The Saturday Special presented by Thoroughbred Racing Calendar – Dec. 26

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Finally, something to cheer for in 2020. Not much has worked out this year but we can’t complain – and we’ll even raise a glass – to the day after Christmas (aka Boxing Day) falling on a Saturday.

That fortuitous fall of the calendar means plenty of top-tier racing to keep one occupied and away from the sweets, leftovers and whatever else came out of the stockings Thursday and Friday.

Santa Anita Park opens its winter meeting with a trio of Grade 1 stakes – the last top-shelf events of the year – and Gulfstream Park and Laurel Park roll out monster stakes-filled cards.

Fair Grounds gets in on the act, too, with a strong card headlined by a trio of stakes. The days starts, as always overseas with Boxing Day action from Leopardstown, Kempton and more.

And before we go, we realize Christmas is in the books but why stop the giving? How about a 2021 Thoroughbred Racing Calendar for yourself and a friend? Click here to order. Discounts for multiple orders, too.  

Leopardstown. Race 1. 7:00 a.m. Take all your Christmas money and lump it on Hurricane Cliff. As sure as Santa Claus coming down the chimney.

Limerick. Race 1. 7:15. Hey, Barry John Foley, ride The Copper Kid like Curve Of Stones and you might dispel your 50-1 odds in the opening juvenile hurdle.

Kempton. Race 1. 7:40. Traditional Christmas cracker from Kempton begins with a novice hurdle. We’ve always loved On To Victory, who returns to hurdling for Alan King. Flic Ou Voyou and Third Time Lucki look strong for Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton.

Leopardstown. Race 3: 8:05. Freak = Zanahiyr.

Kempton. Race 2. 8:15. Nothing like seeing quality hurdlers switch to chasing and here’s a full field of them. Take your pick of the 11 going postward.

Kempton. Race 3. 8:50. The Grade 1 Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices Chase. The 3-mile chase celebrates a legend who made this his playground. One For The Team for a bomb.

Wetherby. Race 5. 9:05. Windsor Avenue has one of these in him. Perhaps, it’s today’s Grade 3 William Hill Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase.

Leopardstown. Race 5. 9:15. Franco De Port enjoyed his chasing debut for Bruton Street V, the French-bred 5-year steps up in the Racing Post Novice Chase. He’ll need to step up to upend Felix Desjy.

Wolverhampton. Race 2. 9:20. One of our favorites of all time. Red Verdon aims at his 10th career win in the definition of a British handicap. The 7-year-old gelding makes his 41st start against Make It Rain, a 3-year-old filly, making her 10th start. Sure beats the claiming game.

Kempton. Race 4. 9:25. The Grade 1 Labrokes Christmas Hurdle. Epatante rides a four-race win streak into this and should add one for the thumb here. A freak of nature, she’s won eight races from 10 starts.

Limerick. Race 5. 9:35. Paul Townend opted against Leopardstown to come here to ride Asterion Forlonge (and others) for Willie Mullins. Beaten just once in six tries, the French-bred looks like a lock in the Grade 1 Faugheen Novices’ Chase.

Kempton. Race 5. 10:00. The Grade 1 Ladbrokes King George. One of the most iconic races on the calendar attracts a stellar fleet of nine including Paul Nicholls’ power group Clan Des Obeaux, Cyrname, Frodon and Real Steel. What a spectacle.

Kempton. Race 6. 10:25. Seventeen line up for a salty handicap hurdle, the finale on a short but oh so sweet card on Boxing Day at Kempton. Is there anything better?

Laurel Park. Race 1. 12:25 p.m. Stakes right off the rip in Maryland with a half dozen 2-year-olds for the $100,000 Heft. How good is No Cents? We’ll find out after the 7 furlongs.

Laurel. Race 2. 12:54. The 2-year-old fillies take their turn in $100,000 Gin Talking. Another small field – only seven – but quality with Street Lute bringing her 4-for-5 mark to the table five others coming off victories.

Laurel. Race 3. 1:23. Juvenile fillies again but two turns for the $100,000 Anne Arundel County.

Laurel. Race 4. 1:53. Ditto to above for straight 2-year-olds here for the $100,000 Howard County. Who handles the stretch out? Some have already tried with mixed degrees of success.

Santa Anita Park. Race 1. 2:00. Early start to Opening Day card in Arcadia and a 9-furlong turf allowance for fillies and mares to get things rolling.

Laurel. Race 5. 2:23. Dontletsweetfoolya blasted the field in the Primonetta last time and brings four-race win streak to the $100,000 Willa On The Move for Lacey Gaudet.

Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 2:05. Todd Pletcher, not surprisingly off to a strong start at the Championship Meet, sends out Curlin first-timer Amount for Repole Stable and St Elias Stable and Bobby Flay’s homebred Pioneerof The Nile colt Eamonn in 7-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds.

Santa Anita. Race 2. 2:32. Keep an eye on races like this, 7-furlong maiden for 2-year-olds.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:38. Eleven line up and take a deep breath for the $75,000 H. Allen Jerkens at 2 miles on the turf. It’s always one of our favorite races, for so many reasons with memories of The Chief at the top of the list.

Laurel. Race 6. 2:53. Share The Ride sheds 10 pounds off win in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight and looks tough in the $100,000 Dave’s Friend. Laki flies the flag for the home team and could cap another big year for Damon Dilodovico in 6-furlong stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:09. Greatest Honour appreciated the stretch out last time when he just missed in 9-furlong maiden at Aqueduct. Shug McGaughey runs son of Tapit back in this 1 1/16-mile maiden that also figures to suit Dynamic One, who gets the addition of blinkers along with added ground after adventurous debut.  

Laurel. Race 7. 3:32. Harpers First Ride bids for seventh win of 2020 in $100,000 Native Dancer. He handled Cordmaker last time out in the Richard W. Small and in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special three back and figures to get a test from that one again.

Santa Anita. Race 4. 3:36. The Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile leads off the stakes. Mike Maker ships Field Pass from Kentucky to try Smooth Like Strait. They’ve faced each other before, with the latter coming out on top in the War Chant at Churchill and Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita. Field Pass did finish ahead of that foe in the Grade 2 American Turf, but they were third and fourth, respectively.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:40. Derby season comes to a close for 2020 with the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby. Plenty of familiar faces here with Colonel Liam the one to beat off the layoff.

Laurel. Race 8. 3:53. The Grade 3 Allaire duPont, left out of Preakness Weekend, headlines the card with a field of seven fillies and mares led by Eres Tu, Ice Princess and Another Broad.

Santa Anita. Race 6. 4:37. Get a look at the new turf course in 6 1/2-furlong allowance for older horses.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:42. A dozen 3-year-old fillies for the $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks, including More Than Unusual for Brad Cox, Speaktomeofsummer for Christophe Clement, Viglantes Way for Shug McGaughey and Secret Time and Lindy Lou for Arnaud Delacour.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:54. Field of 11 3-year-old fillies entered for $75,000 Pago Hop. In Good Spirits finished second in prep for this and could be tough on the lead.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 5:09. Sharp Samurai, third last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, takes on the trifecta from the Grade 3 Native Diver in Extra Hope, Midcourt and Combatant in the Grade 2 San Antonio. Mucho Gusto earns favorites role, deservedly so considering he won last year’s Pegasus World Cup, but he hasn’t been out since the Saudi Cup in late February.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:23. Whoa Nellie chased Finite in the Grade 3 Chilukki last time (more on that one below) and should handle return to two turns in $75,000 Joseph E. “Spanky” Broussard Memorial. Tom Amoss, deserving winner of this year’s Big Sport of Turfdom Award from the Turf Publicists of America, sends out Beautiful Trauma while Steve Asmussen goes with the capable Lady Apple.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 5:43. Finite showed she’s back on track with strong second in the Grade 2 Raven Run and a win in the Grade 3 Chilukki last time for Steve Asmussen, who sends 3-year-old daughter of Munnings to the West Coast to take on 10 others in the Grade 1 La Brea. Bob Baffert would have saddled the favorite if he ran the absent probable champion female sprinter Gamine but still comes with a loaded quartet of Merneith, Himiko, Provocation and Golden Principal.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:52. We stood by the gap with Wayne Catalano late last summer at Saratoga and watched Stanford train. He hadn’t run yet and was entered closing weekend, but didn’t go when rains saturated the turf course. Irish-bred son of Zoffany didn’t factor in his U.S. bow in October at Belmont but comes back at a big price here in the $75,000 Woodchopper.

Santa Anita. Race 9. 6:17. Chad Brown has plundered nearly every major turf stakes in 2020 and why not another? He sends out Duopoly and Capital Structure in the Grade 1 American Oaks, which also draws East Coast shippers Sharing and Luck Money.

Santa Anita. Race 10. 6:51. The final stakes – and last Grade 1 of 2020 – could not be much saltier with Nashville and Charlatan taking top billing in the $300,000 Runhappy Malibu. Steve Asmussen passed on the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Nashville and he blasted overmatched field in the Perryville Stakes on the Saturday undercard to run record to 3-for-3. Charlatan hasn’t been out since he crossed finish 6 lengths clear in division of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby before being DQ’s for a medication issue. Those two stand out but quality lurks in the field with Thousand Words, Independence Hall and Collusion Illusion also entered for 7-furlong Boxing Day fixture.

Santa Anita. Race 11. 7:25. The stakes aren’t finished yet with the $75,000 Lady of Shamrock at 1 mile on the grass closing the card. Chad Brown, who else?, sends out likely winner Counterparty Risk.