The Saturday Special – Oct. 21

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Fans of stakes-heavy cards are in for a treat this week with the Maryland Million and Empire Showcase sharing top billing here in the U.S. and the QIPCO Champions Day getting things rolling across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud previews all the action from Laurel Park, Belmont Park and Ascot, along with the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland and stakes action from Santa Anita Park and Woodbine. The clock is ticking down to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, less than two weeks now until all the action goes down at Del Mar.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, Oct. 21. Enjoy and good luck.

Ascot. Race 1. 8:25 a.m. Champions Day. QIPCO British Champions Day starts here. One of our favorite horses, Big Orange, rolls 2 miles in the opener. Irish St. Leger winner Order Of St George and Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius will have your eggs scrambling.

Ascot. Race 2. 9:00. Harry Angel has never finished worse than second in seven career starts. He takes on old rivals The Tin Man, Caravaggio and others in the QIPCO Champions Sprint Stakes.

Ascot. Race 3. 9:40. Bateel travels from France to take on Journey, Coronet and Hydrangea in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes.

Stratford. Race 3. 10:00. Gillian Johnston could get her day off right with a win from Days Of Heaven, who makes his first start since July. Tough race.

Ascot. Race 4. 10:15. Ribchester could add his fourth Group 1 stakes win in 2017, taking on the streaking Beat The Bank and seven-time winner Churchill in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Ascot. Race 5. 10:50. The Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes offers $1.599 million and sends them 10 furlongs. Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Highland Reel tries to improve from a fourth behind Enable, Ulysses and Idaho at Ascot in July. Barney Roy has never missed the board in six tries. Oh, and then there’s Cracksman, another stunner for Oppenheimer, Gosden and Dettori.

Ffos Las. Race 5. 11:25. You never know who’s going to show up for a handicap hurdle at Ffos Las. The New One, winner of 18 races, takes on Grade 1 chaser Sire De Grugy, who hasn’t run since unseating Jamie Moore back in December.

Belmont Park. Race 1. 12:25 p.m. Empire Showcase Day kicks off with 1-mile turf maiden.

Belmont. Race 2. 12:55. The first three finishers from the Joseph A. Gimma – Held Accountable, Berning Rose and Newport Breeze – square off with Grade 2 Adirondack winner Pure Silver and Seeking The Ante winner Cause We Are Loyal in $250,000 Maid Of The Mist for 2-year-old fillies going 1 mile.

Laurel Park. Race 3. 1:23. First stakes of the Maryland Million card is the $100,000 Nursery and nine are entered with five on the also-eligible list. The second-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers from the First State Dash at Delaware Park are in the body of the field but the winner Whereshetoldmetogo is on the also-eligible list.

Belmont. Race 3. 1:28. Quezon romped in last year’s Iroquois Stakes and is favored again for this year’s $150,000 edition. Five-year-old daughter of Tiz Wonderful comes off close third in Grade 2 Gallant Bloom, just like last year when she was second in her “prep” for Empire Showcase Day.

Laurel. Race 4. 1:55. Blu Moon Ace comes off second in Grade 3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and looks like a standout in $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint.

Belmont. Race 4. 2:01. Where will Barrel Of Dreams land? She’s entered later in the day on Maryland Million card and she’d also be tough in $200,000 Ticonderoga for state-bred fillies and mares on the grass. Chad Brown goes with a pair of graded stakes winners in Fifty Five and Ancient Secret.

Keeneland Race Course. Race 3. 2:12. Seeking The Soul might need more ground in the stretch than he’ll get in 1 1/16-mile allowance but he also might be good enough on class alone for Dallas Stewart.

Delaware Park. Race 3. 2:15. Larry Jones sends out two – $410,000 Street Cry filly Restless Spirit and Brereton Jones homebred Flashy Trick – in 6-furlong maiden. Hey Niki also goes for Brereton Jones and trainer Tom Proctor.

Wolverhampton. Race 4. 2:15. George Strawbridge Jr. has switched most of his focus to Europe. We understand. There’s the pageantry, the minimal medication squabbles and all the other reasons. Wissahickon, a son of Tapit and No Matter What, makes his debut for a $7,500 purse on the all-weather at Wolverhampton. OK, there went the pageantry. 

Laurel. Race 5. 2:27. Margie’s Money brings 2-for-2 record to the $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie, which has a field of 11 in the body of the race with three on the also-eligible list. Enchanted Star, winner of the Small Wonder last time, is on the AEs.

Belmont. Race 5. 2:34. Seems strange to call the fifth the feature, but that’s what it is with the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap filling that spot on the card. Twisted Tom ran away from the field in Albany and stakes on older horses for the first time. The opposition includes last year’s exacta in Royal Posse and Governor Malibu and fellow sophomores Control Group and Can You Diggit

Keeneland. Race 4. 2:45. Kirby’s Penny won back-to-back starts at Saratoga for Wesley Ward and John Velazquez. Daughter of Macho Uno gets Jose Ortiz for 7-furlong allowance and looks tough in field of eight.

Belmont. Race 6. 3:07. Big field of 11 2-year-olds for $250,000 Sleep Hollow. Battle Station is 2-for-2, including an easy win in stakes last month, while Stoney Bennett impressed in debut maiden win last time for Ollie Figgins III. Don’t count out Analyze The Odds if he’s close to his 10-1 morning-line price for Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano.

Keeneland. Race 5. 3:18. First grass race of the day is 1 1/16-mile maiden for 2-year-old fillies. Not surprisingly it’s a full field, with starters for Dale Romans  (Coach Rocks), Mike Maker (Track Rose and Queen’s Fate), Ian Wilkes (Sahara Breeze and As I Please) and Michael Stidham (Last Play).

Laurel. Race 7. 3:33. Crabcakes takes on older foes in $100,000 Maryland Million Distaff Handicap, seeking her sixth win in 10 starts. Daughter of Great Notion is 4-for-6 at Laurel, including wins in her last two starts.

Santa Anita Park. Race 2. 3:59. Curly’s Rocket, a son of Into Mischief who cost $130,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale, makes debut for Bob Baffert going 5 1/2 furlongs.

Laurel. Race 8. 4:06. Talk Show Man won the Maryland Million Turf way back in 2014 and 7-year-old Great Notion gelding goes for another in this year’s $125,000 renewal.

Belmont. Race 8. 4:13. Familiar rivals Weekend Hideaway, Celtic Chaos and Ostrolenka headline $150,000 Hudson Handicap. Weekend Hideaway makes fourth attempt to win 6-furlong stakes; he finished sixth in 2014, third in 2015 and second last year.

Keeneland. Race 7. 4:24. Another full field for 7-furlong maiden race for 2-year-old fillies. We wrote about Desert Isle, Ontario-bred son of Bernardini out of Canadian champion Eye Of The Sphynx, two weeks back when she was entered at Delaware Park. Graham Motion trainee didn’t run that day and could be worth a look from post 11.

Laurel. Race 9. 4:40. Barrel Of Dreams, winner of two starts this summer at Saratoga, looks to keep strong year going for Newman Racing in $125,000 Maryland Million Ladies. Daughter of Not For Love exits fourth behind Fourstar Crook in New York-bred stakes last month at Belmont for Charlton Baker.

Belmont. Race 9. 4:46. Black Tide will try to take them as far as he can in $200,000 Mohawk going 1 1/16 miles on the grass. Offering Plan is heavy favorite on the line off seventh in Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile two weeks ago at Keeneland. He’s been on the board in each of last four starts in state-bred company, including a win in the Kingston last spring.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:54. Mr Havercamp bounced back from Saratoga sojourn with a victory in Vice Regent last time and looks to add another in restricted $125,000 Bunty Lawless going 1 mile on the grass. Who’s Bunty Lawless you ask? Look him up, he won 19 of 47 starts in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Keeneland. Race 8. 4:57. Smiling Causeway opened up in the lane and was caught late by Rubilinda in $100,000 stakes last time at Belmont Park for Arnaud Delacour. Daughter of Giant’s Causeway is back in against older fillies and mares for 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance.

Gulfstream Park West. Race 8. 5:08. Robusto galloped in off-the-turf maiden race last time for Todd Pletcher and steps into allowance company going 7 furlongs for Todd Pletcher.

Laurel. Race 10. 5:13. Admirals War Chest is back to defend title in $150,000 Maryland Million Classic against the likes of John Jones, Bonus Points, Clubman, Ghost Bay and Southside Warrior. John Jones is 2-1 favorite with seven wins in 13 starts at Laurel and comes off fourth in 6-furlong turf allowance Oct. 5 for Lacey Gaudet.

Belmont. Race 10. 5:19. Literata outran Jcs American Dream and Jc’s Shooting Star in the Saratoga Dew and those three are back for the $250,000 Empire Distaff Handicap. Verdant Pastures takes jump to stakes company after blowout victory in early August at Saratoga for Charlton Baker.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 5:29. Tribalist vs. Richard’s Boy in $100,000 California Flag Handicap. They finished second and third in the Green Flash, while the former came back to be second against open company in the Grade 3 Eddie D. Sept. 29.

Keeneland. Race 9. 5:30. Always one of the better races of the fall meeting, the Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run brings together strong group of 3-year-old fillies. Tequilita seems to have found her niche going extended sprint after a third in the Grade 1 Test and a win in Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks (albeit the latter going two turns). Chalon runs back on two weeks rest after runner-up effort behind Breeders’ Cup-bound Finley’sluckycharm in Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America. California shippers Classy Tune and Miss Sunset, who exits back-to-back Cal-bred stakes wins, also figure to be tough.

Keeneland. Race 10. 6:03. Don’t skip the finale, field of 12 fillies and mares for maiden race on the grass. Jaunt should get it done in start No. 10 for Claiborne Farm, Shug McGaughey and Jose Ortiz.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:06. Pacific Wind makes debut on main track off ninth (10th via disqualification) in Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. Daughter of Curlin.