The Saturday Special presented by Thoroughbred Racing Calendar – Jan. 23

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Four weekends into the New Year and the first big Saturday of 2021 on tap with Pegasus World Cup Day at Gulfstream Park at center stage.

The monster seven-stakes program in South Florida carries the day with the $3 million Pegasus World Cup and $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf leading the charge. Strong fields line up for both, and for the supporting stakes that pack up a punch the day before the Super Bowl combatants are determined.

What better way to spend the day, especially with what figures to be really cold in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic with a blast of seasonal weather coming in from the north. And there’s plenty of other action with a pair of stakes at Oaklawn Park, the Grade 3 Palos Verdes at Santa Anita Park and the Jazil Stakes at Aqueduct to keep you busy in between the action from Gulfstream. The days starts overseas withh some great jump racing, Ascot, Haydock and Navan … who is pumped for Cheltenham?

Here’s your primer for Saturday, Jan. 23. Stay healthy friends, and good luck. Why not order a 2021 Thoroughbred Racing Calendar, too, while you follow along.

Ascot. Race 1. 7:40 a.m. As we write every Saturday, here are the juvenile hurdlers aiming/prepping/dreaming/hoping for March. Tritonic sparred with quality horses on the flat, including a second in a listed stakes at Hamilton last summer. The 4-year-old makes his hurdle debut for Alan King here.  

Haydock. Race 1. 7:55. A Grade 2 hurdle kicks off a stellar card. Allart goes 1-2 here for Nicky Henderson.

Ascot. Race 2. 8:15. Magic Of Light travels from Ireland for Jessica Harrington. The nine-time winner looks strong in this Grade 2 mares’ hurdle. Of course, Roksana looks strong, too, she finished third in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle in her most recent start. 

Haydock. Race 2. 8:30. The Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle. A Grade 2 stakes attracts a competitive group of five, including Minella Drama, winner of his last two by a combined 23 lengths. 

Ascot. Race 3. 8:50. Craigneiche spots experience and gets weight in the Grade 3 Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle.  

Navan. Race 3. 8:57. Well, hello champion. The 2019 Eclipse Award winner, Winston C, returns to Europe for his 2021 debut in the Navan Handicap Hurdle. Owned by Hudson River Farm and now trained by Keri Brion, the 7-year-old takes on 19 rivals in this competitive affair. 

Haydock. Race 4. 9:40. The Grade 2 Peter March Handicap Chase. Venetia Williams has tuned up Royale Pagaille, winner of his last two. The French-bred looks like he’ll make it three in a row here. 

Haydock. Race 5. 10:15. The New One Unibet Hurdle. Named after the late hurdle legend, this year’s renewal attracts just three, including 2-5 Buveur D’Air, winner of 17 races, including two Champion Hurdles. The Nicky Henderson trainee returns from a 14-month layoff against outsider Navajo Pass and hard-hitting veteran Ballyandy. Winner of this race last year, the 10-year-old will fly the flag and elicit the tears from Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of The New One. “He won the race last year on testing ground, so hopefully he can once again go close,” Twiston-Davies said. “He is taking on the returning Buveur d’Air but, given the ground and his form this season, we are hopeful of a good run. He came out of the Christmas Hurdle well and this has been the plan since.”

Ascot. Race 6. 10:35. Remember when Defi Du Seuil couldn’t lose in the Queen Mother at Cheltenham? That was in March. The 14-time winner slogged around that day, finishing a well-beaten fourth and came back this season to pull up in the Shloer Chase. Will the wheels get back on the tracks here in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase? First Flow is on the flow, riding a five-race win streak for Kim Bailey and David Bass. And then there’s Politologue, who won that Queen Mother in March. Fascinating affair. 

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 11:40. Full field of fillies and mares for 1-mile optional on the grass to open Pegasus Day card.

Gulfstream. Race 2. 12:08 p.m. Dynamic One appreciated the added distance – as predicted in this space a few weeks’ back – and figures to break maiden in second try at 1 1/16 miles here for Todd Pletcher.

Aqueduct. Race 1. 12:20. Do you remember Handle The Truth? Surely you do, daughter of Speightster appeared in our season-ending Glenn DiSanto Little Guy Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour. Check out page 12 of the Sept. 12 edition of The Special to see what trainer Kerry Metevier said in early September about the New York-bred filly and watch her go 7 furlongs here in start No. 3.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 1:05. Seven line up to take on Performer, who breaks from rail in Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper at 1 mile. He’s won five of seven, comes off a third in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile and makes first start at Gulfstream against Eye Of A Jedi, Phat Man, Haikal and anothers.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:20. The featured $100,000 Jazil goes early on the card due to short field of five. It’s a good one though with Backsideofthemoon and Musical Heart trying to upend last year’s winner and New York-bred champion Mr. Buff in 9-furlong stakes.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 2:00. First Saturday card of the season in Hot Springs opens with 6-furlong claimer.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 2:04. Pegasus Day maiden races are always worth watching – Hidden Scroll two years ago and Market Analysis last year to a lesser extent. Plenty of sire power and potential in here, but keep an eye on Ghazaaly, a $1.05 million Curlin yearling; Marching, first-time starter by Liam’s Map for Shug McGaughey; and Stage Rider, John Gunther homebred half brother to Triple Crown winner Justify by Pioneerof The Nile for Chad Brown. Not to mention Traveller, Tourist firster for WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and Todd Pletcher.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 2:38. The Grade 3 Marshua’s River. Ten fillies and mares for 1-mile turf stakes and New York-bred mare Niko’s Dream tries to make it two straight, again facing Tuned, along with Sweet Bye And Bye, Evil Lyn, Viglantes Way and Zofelle.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:09. Time to stretch, the Grade 3 La Prevoyante at 12 furlongs on the grass. Always Shopping just missed at the trip two back in the Grade 3 Dowager at Keeneland.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:40. The phrase “wide-open race” is overused in our game but certainly applies to this one, the Grade 2 Inside Information. One can make a case for any of the eight entered in 7-furlong stakes. We’ll lean on Sound Machine from the outside, hoping for a better trip than last time in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl against Bronx Beauty and Cinnabunny, who major players again in here.

Aqueduct. Race 8. 3:50. Chestertown, now a three-time winner and of course winner of the Albany last year as a 3-year-old, makes 2021 debut in 9-furlong open-company. allowance. He’s 2-for-2 at the Big A.

Santa Anita Park. Race 2. 4:03. Fenway, New York-bred son of Into Mischief who coset $650,000 at 2019 Keeneland September sale, makes debut in 1-mile maiden for Bob Baffert and many of the Justify connections. He’ll need to be sharp against The Great One, second by a nose in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity.

Oaklawn. Race 5. 4:06. Always worth watching the 3-year-old maidens and here’s one at 6 furlongs with a full field of 12 led by Outasite and Name Rejected.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:13. Doswell just missed Largent last time in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale, looking like he wanted more ground and he gets it here in Grade 3 W.L. McKnight at 12 furlongs on the grass. And a welcome back to the old veteran Sadler’s Joy, still going strong at age 8, almost $2.7 million in the bank.

Oaklawn. Race 6. 4:39. The path to the Oaklawn Handicap starts with the 1-mile Fifth Season. Pioneer Spirit won it last year and returns for this year’s $150,000 renewal against Big ‘Cap winner Combatant, Grade 3 Cornhusker winner Night Ops and others.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 10. 4:52. Must-watch maiden of the day on the grass with plenty of power vying for $22,500 purse.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:59. Strong renewal of the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational with a three-part entry from Todd Pletcher’s string in Colonel Liam, Largent and Social Paranoia looking tough. Don’t discount Shug McGaughey’s duo of Breaking The Rules and North Dakota though in 1 3/16-mile grass stakes. Say The Word probably landed Sovereign Award winning last year’s Grade 1 Northern Dancer and finishing third in Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup and he looks tough for the West Coast contingent.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 5:44. The main event, the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational. Fifth renewal since changing names from the Donn Handicap and while there’s no Arrogate, California Chrome, Gun Runner or City Of Light it’s still a very strong event with Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go, Travers winner Code Of Honor and graded stakes winners Tax, Harpers First Ride, Mr Freeze, Math Wizard, Independence Hall and Sleepy Eyes Todd in the field.

Oaklawn. Race 8. 5:47. Wicked Whisper, winner of the Grade 3 Miss Preakness in early October and the Grade 1 Frizette as a 2-year-old in 2019, stretches two turns for the first time in $100,000 Pippin. One-mile stakes for older fillies and mares also attracts Isatan Council, Our Super Freak and Vault.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:57. Close the day with the Grade 3 Palos Verdes. Take The One O One and Ax Man shorten up and look tough while Wildman Jack goes turf-to-dirt and Shashashakemeup makes California debut off two good runs at Churchill.

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