The Saturday Special – Nov. 18

- -

Sure signs of Thanksgiving and winter on the way are everywhere as racing rolls along here in the middle part of November.

An extremely light slate of graded stakes action – just one on the docket at Churchill Downs – combined with early post times and a heavy dose of state-bred action from coast-to-coast top the lineup for this week’s Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud. Fair Grounds opens the doors on its meeting with a 10-race card. Other wintertime venues won’t be far behind.

The day starts as always overseas with plenty of jump racing – and some action on the flat – to prime the pump and set the early bricks in the road to Cheltenham. We’ll start there and wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. Be safe and enjoy.

Punchestown. Race 1. 7:05 a.m. North Carolina, fourth in his only flat start, represents the great Galileo in the opening juvenile hurdle.

Punchestown. Race 2. 7:35. Promising hurdlers Any Second Now, Monalee and Invitation Only make the conversion to chasing. There is nothing more scintillating.

Cheltenham. Race 1. 7:40. Start taking notes. The JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial starts to pave the way to The Festival in March.

Punchestown. Race 3. 8:10. No jockey has had a bigger reclamation than Sean Flanagan, who was a star here for a short period. He rides Texas Jack here.

Cheltenham. Race 2. 8:15. Ballyoptic drew off to win by 13 lengths in his most recent start, the champ Richard Johnson takes over for the injured Sam Twiston Davies in this novice chase. West Approach won his chase debut by 9 lengths. Black Corton has won four in a row for Bryony Frost, sister to Hadden Frost, who has pilfered America this year. Asked about retiring from the professional ranks, he explained it simply, “The timing was hard, I wanted to retire three years before I did but my sister wasn’t quite up to it and then she started riding better than me and I said, ‘OK, B, you can ride them all.’ She’s riding loads of winners.”

Punchestown. Race 4. 8:45. The French raid continues at Willie Mullins unveils Burrows Saint for Ricci and with Walsh.

Cheltenham. Race 3. 8:50. Minella Rocco, second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, takes on eight solid rivals in this Grade 3 chase.

Lingfield. Race 5. 9:10. Gallant veteran Belgian Bill tries to snap a long losing streak. He’s already a millionaire.

Punchestown. Race 5. 9:20. Let’s Dance, a Cheltenham winner last year, returns for her seasonal debut.

Cheltenham. Race 4. 9:25. Gillian Johnston’s Days Of Heaven aims at this Grade 3 chase that’s deep and tough with 18 runners. Our favorite horse, Tully East, returns to the place where he won a chase in March and filled our pockets with the late double.

Lingfield. Race 6. 9:45. A competitive renewal of the Churchill Stakes.

Cheltenham. Race 5: 10:00. Dell’ Arca wound up on our Racing Post Tracker somewhere along the line. The 8-year-old rolled to a big win at Newbury earlier this month.

Lingfield. Race 7. 10:15. Mythmaker – not that Mythmaker – looms in the listed Golden Rose Stakes.

Cheltenham. Race 6. 10:30. Keep the money on the table and bet Diable De Sivola in this handicap hurdle.

Cheltenham. Race 7. 11:00. Mares close the card in the bumper. Outofthisworld, a romping winner in March, could be.

Mahoning Valley. Race 4. 1:38. There’s money out there for Ohio-breds. Check out the Glacia Princess, a 6-furlong stakes for state-breds worth $75,000. Seven of the eight entered are maidens.

Aqueduct. Race 4. 1:47. Magic Joan, Wake Island and Speighgal exit maiden victories to take on Scheme, Folk Magic and Trilliant in 1-mile turf allowance for fillies and mares.

Wolverhampton. Race 3. 1:45. American-breds Corelli, representing Strawbridge, and King Tut, representing Team Valor, swing hard for the $8,500 pinata.

Aqueduct. Race 5. 2:17. Generazio homebred Discretionary Marq, full brother to Grade 1 winner Discreet Marq, didn’t fare well in first attempt against winners and tries again in 6-furlong turf allowance for Christophe Clement.

Churchill Downs. Race 4. 2:26. Nanoosh loved the switch from main-track sprints to the grass last time at Keeneland. Can son of Paynter make it two in a row in 1 1/16-mile allowance? Tap Daddy, who couldn’t get into the field for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after second via DQ in Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland, is one of the opposition.

Mahoning Valley. Race 6. 2:34. Field of eight Ohio-breds for $75,000 Ruff/Kirchberg Memorial Handicap going 9 furlongs. Looks like it’s between Eighththehardway and Geppetto, who were 1-2 in last year’s edition.

Aqueduct. Race 6. 2:47. Full field of 12 2-year-olds for two-turn maiden on the grass. Time On Target, son of Distorted Humor who cost $450,000 as a yearling, is worth a look in first start on the grass for Bill Mott.

Churchill. Race 5. 2:55. Limousine Liberal stands out in $80,000 Bet On Sunshine off close third in Grade 2 Phoenix last time at Keeneland. He’s 4-for-6 in Louisville for Ben Colebrook, including wins in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs and Grade 3 Aristides this past spring.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:47. The featured $150,000 Artie Schiller looks like good spot for Delta Prince to regroup. A powerful winner of Saratoga allowance in early August, son of Street Cry then finished third in Grade 2 Bernard Baruch closing weekend and hasn’t been out since.

Fair Grounds. Race 1. 4:00. The meet opener is 1-mile starter-optional on the grass.

Gulfstream Park West. Race 8. 4:06. Todd Pletcher and Mark Casse both send out two in 1 1/16-mile turf allowance. Casse’s Dance Strike might have the edge, with a good runner-up effort on the course last month.

Churchill. Race 8. 4:24. Maiden 2-year-old fillies stretch out to 1 mile. Who gets the trip? Plenty with pedigrees to suggest they can, including Curlin filly Let’s Roll, Tiznow fillies Tiz A Legacy and La Fee Verte and the Giant’s Causeway filly Curuzu.

Fair Grounds. Race 2. 4:34. Pucon ran well in debut at Delaware Park and stretches out a bit for Michael Stidham in 1-mile and 70-yard maiden for 2-year-olds.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:38. Silent Name, a son of the legendary Sunday Silence who stands at Adena Springs North, is the sire of four entrants in the $125,000 Forest King – Cat’s Whisper, Beer Pressure, Silent Sting and Be Vewy Vewy Quiet.

Churchill. Race 9. 4:54. Solid allowance for fillies and mares looks like good spot for Champagne Problems, second in the Dogwood in September and freshened a bit since for Ian Wilkes. Breaking Bread, who showed promise at 2 and 3 for Al Stall Jr., returns off nearly year-long layoff from the rail.

Fair Grounds. Race 3. 5:04. State-breds head to the grass for $50,000 Mr. Sulu Overnight. The field of 10 includes a few with fondness for the course – Hail To The Nile (5-for-14), Trust Factor (3-for-5), Extra Credit (2-for-3) and Gallery (2-for-4).

Churchill. Race 10. 5:24. The featured Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap draws strong group that includes Beverly D. runner-up Dona Bruja, who won the Grade 3 Mint Julep on the course in June, turf sprint stakes winner Fair Point, Linda, Beauly and Grade 1 winner Weep No More making her turf debut.

Del Mar. Race 5. 5:34. Dream Tree, a daughter of Uncle Mo who cost $750,000 at Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale this year, looks to make it 2-for-2 for Bob Baffert and Phoenix Thoroughbred III in $100,000 Desi Arnaz.

Fair Grounds. Race 4. 5:34. Remember Play Unified? We wrote about her in late 2015. She’s been fairly productive since coming back from an injury and faces Louisiana-breds for the first time in $50,000 Happy Ticket Overnight going 6 furlongs on the main track.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 6:04. Dontmesswithjoanne, close in two stakes in the Midwest this summer, tackles state-breds for the first time in $50,000 Si Cima Overnight. Who is Si Cima you ask? She won a bunch of stakes at Fair Grounds in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Fair Grounds. Race 6. 6:36. Another overnight for Louisiana-breds, another big field as 11 line up for $50,000 Heitai going 6 furlongs on the main track.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 6:48. I Will Score returns from sizable layoff in $50,000 Oakland. He won his first two in Southern California, finished third to Mor Spirit and Uncle Lino in Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis early in sophomore season before a poor effort in the Grade 2 San Felipe. Regrouped in Oaklawn’s Bachelor before a win in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera. Off since being scratched from the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on the 2016 Belmont Day undercard, he meets nine others in 6-furlong stakes.

Hawthorne Race Course. Race 7. 6:58. Ghaaleb, a son of Unbridled’s Song who stands privately at Wildwood Farm in Illinois, represented by three runners in $100,000 Sun Power for state-bred 2-year-olds. Ghaaleb’s Winner bested two of his non-Ghaaleb-sired rivals, Mr. Luv Maker and Demand Ransom, in allowance last month, while Caleb’s Heir exits maiden win and Gita’s Lad comes off two one-the-board efforts in maiden races.

Charles Town Races. Race 6. 9:22. Eton Blue, who flirted briefly with the spring classics in 2013 and finished fifth in Verrazano’s Tampa Bay Derby that year, continues to churn it out at age 7 and runs for $4,500 tag in 6 1/2-furlong event.

Charles Town. Race 7. 9:49. Bull Durham fans will be all over Nuke Laloosh in $10,000 claimer going 6 1/2 furlongs. And remember Chipit? Son of Tapit who was 2-for-2 to start his career, ran in the Pegasus (not that Pegasus, the Grade 3 event at Monmouth Park)? He makes his Charles Town debut for new connections.

Charles Town. Race 8. 10:19. Still going strong after a busy day of holiday prep, racing, college football, prepping the house for winter? Hats off to you. Here’s one more for the road, the $50,000 My Sister Pearl for state-bred fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles and three turns. Enjoy.