The Saturday Special – May 29

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Memorial Day Weekend starts in earnest – unless you’re already underway thanks to our great teacher friends with unused snow days – Saturday with top shelf racing from coast to coast.

Graded stakes at Belmont Park and Santa Anita Park and the seven stakes on the Stephen Foster Day Preview card at Churchill Downs take top billing, along with stakes at Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park, Prairie Meadows and Charles Town Races. That’s a full slate, and we didn’t even dig into the steeplechase card at Great Meadow. Find out about that right here.

Plenty of stars are out, including several from the May 1 Kentucky Derby and fan favorite United out at Santa Anita. 

The day starts overseas with action from Punchestown and Haydock.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, May 29. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend.

Haydock. Race 3. 9:20 a.m. On a surprisingly light Saturday in Europe, Haydock provides a proper card of racing. Aljady drops a notch from a Group 3 to the Betway Achilles Stakes for trainer Robert Cowell. 

Haydock. Race 4. 9:55. Our old friend Roger Varian should win this Group 3 with Cabaletta for Cheveley Park Stud. 

Haydock. Race 5. 10:30. Toro Strike, an American-bred son of Toronado, should love the Group 3 Betway John of Gaunt Stakes. 

Punchestown. Race 7. 11:45. Grangeclare West, a £430,000 purchase, makes his bumper debut for Cheveley Park and Willie Mullins. 

Monmouth Park. Race 1. 12:15 p.m. Racing returned to the Jersey Shore Friday – you might have heard something about the meet with much flap about jockeys, whip rules and potential lawsuits. The first Saturday card of the season starts with a 6-furlong allowance worth $50,000.

Churchill Downs. Race 1. 12:45. Stephen Foster Preview Day starts with 5 ½-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds. Steve Asmussen thought enough of Vodka N Water to run him in the Kentucky Juvenile after private purchase, and son of Fed Biz rewarded that confidence with a runner-up effort. He’s back in maiden ranks here from the rail.

Gulfstream Park. Race 2. 12:50. Six 2-year-old first-time starters for 5-furlong maiden.

Belmont Park. Race 1. 1:00. Kick things off with a 5-furlong turf maiden for 2-year-olds. Wesley Ward entered two – his homebred Flintshire first-timer Sense Shines and Arnmore Thoroughbreds’ Riot House, homebred gelding by Violance who finished third in similar spot May 9.

Churchill. Race 2. 1:14. Our man Robbie Medina sends out Mind Out for the first time after daughter of Tapit raced exclusively at 2 and 3 in Southern California. She’s one of eight, along with an MTO, in 1-mile turf allowance.

Churcnill. Race 3. 1:43. Casual Affair, son of Into Mischief out of Hall of Famer Ashado, makes second start for Brendan Walsh in 6-furlong maiden. He finished late-running second in debut April 23 at Keeneland and figures to be tough here.

Belmont. Race 3. 2:02. First Captain, the $1.5 million co-topper of the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale, impressed in debut last month and takes next step up the ladder in 1-mile allowance for Shug McGaughey. Hometown, a $65,000 buy from WinStar Racing’s consignment at last year’s Keeneland November sale by Steve Young, gets blinkers for his second start against winners.

Churchill. Race 4. 2:12. Plenty of potential in 1-mile optional on the main track, including last-out maiden winner Kookhaus and Juddmonte homebred Snow House.

Monmouth. Race 6. 2:38. Linny Kate and Coworth Park top 1 1/16-mile turf allowance for filies and mares.

Churchill. Race 5. 2:45. Like The King, 12th in the Kentucky Derby, returns to the turf for $150,000 Audobon. Son of Palace Malice broke his maiden on the turf last year at Belterra Park and has won two of three on synthetic tracks.

Belmont. Race 5. 3:02. Who couldn’t use a little Saratoga Love? We got some this week with announcement that the 2021 meeting would be essentially at near capacity. As for the 4-year-old filly by Palace Malice, she makes first start for George Weaver in 6-furlong turf optional.

Monmouth. Race 7. 3:06. Bottle Rocket Man, fifth behind Mutasaabeq in lone start last year at Saratoga, returns for Chad Brown and Dylan Davis in 6-furlong maiden.

Delaware Park. Race 5. 3:15. Ballagh Rocks won last year’s Lure Stakes on Closing Day at Saratoga then was claimed for $62,500 in late October at Belmont. He’s made two starts since, both in stakes, and shows up here in 1 1/16-mile turf optional for Katlynn Gutterson. Eons, Wissahickon and Doc Boy won’t make it easy for the veteran.

Churchill. Race 6. 3:18. Silver Dust and Night Ops, 1-2 in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland, meet again in the $150,000 Blame.

Belmont. Race 6. 3:34. Bears Mafia won more races in 2020 than any New York-bred – seven from his 11 starts – and he’s back in this 6-furlong state-bred optional that also lures Bronx Bomber, T Loves A Fight, Durkin’s Call, Listentoyourheart and Gandy Dancing.

Churchill. Race 7. 3:50. Envoutante just missed against Shedaresthedevil in Grade 1 La Troienne on Kentucky Oaks Day and looks extremely tough in $150,000 Shawnee for Kenny McPeek.

Monmouth. Race 9. 3:59. Field of eight led by one of our favorites, Always Sunshine, for the $100,000 Mr. Prospector. How about the 9-year-old Florida-bred for Ned Allard? He won last time for $50,000 and his second win in three starts this year.

Arlington Park. Race 2. 4:11. Larry Rivelli – who else? – looks strong in 5-furlong turf optional with uncoupled entry of Tightrope and Etched In Stone. The former comes off runner-up effort in similar spot at 9-1 last time. Son of Daredevil won’t be anywhere close to that price in here.

Pimlico Race Course. Race 8. 4:15. Still going strong at Old Hilltop while they work on the track at Laurel Park. Good group for the featured two-turn restricted allowance, including Toy for Mike Trombetta, Artistic Reason for Graham Motion and Doubleoseven for Jeremiah O’Dwyer.

Churchill. Race 8. 4:22. The Grade 3 Regret, first of two graded stakes, lures the 2-3 from the Grade 2 Edgewood in Barista and Line Dancing. Spanish Loveaffair, Oyster Box, Flown, Saranya and Gam’s Mission add depth to 9-furlong turf stakes.

Belmont. Race 8. 4:40. Mystic Night, the winner of back-to-back starts this winter at Aqueduct, makes return in 1 1/16-mile optional against the likes of Doubly Blessed, Creed, Girolamo’s Attack, Superfecto, Family Biz and Chestertown.

Churchill. Race 9. 4:55. O Besos, fifth and just 5 1/2 lengths back in the Kentucky Derby, headlines the Grade 3 Matt Winn. Connections resisted temptation to run back in two weeks in the Preakness and opted instead for this spot, which also lures Derby eighth and Tampa Bay Derby winner Helium, Oaklawn Stakes winner Fulsome, Sittin On Go and Game Day Play.  

Belmont. Race 9. 5:12. Nine 3-year-olds entered in the featured Grade 2 Pennine Ridge. Hard Love, winner of the Woodhaven last time at Aqueduct, leads the way and tries to make it 3-for-4 in his career. Sainthood, second in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby on synthetic, makes first start on grass off his not disrespectful 11th in the Kentucky Derby. Not wise to discount Chad Brown in spots like this and he sends out Klaravich Stable’s Public Sector, 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but second to Safe Conduct in optional on the grass in a prep for this 9-furlong stakes.

Churchill. Race 10. 5:26. The stakes aren’t finished yet. Here’s the $150,000 Aristides and a solid field of 10, including Heiressall for Terri Tompay, A Bit Of Both for Mike Maker, Sound Machine for Saffie Joseph Jr. and Royal Meghan for our man Fernando Abreu.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:35. Ten fillies and mares for the $75,000 Musical Romance at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Churchill. Race 11. 5:58. Older horses take the turf course for $110,000 Douglas Park. Set Piece should win for Juddmonte and Brad Cox.

Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 6:15. The Grade 3 Daytona at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf – just not on the downhill course – leads off the stakes. Bombard finished eighth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and prepped for this with runner-up in turf allowance for Richard Mandella. He meets capable group led by Law Abidin Citizen, Majestic Eagle and Commander.

Arlington. Race 6. 6:19. Readthecliffnotes bids for fifth straight win off the layoff while Halo Hunter, showed monster improvement coming back in 14 days last time, tries to spoil comeback in 6 ½-furlong state-bred optional. Halo Hunter’s win was his sixth start for trainer Brittany Vanden Berg, who is batting close to 50 percent for the meet and the year.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 7:19. United returns to defend title in the Grade 2 Charlie Whittingham. LNJ Foxwoods’ 6-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding returned from layoff to win Grade 3 San Luis Rey last time and faces just three foes here in Red King, Acclimate and Award Winner. Hard to believe it’s been a year – or is it? – since we wrote about Whittingham in the second issue of The 2020 Special. Check out one of our favorite pieces here on Page 26.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:52. Bob Baffert’s duo of Eight Rings, off since seventh in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Aug. 1 at Saratoga, and Californian fourth Magic On Tap take on three others in Grade 2 Triple Bend. Peter Eurton also saddles two in Exaulted and Shooters Shoot while John Shirreffs sends out the likely winner in Lambeau.

Charles Town Races. Race 3. 8:02. Ishihara goes for back-to-back wins for Jeff Runco in 7-furlong state-bred allowance.

Prairie Meadows Racetrack. Race 6. 9:15. Kela’s Turn, 3-for-4 in her career with the only blemish a distant 13th in open company stakes on Breeders’ Cup Weekend at Keeneland, returns with Iowa-breds for $62,500 Bob Bryant Stakes.

Charles Town. Race 7. 10:02. Finish off the night with the $75,000 Fancy Buckles. Plenty of 4 1/2-furlong specialists to choose from in state-bred stakes for fillies and mares, including Gandhi’s Castle, the winner of three straight.