The Saturday Special presented by Thoroughbred Racing Calendar – Feb. 27

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The return of champions Essential Quality and Vequist, the former in a key Kentucky Derby prep and the latter looking to take a step toward the Kentucky Oaks, headline the final Saturday in February and another big day of racing from around the world.

We preview all the action in this week’s primer, starting overseas with jump racing from Fairyhouse and Kempton before heading back stateside from strong cards at Gulfstream Park and Oaklawn Park. Gulfstream runs nine stakes –  yes, nine – topped by the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth. Vequist goes in the co-featured Davona Dale on the undercard, the first start of 2021 for last year’s champion 2-year-old filly.

Oaklawn, thawed out from a wintery mess that derailed its schedule this month, runs the Grade 3 Southwest featuring 2020 champion 2-year-old male Essential Quality along with a strong renewal of the Razorback Handicap.

After this weekend we turn the page to March – literally if you are sporting a 2021 Thoroughbred Racing Calendar on the wall – and rev up some more for Cheltenham, the Dubai World Cup and more classic preps with spring not far away.

Farewell to February, always one of the quietest months of the year and certainly in 2021 amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And here’s to better days ahead approaching the one-year mark for dealing with the deadly virus and the mess in its wake.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, Feb. 27. Be safe and good luck.

Worth Repeating

VequistSpinawayTod“Intelligence, both great heads on their shoulders. Nothing bothers them, you never worry about shipping, putting them on a van, having to take their racetrack with them. They pretty much run over any dirt track. They’ll run over any surface and will adapt at any surrounding we throw at them. That’s the biggest key that Mom passed down to the daughter, the personality and smarts they both possess.”
Trainer Butch Reid on similarities between champion Vequist (left, Tod Marks Photo) and her Grade 2-placed mother Vero Amore

“It was a win-win for me.”
Swilcan Stables’ Tom McGrath, who bred Vequist, on the decision to sell 75 percent of the filly to Gary Barber and Adam Wachtel

Jockey Hugh Bowman describing how he and Young Dev handled 3 miles without stirrups to win a handicap chase at Navan last weekend

“We are delighted to see a competitive field for both the Betway Winter Derby and Betway Hever Sprint. It could be an expensive one in the Betway Winter Derby as we laid Father Of Jazz at 14/1 and Felix at 8/1 when the entries were first released and they’re now heading the market at 13/8 and 5/2 respectively. We will all be cheering on Betway ambassador Andrew Balding’s Johnny Drama for a number of reasons!”
Betway PR Manager Chad Yeomans 

The Saturday Special

Fairyhouse. Race 1: 8:10 a.m. Tax For Max makes his hurdle debut for Willie Mullins in the Grade 3 Normal Colfer Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle. The German-bred has solid flat form and should toy with these.

Fairyhouse. Race 2. 8:45. The Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle. Jason The Militant. Sixshooter. Darasso. Petit Mouchoir. Take your pick.

Kempton. Race 2. 8:50. Tamaroc Du Mathan couldn’t handle Shishkin but he should handle three rivals in the Grade 2 Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase.

Kempton. Race 3. 9:25. Tricky moment on the schedule as Cheltenham looms. The Grade 2 Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle offers a decent purse and a smart opportunity for nine runners. Tritonic, the highest rated flat horse to go hurdling for Alan King, won his hurdle debut and should saunter around here in a tune up to bigger things.

Lingfield. Race 6. 9:40. Father Of Jazz rolls into the Betway Winter Derby on a three-race win streak and this should make four.

Fairyhouse. Race 4. 9:52. Named for the great Grand National winner, the Bobbyjo Chase attracts a wily group of veterans including Acapella Bourgeois and Anibale Fly.

MonomoyGirlFlorent10:00. HRRN. Sean Clancy In The Room with jockey Florent Geroux (left, aboard Monomoy Girl. Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup Photo). Listen here.

Kempton. Race 4. 10:00. Heady clash of Atholl Street, Calico and Cape Gentleman in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.

Kempton. Race 5. 10:35. The depth of Paul Nicholls’ chasers. Black Corton, a 14-time winner tries to return to his best in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 11:30. Fountain of Youth Day starts with 7-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies. Scan the entries, find one for Todd Pletcher. Better yet, find two in Sibaaq and Champagne Salute.

Gulfstream. Race 2. 11:58. Speaking of Pletcher, he’ll win 1-mile optional with either Nocturnal or Portos.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 12:26 p.m. The Grade 3 Herecomesthebride leads off the nine stakes on the card. Tobys Heart makes 2021 debut and first start since winning the Bolton Landing in mid-August at Saratoga. Spanish Loveaffair will enjoy not seeing Aunt Pearl, who she chased in back-to-back starts last fall in the Grade 2 Jessamine and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 12:55. Mike Maker sends out strong trio of Temple, Tide Of The Sea and Aquaphobia against five others in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida going 11 furlongs on the grass. Feel like looking elsewhere? How about Moon Over Miami on the comeback for Bill Mott or Admission Office for Brian Lynch?

Gulfstream. Race 5. 1:24. Blitz To Win chased eventual Sam F. Davis winner Candy Man Rocket in his debut, finishing a decent third with a good late run. He meets 10 other 3-year-olds here in typical big day maiden.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 1:53. Shug McGaughey could kick off big afternoon with Scarlett Sky in the $100,000 Palm Beach. Stuart Janney III’s homebred Sky Mesa colt showed he liked the local turf course last time.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:03. Mr. Buff, 3-5 on the morning line and shortening up from 9 to 8 furlongs, returns for the $125,000 Stymie. When he’s good he’s good, and guess what, he’s really good now.

Oaklawn Park. Race 3. 2:15. Remember Intrepid Heart? Third in the 2019 Peter Pan and eighth in the Belmont Stakes? He’s entered here for $20,000 and 5-2 on the line.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:23. Interesting collection of characters for 1-mile optional on the main track with Endorsed, Mubarmaj, Untitled and Attachment Rate among the 11 entered.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 2:53. Back to stakes and the Grade 3 Canadian Turf. Eons ran big at a big price in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay and takes first run over the course against Olympiuc Runner, Gear Jockey, Fancy Liquor and Venezuelan Hug, who all own wins over the local grass.

Laurel Park. Race 7. 3:18. Big and balanced field of 12 older horses for 5 1/2-furlong optional.

Performer LaurenKingGulfstream. Race 9. 3:27. Performer (left, Lauren King/Gulfstream Park Photo) bids for back-to-back graded wins in the Grade 2 WinStar Gulfstream Park Mile after just getting up in the Fred Hooper on Pegasus Day last time out. Speaking of Pegasus Day, Tax found the water a bit deep again in the main event and returns to his level here and adds blinkers. Fearless might be the one to beat off the layoff for Todd Pletcher.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 3:56. More Than Unusual back to allowance ranks for 1 1/16-mile turf test after runner-up effort in Tropical Park Oaks to end her 3-year-old season.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 4:20. Mystic Guide, second last time out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, takes on Owendale, third in the Grade 1 Clark, in strong renewal of Grade 3 Razorback Handicap.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:29. Got Stormy finished fifth, beaten just 2 lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint then went through the ring at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November mixed sale and brought $2.75 million from Spendthrift Farm. She’s back for 6-year-old campaign and starts in the Grade 3 Honey Fox at 1 mile on the turf.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 4:52. Amy’s Challenge gave Frank’s Rockette a good run last time and will welcome not seeing that one in field for $200,000 Spring Fever. Second in this race a year ago, Artie Schiller mare takes on Kimari, Casual and others in 5 1/2-furlong stakes.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 4:54. Ninety One Assault appreciated return to Louisiana-bred ranks last time and returns to defend title in $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace. Eight-year-old Artie Schiller gelding sports 7-for-10 mark on the Fair Grounds grass course, including three straight wins dating to early February 2019.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:04. The champ returns for the Grade 2 Davona Dale. Vequist, who broke her maiden in the Grade 1 Spinaway and clinched the title in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, won’t get a free pass against 11 others in 1-mile stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 5:36. One of our favorites, the Grade 3 The Very One. The Gulfstream version goes at 1 3/16 miles on the grass, while Pimlico’s Preakness undercard version is 5-furlong turf sprint. Go figure.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 5:52. Brad Cox sends out four of the nine entered in $75,000 Black Gold – Royal Prince, T D Dance, Fulsome and Kinetic Sky. They’ll need big efforts to get past the top two, Palazzi and Dyn O Mite.

Fonner Park. Race 8. 5:53. Love At Night won the last two editions of the Bold Accent and returns to try and make it three straight in $15,000 renewal. Eight-year-old Nebraska-bred mare isn’t favored on morning line, with that role going to Such Great Heights, last seen finishing third in Mountaineer optional in late December.

EssentialQualityOaklawn. Race 10. 5:58. First of two Kentucky Derby points races – this one strangely only offering 10 to the winner – is the Grade 3 Southwest. Essential Quality (right, Coady Photography) already earned 30 for wins in Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to lock down Eclipse Award and unbeaten son of Tapit takes first serious step toward the spring classics in 1 1/16-mile stakes. Jackie’s Warrior faded to fourth as the favorite in the Juvenile and makes comeback here for Steve Asmussen while Bob Baffert tests the waters outside California with Los Al Futurity winner Spielberg.

Gulfstream. Race 14. 6:10. Greatest Honour took down Tarantino and Prime Factor last time in the Grade 3 Holy Bull and meets those foes and seven others in the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth. Who figures to give him the biggest test? Several to choose from with Swale winner Drain The Clock and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Fire At Will in the field. Winner earns 50 points – essentially an automatic bid – toward spot in Kentucky Derby gate.

Sam Houston Race Park. Race 1. 6:40. Transition time; Arabians start the card in Grade 3 Texas Six-Shooter.

Santa Anita Park. Race 8. 7:26. Cathkin Peak has done nothing wrong since coming to the U.S. with wins in a Del Mar maiden and the Eddie Logan at Santa Anita last time. Irish-bred looks good in $100,000 Pasadena against Red Flag, Rock Your World and Commander Khai.

Sam Houston. Race 6. 9:12. The $75,000 Two Altazano for Texas-bred fillies and mares at 6 furlongs leads off five-pack of Thoroughbred stakes.

Turfway Park. Race 7. 9:16. Dabo, Noren and Peekacho top field field of 11 for late allowance at 1 mile.

Sam Houston. Race 7. 9:42. A dozen entered in $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf, including multiple stakes winner Shes Our Fastest and the comebacking Corluna.

Sam Houston. Race 8. 10:12. Will Farish’s homebred Direct Dial looks tough in $75,000 H-Town for Steve Asmussen.

Sam Houston. Race 9. 10:42. Don’t call it a night just yet, here’s the $75,000 Houston Turf for Texas-breds at 1 1/16 miles. Redatory won it last year but is 4-1 on the line behind 6-5 choice and old rival Sunlit Song and 7-2 Kenai Bob.

Sam Houston. Race 10. 11:10. Tough to see Karl Broberg shut out of any of these stakes so look for Carbon Stryker to get it done from the rail in $75,000 Jim’s Orbit. Goodnight.


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