old male, can only managed fourth billing on the morning line behind those two and the Honor Code maiden-winning colt Honor A. P.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 6:09. More Kentucky Oaks points on the line in Grade 3 Honeybee, which offers 3-year-old fillies in region chance to avoid the likes of Finite and British Idiom at least for the time being. Depending on how it turns out they might be saying similar about Ring Leader, daughter of Paynter who is 3-for-3 stretching out for the first time.

Fonner. Race 9. 6:22. From Derby contenders to Nebraska-breds, we pack it all into the primer. Here’s the $20,000 Ogataul, named for the multiple stakes- and 23-time winner who raced in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Penn National Race Course. Race 2. 6:27. Mark Reid ships Fullmoon Bay back to Penn after she showed speed in Laurel maiden last time. Daughter of Malibu Moon ran well in debut two back, finishing third as the choice in 5-furlong maiden.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 7:03. Gift Box and Midcourt hold strong hometown edge in Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap while Hofburg and Endorsed try to invade for a piece of the $600,000 purse. Endorsed, fourth in the Grade 1 Travers and second in the Curlin last summer at Saratoga, part of farewell tour for Kiaran McLaughlin.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 8. 7:19. El Camino Real Derby also-rans Wine And Whiskey, Ajorneytofreedom, Final Final and Mysterious Stones meet recent maiden winner Awesome Summer in 1-mile optional on the synthetic.

Turfway Park. Race 5. 8:12. Ben Colebrook sends two – Athary and Eden – up from Keeneland for 1-mile maiden. The former ran well in her debut last time and should appreciate the added distance.

Golden Gate. Race 10. 8:19. Primary season got you wondering what a liberal really is these days? Have no fear, Liberal the recently gelded son of Lope de Vega, can win back-to-back for Paddy Gallagher and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in 1-mile optional.

Turfway. Race 7. 9:12. Brian Lynch, now a regular at Keeneland’s Rice Road complex, sends out Honor Code first-timer Sway To Go in 6-furlong maiden.