The Saturday Special presented by Thoroughbred Racing Calendar – March 20

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The Cheltenham Festival and St. Patrick’s Day in the books, March Madness in full swing and all sights set on the first day of spring.

Who’s ready? Good thing because that comes Saturday, along with a monster slate of racing here in the U.S. topped by Louisiana Derby Day at Fair Grounds. Eight stakes are on tap in New Orleans, including the $1 million headliner featuring the Risen Star rematch between Mandaloun, Proxy and Midnight Bourbon.

Elsewhere, Sam Houston hosts Texas Champions Day featuring seven $100,000 stakes, Gulfstream runs three stakes including the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie along with stakes action at Aqueduct, Oaklawn and Santa Anita.

Here’s your primer for Saturday, March 20. Happy spring! Take care and good luck.

Lyon-Parilly. Race 1. 5:50 a.m. Is this the first 2-year-old race? Anybody hear anything? 

Auteuil. Race 1. 8:59. Just in case you didn’t get enough jump racing from Cheltenham, a stellar jump card gets underway with the opener, the Didier Mescam Chase. A juvenile hurdle comes next, then a listed handicap hurdle, a filly juvenile, a couple of Grade 3 stakes…

Kempton. Race 1. 9:00. Well, here’s one way to swerve Cheltenham and guarantee a score. Marracudja for our friends at Foxtrot Racing is a lock. A stone certainty. A better bet than Envoi Allen. The 10-year-old is the only entry. Yup, a walkover for a $34,500 purse. Wow. 

HRRN. 10:00. Sean Clancy is In the Room with Hall of Fame jockey Ramon Dominguez.

Kempton. Race 5. 11:15. Falco Blitz leads a nine-horse field in the featured Virgin Bet Handicap Chase. 

Uttoxeter. Race 4. 11:35. An annual cure for the Cheltenham hangover, the Midlands Grand National, offers $164,500 for the wily veterans who muster the moxie and mileage to go 4 1/4 miles over fences. Come on, Regal Encore.

Thurles. Race 4. Noon. No rest for the best. Jack Kennedy, fresh off winning the Gold Cup, and Rachael Blackmore, fresh off winning six races and the leading jockey trophy at Cheltenham, go right back at it in the Grade 3 Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase. Kennedy rides favorite Felix Desjy and Blackmore counters with Jack Hackett. 

Fair Grounds. Race 1. 12:20 p.m. The $100,000 Crescent City Oaks starts off the card. Five Louisiana-bred 3-year-old fillies try to solve the riddle that is Australasia.

Fair Grounds. Race 2. 12:48. Steve Asmussen comes loaded with Road Bible and Alejandro in loaded two-turn maiden special weight.

Aqueduct. Race 2. 1:50. Our old friend Mills, still going strong at age 11, looks to improve on 10-15-14 record from 79 starts and add to $619,009 bankroll in $8,000 claimer at 1 mile.

Fair Grounds. Race 5. 2:13. Koolhaus, son of Nyquist who cost Larry Best $600,000 at 2018 Keeneland November sale, should graduate in 6-furlong maiden for Brad Cox.

Aqueduct. Race 3. 2:20. Save ships in from Fair Grounds, where she could have run in Fair Grounds Oaks going two turns, for $100,000 Cicada at 6 furlongs. Daughter of Violence won back-to-back starts at the distance in 15-day stretch to start the year and meets Salt Plage, Irish Constitution and Just Read It.

Mahoning Valley Race Course. Race 6. 2:34. Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies meet in $75,000 Southern Park. Esplanade, off since runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga, should roll in return.

Gulfstream Park. Race 6. 2:37. Jeebar, second in only two starts, meets Wora, second in last two starts, in 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on the dirt.

Aqueduct. Race 4. 2:50. Breakfastatbonnies romped in debut Jan. 2 and takes next step up ladder in 1-mile optional

Gulfstream. Race 7. 3:11. Three-year-old filly turf sprinters set for $75,000 Melody of Colors. Wink, second in Group 3 at Longchamp last fall for Wesley Ward after back-to-back wins sprinting on the turf in the U.S., leads the way.

Fair Grounds. Race 7. 3:12. Wayne Catalano was high on Rookery last summer at Saratoga, where she finished a close fourth and distant third in two starts. She’s finished second three times and third once since and looks to get it done going 6 furlongs with John Velazquez back aboard.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 3:41. Tallis finished fourth as short-priced favorite in debut on sloppy track last month. Son of Uncle Mo tries again in 1-mile maiden for Todd Pletcher.

Fair Grounds. Race 8. 3:42. Grade 1 winner No Parole brings 4-for-4 mark against state-breds to table in turf debut in $100,000 Costa Rising. If he doesn’t handle it there’s always our old friend Monte Man.

Fair Grounds. Race 9. 4:12. Who Took The Money could take it again in $100,000 Crescent City Derby. Allied Racing’s homebred Street Boss gelding won both of his starts heading into this 1 1/16-mile heat for Bret Calhoun.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 4:16. Tiesto, not seen since finishing eighth in the Toyota Blue Grass in July at Keeneland, returns to the grass in solid 1 1/16-mile optional that draws second-time U.S. runner Tulfarris, Glynn County, Sambacer, Advanced Strategy and Mystic Lancelot.

Fair Grounds. Race 10. 4:42. Dalika, part of Al Stall Jr.’s Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer at Saratoga, tries to add third stakes win of the meet in $150,000 Tom Benson Memorial on the grass.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 4:48. The featured Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. Pacific Gale won the Grade 2 Inside Information last time and tries to make it two in a row against Slam Dunk, Cory Gal, Saguaro Row and others shortening up to 6 1/2 furlongs.

Fair Grounds. Race 11. 5:12. Owendale, no match for Mystic Guide last time in the Razorback at Oaklawn, stays home this time for Grade 2 New Orleans Classic. Mike Stidham, who trains the Dubai-bound Mystic Guide, sends out Roadster for the first time.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 5:22. Field Day could deliver for Klein Racing in the $75,000 Texas Glitter. The Klein family campaigned Hurricane Bertie and their homebred Broken Vow gelding ships in from New Orleans for 5-furlong turf sprint.

Fonner Park. Race 8. 5:39. Love At Night returns to defend title in $15,000 Orphan Kist. Eight-year-old Nebraska-bred mare also won 6-furlong feature in 2019.

Fair Grounds. Race 12. 5:43. Colonel Liam makes first start since winning Pegasus World Cup Turf in Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic. He’s won four of six – including three on the grass – and takes on strong field that includes last year’s winner Factor This, Cross Border, Captivating Moon, Logical Myth and Spooky Channel.

Santa Anita Park. Race 4. 5:48. Crash Corrigan and Thrive, second and third last time, meet again in Cal-bred maiden. The latter adds blinkers for Michael McCarthy.

Fonner Park. Race 9. 6:06. Ourbestfriend D L rolled to back-to-back victories in the Grasmick and a 6-furlong allowance at the meet. Now the 5-year-old Yes It’s True gelding returns to stakes company for co-featured $20,000 Budweiser Tondi.

Fair Grounds. Race 13. 6:14. Clairiere and Travel Column meet for third straight time in Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. Travel Column won the first meeting by a length in the Grade 2 Golden Rod last fall while Clairiere took the second matchup by a neck in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra.

Santa Anita. Race 5. 6:22. Red King, fifth in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup and ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in last two starts, could be tough off the short layoff in 12-furlong starter allowance on the grass. Problem is stakes competitors Ward ‘n Jerry, Oscar Dominguez, The Shiff, Tartini and Irish Heatwave are also in the field.

Fair Grounds. Race 14. 6:44. The featured Grade 2 Louisiana Derby offers 100 points to the winner and 40 points to runner-up toward a spot in Kentucky Derby field. Essentially an automatic bid. Mandaloun probably already has a spot, with 52 points so far off victory in Grade 2 Risen Star, but could lock up spot and one of favorite’s role with another win over Proxy and Midnight Bourbon.

Oaklawn Park. Race 10. 6:52. More 3-year-olds, these the sprinting variety, meet in the $150,000 Gazebo. Jaxon Traveler, who did nothing wrong in his three starts back in his native Maryland, takes a step up and meets graded stakes-winning stablemate Cazadero and stakes winner Game Day Play.

Santa Anita. Race 7. 7:25. United makes return in the Grade 3 San Luis Rey, which also features rematch of Masteroffoxhounds and Acclimate. Those were were 1-2 in the Grade 2 San Marcos while United, not seen since his eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, holds significant class edge.

Oaklawn. Race 11. 7:26. Gaslight adds blinkers for second start and stretches out to a mile against older foes in maiden special finale.

Sam Houston Race Park. Race 4. 8:25. Keep things rolling with Texas Champions Day. The first of a half-dozen six-figure stakes is $100,000 Spirit of Texas for older horses at 6 furlongs. Good Judgment should win for Steve Asmussen and Stewart Elliott.

Sam Houston. Race 5. 8:55. The $100,000 Star of Texas for older horses at 1 mile. Will Farish’s homebred Direct Dial figures to be heavy favorite coming off win in 7-furlong prep last month for Asmussen and Elliott.

Sam Houston. Race 6. 9:25. Texas-bred 3-year-olds take their turn in $100,000 Groovy. Named for one of the fastest of the fast, 6-furlong stakes is a good one with Bobby Brinkley, Silence d’Oro, Dust Em and Stone Cafe all with legit credentials.

Sam Houston. Race 7. 9:55. Redatory returns to defend title in Richard King Turf. Good to see Reylu Gutierrez, who rode on NYRA circuit last year, finding a spot for the winter in Texas. He rides son of Oratory, who finished fourth in local prep against fellow King entrants Moojab Jr and 6-5 morning-line favorite Sunlit Song.

Sam Houston. Race 8. 10:25. Don’t hit the sack yet; the $100,000 Bara Lass looks like good one between Mostly Distorted and Happy Sailor.

Sam Houston. Race 9. 10:55. The next to last stakes, the $100,000 San Jacinto Turf for fillies and mares. If you’ve been going strong all day and night you might favor No Mas Tequila over the favorite Ima Discreet Lady. Those two were 1-3 in the local prep, with Miss Perfect between them. They’re all back for more here.

Sam Houston. Race 10. 11:25. One more for kicks, the $100,000 Yellow Rose for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs on the dirt. Ima Discreet Lady is entered here, too, and fits just as well. If she doesn’t go Boerne and Shes Our Fastest are the ones to beat.