The Saturday Special – Sept. 23

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Time to get serious. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships is a mere six weeks from Saturday and that means it’s time for final preps on the road to Del Mar. We’ve got those preps and more covered in this week’s edition of The Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.

Parx Racing takes the spotlight this weekend with its pair of $1 million Grade 1 stakes for 3-year-olds – the Pennsylvania Derby and the Cotillion for fillies. A strong supporting card leads into those key preps for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Breeders’ Cup Distaff, respectively.

Charles Town Races also presents a strong Saturday card topped by the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks while a pair of graded stakes are on tap at Belmont Park.

You’ll find all that and then some in this week’s primer. Here it is for Saturday, Sept. 23. Good luck and enjoy.

Newbury. Race 1. 8:15. You’ve seen – or at least calculated – Kerri Radcliffe and Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ spending at the recent yearling sales. Well, here’s one of their American-breds making his debut. Gronkowski, a son of Lonhro, cost 300,000 guineas at Tattersalls Craven Breeze-up in April.

Newmarket. Race 1. 8:25. Marc Keller’s Quargent tries to make it two in a row. A daughter of War Front, she cost $585,000 at Keeneland September Sales in 2016.

Newbury. Race 2. 8:45. Fake math. There’s nothing like a 2-year-old maiden in England. Al Shaqab, Tabor, Hannon, Stoute, Gosden, Maktoum, et al, aiming at a $10,000 purse.

Navan. Race 1. 8:50. Lamenting short fields? Well, here you go – 32 pass the entry box for this maiden hurdle.

Newbury. Race 3. 9:15. The Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup serves as Lael Stable’s Architecture’s long awaited 4-year-old debut. The daughter of Zoffany finished second in the Investec Oaks and the Darley Irish Oaks last year.

Newbury. Race 4. 9:50. The Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes for 2-year-olds looks like a sweet spot for Enjazaat, winner of a listed stakes at Ripon in his most recent start. Invincible Army makes the seventh start of his season. Yes, seventh.

Newmarket. Race 4. 10:10. Veterans from the flat world and the jump world stretch 2 ¼-miles in the Betfred Cesarewitch Trial Handicap. Old friends Sternrubin, Who Dares Wins and Oceane are just a few of the 21 strong.

Newbury. Race 5. 10:25. Nothing like a handicap in England. One of these days, Brorocco is going to break down the door, perhaps, it’s today.

Newbury. Race 6. 11:00. The Group 3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes sends them 5 furlongs for $74,000. Ten-year-old Take Cover seeks win number 13. For hunch players, bet Go On Go On Go On, at least you’ll know how to yell.

Newbury. Race 7. 11:35. Still watching? Why not, you’ll see a son of Frankel, Weekender, win here.

Navan. Race 7. 12:10. Everybody’s favorite mother/jockey, Nina Carberry, continues her return from maternity leave. She looks long gone here, taking the reins on the Gordon Elliott-trained Moonlight Escape in the bumper.

Wolverhampton. Race 5. 2:40. American-breds Kind Act and Staunch square off in the 9-furlong maiden. Kind Act, a son of Distorted Humor, carries the Godolphin blue while Staunch, a son of Union Rags, carries Marc Keller’s purple and green. 

Parx Racing. Race 1. 12:25. Big $51,000 purse for state-bred 2-year-old maiden race going 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track to open the card.

Parx. Race 3. 1:19. Another 5 1/2-furlong maiden, this one for open company with a purse of $67,000, doesn’t draw many from out-of-town barns. Ceevee, sixth in debut at Saratoga Aug. 5 for Kelly Breen, is the exception and attracts Jose Ortiz.

Woodbine. Race 2. 1:37. Hats off to racing office for 1 5/8-mile starter-optional on the grass.

Parx. Race 4. 1:47. Hidden Mystery moves to the main track after three starts in turf sprints for Jason Servis. She’s placed in back-to-back stakes, including a good third in Saratoga’s Coronation Cup in her most recent start.

Parx. Race 5. 2:15. Todd Pletcher sends out Monaco and Jerandson in two-turn allowance that also draws Haul Anchor and Hit It Once More from New York and Tale Of Mist and Confederate from Maryland.

Belmont Park. Race 3. 2:32. Only five for the Grade 3 Noble Damsel but quite a group led by Grade 1 winners Celestine and Time And Motion. They both skipped Saratoga – the former hasn’t been out since fifth in Grade 1 Just A Game in June, while the latter hasn’t run since third in Grade 3 Modesty in July. Sassy Little tried to do it all on the lead against males in Grade 1 Fourstardave and finished fifth. She’s back with her own gender and could be tough if alone on the lead.

Laurel Park. Race 5. 3:10. Tattered, son of Union Rags who cost $225,000 at Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale in March, stretches out to 1 mile off good third in 5-furlong debut July 17 at Parx.

Parx. Race 7. 3:12. The $100,000 Alphabet Soup going 1 1/16 miles on the grass opens the stakes portion of the card.

Delaware Park. Race 5. 3:15. Homebreds for Glen Hill Farm (Old Florida) and Robert Evans (Last Play) in the field of nine 2-year-old fillies for two-turn maiden on the grass.

Thistledown. Race 5. 3:40. Adalee and Vertrazzo both scored blowout maiden wins locally then suffered defeats out of town in their second starts. The Bill Cowans-trained duo is back to the Cleveland area for 5 1/2-furlong allowance.

Parx. Race 8. 3:41. Interesting and competitive group for $125,000 Pa Derby Champion for older horses going two turns on the main track. Donegal Moon comes off close second in Saratoga allowance, Discreet Lover exits back-to-back drubbings by Gun Runner in Grade 1 stakes at Saratoga, and Just Call Kenny and Mr. Jordan were 1-3 in the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin last time. And we didn’t even mention Page McKenney, Matt King Coal and Ike Walker.

Delaware. Race 6. 3:45. Bruce Brown hoped to find a race at the end of the Saratoga meet for Extinct Charm, one of eight entered in 1-mile and 70-yard allowance, but didn’t. He described him as “doing super” in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour.

Woodbine. Race 6. 3:50. Hardest Core, upset winner of the 2014 Arlington Million, makes first start since July 3, 2016, in 1 1/16-mile allowance for trainer Eddie Graham. It’s no layup with Sweet Little Man, Shakhimat and Cleopatra’s Strike in the field.

Arlington Park. Race 6. 4:04. Kasaqui gets some serious class relief – off ninth in Grade 1 Arlington Million – in $65,000 Les Ahrens Memorial going 1 mile on the grass. No doubt a prep for the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile next month at Keeneland.

Parx. Race 9. 4:14. Coal Front and Petrov look like extremely tough entry in Grade 3 Gallant Bob. The former suffered first defeat in Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens last time and cuts back to 6 furlongs while the latter ran lights out in Saratoga allowance after running in five straight graded stakes. Want to go against those two? How about Excitations

Thistledown. Race 7. 4:40. The featured Diana Stakes. No, not that Diana. This is the fourth running of $75,000 stakes for Ohio-bred older fillies and mares. Justalittlesmoke won last year’s edition and three other state-bred stakes and looks tough again off second to the absent Nikki My Darling.

Belmont. Race 7. 4:41. A dozen 2-year-olds for 1-mile maiden on the grass, not including the also eligibles and main-track only runners. Shug McGaughey unveils War Chest, son of War Front out of multiple graded stakes winner Wine Princess, while Tom Albertrani sends out Grade 1 Sword Dancer winner Sadler’s Joy’s half brother in Dyna Buck for owners and breeders Woodslane Farm.

Woodbine. Race 8. 4:53. The $125,000 Vice Regent Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds sired by Ontario-based stallions at year of conception. Mr Havercamp tried open company last time and finished fifth in Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga, now he’s back in Toronto against a field that includes King And His Court, Dragon’s Cry, Signature Data and Katalox.

Parx. Race 10. 4:55. Abel Tasman returns to the East Coast – where she won the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Acorn and Coaching Club Amerian Oaks – with designs on locking up the 3-year-old filly championship in the Grade 1 Cotillion. She meets It Tiz Well, Salty and Actress, 2-3-4 in the Grade 1 Alabama, and the Todd Pletcher-trained and Mike Repole-owned trio of Thirstforthecup, Stay Found and Run And Go.

Charles Town Races. Race 1. 5:00. First of 12 on big card is 6 1/2-furlong maiden for West Virginia-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Arlington. Race 8. 5:08. The female counterpart to earlier stakes, the $65,000 Steve Morgan Memorial goes same 1 mile trip on the grass. Shelbysmile comes off freshening for Brendan Walsh and could be tough if she runs back to victory two back at Keeneland.

Belmont. Race 9. 5:45. The Grade 2 Kelso is major steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile but draws only a field of six. Tom’s Ready ran well to be third in Grade 1 Forego on Travers Day undercard while Bird Song comes off good freshening following fourth in Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt early in Saratoga meet. He’s trained in upstate New York since and makes his Belmont debut against field that also includes Sharp Azteca, Tommy Macho, Diving Rod and Ross.

Parx. Race 11. 5:45. The featured Pennsylvania Derby also brings West Coast back to the East, fresh off his Travers victory and a couple strong works back home at Del Mar and Santa Anita Park. He’ll meet a familiar foe in Irap, third in the Travers, along with beaten Haskell favorite Timeline, Curlin winner Outplay and Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry.

Gulfstream Park. Race 11. 6:02. Channel Cat returns to South Florida after close sixth in Saratoga maiden, adds blinkers and takes on eight others in 1-mile maiden on the grass.

Belmont. Race 10. 6:17. State-bred 2-year-olds close the card in 6-furlong maiden on the grass.

Charles Town. Race 4. 6:22. State-breds dash 4 1/2 furlongs in It’s Only Money Stakes. Check out Greenway Court’s record at the track; he’s 16-for-31 with eight seconds and three thirds.

Woodbine. Race 11. 6:25. Letthebighossroll, a 3-year-old gelding by Discreet Cat, makes attempt No. 5 at breaking his maiden going 7 furlongs on the grass. Remember another Letthebighossroll? Owned by Mike Pegram and trained by Bob Baffert in the early 1990s, Flying Paster gelding won 18 of 60 starts, including the Grade 3 Triple Bend in 1996, and ran for those connections in the 1991 Met Mile.

Charles Town. Race 6. 7:48. The first of six stakes to close the card is $50,000 Rachel’s Turn for state-bred 2-year-old fillies going 4 1/2 furlongs.

Charles Town. Race 8. 8:17. Owen’s Way blasted maidens at Mountaineer Sept. 10 and makes Charles Town debut in $50,000 Henry Mercer Memorial.

Churchill Downs. Race 6. 8:30. Brad Cox said he liked Payne – then named Southern Hills – during his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour this summer, thinking he “could be OK going long.” A $150,000 buy at Fasig-Tipton May sale in Timonium, he’s entered here going 6 furlongs.

Charles Town. Race 9. 8:46. Romantic Cork brings the best recent form to the table for $50,000 Sadie Hawkins for state-bred fillies and mares.

Charles Town. Race 10. 9:15. Older West Virginia-breds go two turns in 7-furlong $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial.

Churchill. Race 8. 9:39. Sierra Farm’s homebred Creative Courage showed promise in back-to-back grass starts last fall and winter and makes first start in more than nine months in 1 1/16-mile allowance on the turf.

Charles Town. Race 11. 9:45. The $50,000 Pink Ribbon for older females going 7 furlongs might be the perfect spot for Shine Again winner Line Of Best Fit to keep productive season going for Kieron Magee. Kathballu exits a Grade 3 for Ken McPeek and Rose Tree comes off back-to-back seconds in Pa-bred stakes for Jonathan Sheppard. They’re the two to beat.

Churchill. Race 9. 10:11. Big field for $100,000 Dogwood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going 7 furlongs. Tequilita showed she might prefer the extended one-turn sprint when third in Grade 1 Test last time. Farrell, who many considered a top Kentucky Oaks threat before she finished last of 14 that day, makes first start since that sloppy effort for Wayne Catalano while Covenant makes the jump from flashy maiden win for Bill Mott and WinStar Farm.

Charles Town. Race 12. 10:18. Put up $300,000 and offer Grade 3 status and you’ll attract the likes of Graham Motion, Larry Jones, Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher, Michael Matz, Dave Cannizzo, Doug O’Neill and Linda Rice. They’re all represented by runners in Charles Town Oaks. Mott might hold the best hand with Overture, third last time in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks.

Churchill. Race 10. 10:42. Still going strong? How about the Grade 1 President of the United Arab Emirates Cup going 1 1/16 miles for Arabians. Calvin Borel, Corey Lanerie, Joe Rocco Jr., Florent Geroux and Miguel Mena all pick up mounts.