LEXINGTON, Ky. (February 14, 2020) – Each week, the NTRA will provide a guide to the best stakes races in North America and beyond. Races are listed in chronological order (all times Eastern). Full previews when available can be found through the link for each race.
Good times are set to roll at Fair Grounds this weekend as its “Louisiana Derby Preview Day” will feature two divisions of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes and the seasonal debut of champion British Idiom in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra. The first races designated as part of the “Championship Series” portion of the schedule, the top four finishers in the Risen Star and Rachel Alexandra will receive 50-20-10-5 points respectively on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks.
The 2019 edition of the Risen Star proved to be a very key race, producing such future Grade 1 winners as War of Will, Henley’s Joy, Country House, and Hog Creek Hustle.
Saturday February 15
3:20 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie Stakes at Laurel Park on TVG
Having traveled as far as Louisiana and South Florida to run in graded company, multiple stakes winner Saguaro Row will make the short trip to Laurel Park for her next attempt in Saturday’s Barbara Fritchie. Based with trainer Michael Stidham at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., 5-year-old Saguaro Row will be making just her 14th career start in the Fritchie. Saguaro Row has raced twice previously at Laurel, breaking her maiden in her debut in September 2017 and finishing third as the favorite, beaten a length after rallying from dead last early in the seven-furlong Shine Again Stakes last September.
3:49 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 3 General George Stakes at Laurel Park on TVG
Mr. Amore Stable’s Grade 1-winning millionaire homebred Firenze Fire, unraced since back-to-back stakes victories to cap last year, is set to make both his seasonal and Maryland debuts in Saturday’s General George. Firenze Fire owns nine wins, three in each of his three seasons of racing, with eight stakes wins, four of them in graded company, topped by the 2017 Grade 1 Champagne Stakes in his third career start.
5:01 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes at Fair Grounds on TVG
Tom Durant’s Silver Dust looks to add yet another graded stakes victory to his resume while at the same time defending his title when he faces ten others in the Mineshaft. Following his win in the 2019 edition of the race, Silver Dust would go on to capture the Grade 3 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer for trainer Bret Calhoun. He capped off his five-year-old campaign with a near miss in the Grade 3 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs, losing by a neck to Mocito Rojo, whom he will take on again in the Mineshaft.
5:04 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
On the sidelines since May, Grade 1 winner Restless Rider is ready for a return to action in Saturday’s Royal Delta. The daughter of Distorted Humor has not raced since finishing off the board in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Restless Rider was first or second in six starts during her 2-year-old season, capturing the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland and finishing second the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. She came back last year to finish second, beaten a neck, in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland before turning in the first poor performance of her career in the Kentucky Oaks.
5:32 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Fair Grounds Stakes at Fair Grounds on TVG
The winner of the two editions of the Fair Grounds Stakes, Pin Oak Stable’s 7-year-old Synchrony will shoot for the hat trick when he lines up against 13 others in Saturday’s 1 1/8 miles turf event. Off four months, the multiple graded stakes winning son of Tapit was last seen finishing a troubled eighth in the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita in October. Synchrony will be reunited with jockey Joe Bravo, who is five for nine aboard the Mike Stidham trainee, including both Fair Grounds Stakes tallies.
6:05 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds on TVG
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Award champion British Idiom will make her sophomore debut when facing six rivals, including Silverbulletday victress Finite, in Saturday’s $300,000 Rachel Alexandra. Run at 1 1/16 miles, qualifying points for the Longines Kentucky Oaks will be distributed among top four finishers (50-20-10-5) in the Rachel Alexandra. After an impressive sprint victory on debut at Saratoga in August, British Idiom stretched out successfully, taking the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in October. In her most recent start, the daughter of Flashback outdueled the favored Donna Veloce to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, an effort that cemented her for divisional honors.
6:38 p.m.—$400,000 Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes (Division 1) at Fair Grounds on TVG
Enforceable, winner of the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes last time out, heads up the first division of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes. Each division will carry the original $400,000 purse and award full Kentucky Derby qualifying points (50-20-10-5). For the first time in its history, the Risen Star will be contested over 1 1/8 miles. Following a third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October, Enforceable followed up with a somewhat troubled fourth over a sloppy track in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November. Sent to post as the 6-1 fifth choice in Lecomte, Enforceable sat behind an honest pace before closing late to win by 1 ½ lengths.
7:07 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Extremely talented but equipped with just one eye due to a paddock mishap as a youngster, Hard Not to Love heads a field of five older fillies and mares going seven furlongs in Saturday’s Santa Monica Stakes. Fresh off the best race of her career, a powerful 2 ¼ length win in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs, the John Shirreffs-conditioned Hard Not to Love, who due to her sight impairment has proven a handful in both the mornings and afternoons, has won four out of her five starts and seeks her third win in a row on Saturday with Mike Smith aboard.
7:12 p.m.—$400,000 Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes (Division 2) at Fair Grounds on TVG
The second division of the Risen Star will mark the sophomore debut of California invader Anneau d’Or.
With runner-up performances in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity, the son of Medaglia d’Oro already has already earned 12 Kentucky Derby points. A win or a second in the Risen Star would put him in a superior position moving forward.
Sunday February 16
6:30 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 Sweet Life Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Laura’s Light, second in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes in November, makes her seasonal bow against seven other challengers in the Sweet Life Stakes going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. Owned by Gary Barber and trained by Peter Miller, Laura’s Light has won two of three career starts including the Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita on December 29.