The Saturday Special presented by Thoroughbred Racing Calendar – March 13

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A strong Rebel Stakes Day card at Oaklawn Park, the return of champions Swiss Skydiver and Whitmore and a stakes-heavy card at Laurel Park lead another busy Saturday before March Madness returns next week.

The countdown to the Kentucky Derby reaches seven weeks Saturday, giving the Rebel a perfect spot on the calendar for 3-year-olds to earn some points and set the table for another start in a few weeks’ time. A deep group entered, led by Caddo River, along with Keepmeinmind and Concert Tour. The Azeri, Essex and Hot Springs, featuring Whitmore, bolster the card in Arkansas.

Swiss Skydiver makes her return at Santa Anita, where she won last year, in the Grade 1 Beholder Mile.

We’re keeping tabs on all the action here in North America and overseas, which is ready for the opening of the Cheltenham Festival next week. Fans won’t be able to pack the stands at Cheltenham this year, but some will be allowed at Laurel Park Saturday after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order that allows up to 400 patrons on track.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, March 13. Enjoy, be safe and good luck.

Auteuil. Race 1. 7:58 a.m. A stellar jump card begins with a handicap restricted to 5-year-olds. Gex looks strong here. After that, the hits come every half hour or so. They include the Tofano Chase, the Duc D’Anjou Chase, the De L’Yonne Hurdle and conclude with the Ventriloque Hurdle. Even the names sound posh.

Sandown. Race 1. 8:15. One of our favorite cards of the season, usually enjoyed fresh off the plane and the first stop on the Cheltenham foray, stow the bags at bag check and hope for a ride to George Baker’s, wherever he is that year, with Alan King or Richard Hutchinson. Alas, it’ll be from home this year. Juveniles kick it off.

Sandown. Race 2. 8:50. One of our favorite races of the year. Always a classic, the Grade 3 EBF NH Novices’ Handicap Hurdle attracts as deep a field as we’ve seen. Eight of the 18 have won their last start, including Matinhal, Striking A Pose, Patroclus, Ocean Drifter and Sometimes Always who ride win streaks into the 2 1/2-mile boiler.

OstilioWolverhampton. Race 5. 9:05. Nothing like the range of horses in a race in Britain. The Lady Wulfruna, a listed stakes, lures everything from Ostilio, 10th in the 2019 Fourstardave, to Documenting, a seven-time winning 8-year-old gelding, to Belle Anglais, a 4-year-old filly with stakes form in Germany. (Ostilio, left. Tod Marks Photo)

Sandown. Race 3. 9:25. Another tradition on the card, the Grade 3 Imperial Cup entices Natural History and 14 others. Cool, competitive race.

Wolverhampton. Race 6. 9:40. We’ve always loved Milltown Star. Perhaps, he upsets the Lincoln Trial.

HRRN. 10:00. In the Room with Sean Clancy and Drayden Van Dyke. 

Sandown. Race 4. 10:00. Sandown builds an eclectic and entertaining card each season with races like the EBF Mares Standard Open National Hunt flat race, a listed contest worth $34,500. Who’s been the most impressive? Tweed Skirt, perhaps.

Sandown. Race 5. 10:35. High Up In The Air rides a five-race win streak into the Paddy’s Rewards Club Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Navan. Race 5. 10:55. How about Sean Flanagan? Leaves here and revitalizes his career in Ireland. Our old friend should win the Grade 2 Webster Chase aboard Daily Tiger. And we questioned him when he went home.

Navan. Race 6. 11:30. Big purse offered here for horses swerving Cheltenham and taking aim at the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Handicap Chase Final. Atlantic Shore and Enjoy D’Allen roll in with the best recent form among the dozen.

Aqueduct. Race 1. 12:50 p.m. B C Glory Days, narrowly beaten in first two starts, takes on five first-timers and two others in 7-furlong state-bred maiden to open the card.

Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 1:00. Rebel Day starts with 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-olds.

Laurel Park. Race 3. 1:28. The $100,000 Beyond the Wire leads off the five stakes, a 1-mile event on the main track for 3-year-old fillies. Street Lute brings 7-for-8 record and meets Fraudulent Charge again. Littlestitious ships up from Fair Grounds from the team that brought you Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empiress – owner Joel Politi and trainer Tom Amoss.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 1:50. Chad Brown, hitting at a 40-percent clip at the current meet, sends out even-money favorite Back Channel and 7-5 second choice Strafe in 6 1/2-furlong maiden for fillies and mares. Bill Mott entered Aunt Kat, otherwise it looks like the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with the Little Guys – Metivier, Persaud, Dharamjit, Pregman.

Oaklawn. Race 3. 2:03. It pays to race in Hot Springs this winter. Check out this $105,000 allowance.

Laurel. Race 5. 2:27. Whereshetoldmetogo returns from brief freshening in $75,000 Not For Love.

Oaklawn. Race 4. 2:32. Second division of 3-year-old maiden at 6 furlongs and several firsters that look interesting – Violent Gigi for Jerry Hollendorfer, Cryo for Brad Cox, Golden Flash for Steve Asmussen, Battle Hymn for Larry Jones and Title Shot for Wayne Catalano.

Gulfstream Park. Race 6. 2:36. Army Wife adds Lasix for 3-year-old debut in 1-mile optional. She finished second in similar spot to end juvenile season last fall at Churchill.

Laurel. Race 6. 3:03. Tattooed returns to two turns for the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial after a win in the Jennings and good second at 21-1 in the Grade 3 General George. He won going the same 9-furlong trip three starts back and finished third in the Maryland Million Classic at the distance.

Shedaresthedevil OaksOaklawn. Race 5. 3:03. Shedaresthedevil, last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner, meets Envoutante, Letruska, Getridofwhatailesu and Motion Emotion in the Grade 2 Azeri. She hasn’t been out since decent third in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster that came after her 15-1 upset of Swiss Skydiver and Gamine in the Oaks. (Shedaresthedevil, right. Coady Photography)

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:10. Carl Nafzger’s name, yes, that Carl Nafzger, showed up on the overnight. The Hall of Fame trainer sends out Sensible Jim for Jim Tafel LLC in 7-furlong maiden.

Fonner Park. Race 3. 3:24. The melting pot that is Nebraska. Consider this 6-furlong maiden, worth $7,000. Runners bred in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arkansas and Ontario. And one, the 4-year-old Curlin gelding Feisty Bird bred by the late Marylou Whitney, appeared in the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with Ian Wilkes.

Laurel. Race 7. 3:34. The $75,000 Conniver for Maryland-bred fillies and mares lures Whispering Pines up from Florida for Brian Lynch.

Oaklawn. Race 6. 3:36. Another big purse for 1 1/16-mile allowance – $105,000 – and a field of 10 led by Ashaar, Excession and Aasr.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 3:56. Our old friend Play Unified, who we wrote about as a 2-year-old in 2015, makes start No. 34 in 5 ½-furlong optional on the grass.

Tampa Bay Downs. Race 8. 3:48. A Thread Of Blue, winner of the inaugural Saratoga Derby Invitational in 2019, tries for first victory since that day in 1-mile handicap on the grass.

Laurel. Race 8. 4:07. Maythehorsebwithu, a half brother to graded stakes winner Call Paul, stretches out to two turns for the first time in $100,000 Private Terms.

Oaklawn. Race 7. 4:08. Silver State looks to make it four straight, including two stakes, in the $500,000 Essex Handicap. Ungraded – for now – 1 1/16-mile stakes attracts Harpers First Ride and Tax out of the Pegasus World Cup, Night Ops and Green Light Go.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:14. Strong and full field of 3-year-olds for 9-furlong maiden on the grass.

MihosAqueduct. Race 8. 4:24. Secret Rules, 1-2-3 in all eight of his starts, takes on the likes of Big Engine, Mihos and Celtic Chaos in 6 1/2-furlong optional. (Mihos, left. NYRA Photo)

Tampa. Race 10. 4:53. American Diamond makes first start since decent fourth in Saratoga turf maiden in typical-for-Tampa 3-year-old maiden on the grass. Motion, Harty, Delacour, Brown and Clement all with runners.

Aqueduct. Race 9. 4:55. Here’s one you don’t see often – Hall of Famer Richard Mandella ships the graded stakes-placed Amuse from California for the $100,000 Correction. Fifth last time in the Grade 2 Santa Monica, 6-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro takes on trio of New York-breds in Awesome Debate, Prairie Fire and Sadie Lady along with the consistent Jump For Joy in her stakes debut at age 8.

Santa Anita Park. Race 2. 5:04. Triple Tap, half-brother to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah by leading sire Tapit, makes debut against four others in 7-furlong maiden. Bob Baffert trained American Pharoah and sends out homebred Triple Tap for Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Equine.

Oaklawn. Race 9. 5:13. Stamina specialists – or stamina hopefuls – go 12 furlongs on theh dirt in the $150,000 Temperence Hill. You’re To Blame, now with Ron Moquett, can handle the extended ground as can Tenfold and Campaign.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:19. Carotari just missed last time in Sam Houston’s Turf Sprint off nearly five-month break and returns to defend title in the $75,000 Silks Run.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 5:23. Digital flirted with possible run at the classics last year, finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Risen Star and then sixth in the Oaklawn Stakes in early April. Off since late September, Into Mischief colt makes return in 6-furlong optional for Bret Calhoun.

WhitmoreRonM TodOaklawn. Race 10. 5:45. Welcome back Whitmore, last year’s champion male sprinter and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner who looks to make it five wins in the $200,000 Hot Springs. You read that right, five wins in the Hot Springs. Let it sink in. (Tod Marks Photo, right)

Fonner. Race 9. 6:06. The featured $15,000 Orphan Kist for Nebraska-bred fillies and mares. Love At Night won it by 7 last year, after a 2 ¾-length tally in 2019. She also finished second in 2017 – in just her second start. Can the 8-year-old Mr. Nightlinger mare make it three in a row?

Oaklawn. Race 11. 6:16. Caddo River bolsters Brad Cox’s already strong hand for the Kentucky Derby and tries for third straight win in the Grade 2 Rebel. Bred and owned by Shortleaf Stable, son of Hard Spun walloped the field in the Smarty Jones but figures to get a test here from Grade 1 winner Get Her Number, Grade 2 winners Keepmeinmind and Concert Tour, Super Stock and Hozier.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 6:46. Cistron comes off the bench in defense of title in the Grade 3 San Simeon. He’s run only once since winning last year’s renewal, a fifth in the Grade 3 Daytona going 5 ½ furlongs on the grass May 23.

SwissSkySASanta Anita. Race 8. 7:20. Welcome back champ. Swiss Skydiver makes 4-year-old debut in the Grade 1 Beholder Mile. Kenny McPeek shipped daughter of Daredevil to California last year to win the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks in the midst of three-race win streak. Seven others entered – Sanenus will scratch – and it’s a strong field with Harvest Moon, As Time Goes By and Golden Principal the main opposition. (Benoit Photo, left)

Turfway Park. Race 4. 7:46. Macagone, a multiple stakes winner and earner of $654,981, makes first start as a 10-year-old for a $5,000 tag in 1-mile event that also draws cleverly named Easy Doer and Honey Don’t, who nearly gave The Special’s Sean Clancy a monster score at the 2017 Saratoga meet.

Turfway. Race 6. 8:46. Kim Hammond looks strong in 1-mile optional with Kynance and Complete.

Charles Town Races. Race 6. 9:32. Fiber Sonde and Windsor Castle, 1-2 on the West Virginia general sire list last year and more than two months in 2021, each represented by a pair in state-bred optional at 6 1/2 furlongs. Fiber And Emily and Fairweather Friend represent the former while Rush To The Castle and William And Mare go for the latter.