LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 27, 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.
A number of tracks continue to try and navigate the coronavirus pandemic by holding cards without spectators and only allowing essential personnel on the ground, including Gulfstream Park, which hosts the Grade 1 Florida Derby this Saturday. The Florida Derby is the headline event of a 14-race program that includes 10 stakes, six graded, worth $1.825 million. First-race post time is 11:30 a.m.
The Florida Derby will be televised live on TVG‘s “Trackside Live” from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and is set to air on NBCSN starting at 6 p.m. ET. “Trackside Live” will be available on its home network as well as on NBCSN, which will air the four-hour show on Florida Derby day as well as on March 27 and March 29.
Live racing will also be featured during an extended afternoon bloc Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the “America’s Day at the Races” show presented by America’s Best Racing. The show, produced by NYRA, will air from 1:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2 Friday, and from 1:30 p.m.-7 p.m. ET on FS1 Saturday. On Sunday, the show will air from 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. ET on FS2 and from 2:30 p.m.-7 p.m. ET on FS1.
TVG will present their coast-to-coast racing coverage all weekend. Fans can also watch and wager at Xpressbet and 1/ST BET.
Saturday March 28
1 p.m.—$100,000 Cutler Bay Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Though not graded, the Cutler Bay lacks for nothing in terms of quality in its field of 12. Grade 1 winner Decorated Invader is set to make his seasonal bow and first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last November. Vitalogy (GB), winner of the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on February 29, is also expected to be in the starting gate for the one-mile turf test.
2 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
One of 11 older horses entered in the Hal’s Hope, Harvey Wallbanger burst onto the radar of racing fans in February of 2019 when he won the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes by a length at odds of 29-1. After falling out of favor when he proceeded to lose his next eight starts, Harvey Wallbanger signaled his return to form a month ago at Gulfstream with an impressive 5 ¼ length victory in an allowance optional claiming race. A winner of two of three starts at Gulfstream, Harvey Wallbanger’s competition will include last year’s Florida Derby runner-up Bodexpress, and two from the barn of leading trainer Todd Pletcher – American Tattoo and You’re to Blame.
3 p.m.—$75,000 Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Vekoma, winner of the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes last spring, makes his first start since finishing off the board in the 2019 Kentucky Derby when he faces 11 challengers in the seven-furlong Sir Shackleton Stakes. Trained by George Weaver, Vekoma won on debut in September 2018 at Belmont ahead of an impressive score in the Grade 3 Nashua at Aqueduct in November 2018. His path to the Kentucky Derby included a third in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream ahead of a 3 ½-length score in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
4:17 p.m.— $100,000 Grade 3 Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream Park on NBCSN and TVG
Alex G. Campbell Jr.’s homebred Mean Mary, unraced since a runaway triumph in her stakes debut nine weeks ago, returns looking to cap a perfect winter in Saturday’s Orchid Stakes. Mean Mary has won each of her two starts during the Championship Meet for trainer Graham Motion. She capped her sophomore season with a determined head triumph over Cap de Creus going 1 1/8 miles December 22, then rolled to a front-running five-length victory under jockey Luis Saez in the Grade 3 La Prevoyante.
4:49 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks at Gulfstream Park on NBCSN and TVG
Undefeated Tonalist’s Shape will attempt to keep her perfect record intact and become just the second horse to accomplish a rare stakes sweep in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Based at Gulfstream with trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., Tonalist’s Shape has won all five of her career starts starting with her September 28 debut last fall. Each of her last three wins have come in stakes during the 2019-2020 Championship Meet – the Hut Hut, Grade 3 Forward Gal, and Grade 2 Davona Dale. Since the Davona Dale was added to the calendar in 1988, the only horse to win all three of Gulfstream’s winter graded-stakes for 3-year-old fillies is Glitter Woman in 1997. The Oaks was renamed in 2011 after being run as the Bonnie Miss from its inception in 1971.
5:26 p.m.— $200,000 Grade 2 Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park on NBCSN and TVG
Even if it wasn’t in the original plans, the connections for claimer-turned-Grade 1-winning multi-millionaire Zulu Alpha couldn’t have found a better landing spot than Saturday’s Pan American at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Mike Maker had wanted to give Zulu Alpha some time following the 7-year-old gelding’s repeat victory in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida on February 29. It was the second triumph of the Championship Meet for Zulu Alpha, who opened 2020 with a career-highlight victory in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on January 25.
6 p.m.— $100,000 Grade 3 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park on NBCSN and TVG
Starlight Racing’s Sombeyay, who became a graded-stakes winner on a second surface last time out, can add to his growing turf resume when he returns in the Appleton Stakes. Trainer Todd Pletcher put Sombeyay away following a nose loss to Casa Creed in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes last August, and the Into Mischief colt didn’t return until opening his 4-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish in a 7 ½-furlong optional claimer January 26 at Gulfstream. The effort earned Sombeyay another shot at graded competition, this time on the turf, and he responded with a determined one-length triumph in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf on February 29 over the local course.
6:36 p.m.— $750,000 Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on NBCSN and TVG
Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law surged to the top of the list of 2020 Triple Crown candidates with a dominating triumph in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, where the son of Constitution will try to cement his top billing in Saturday’s Florida Derby. Tiz the Law’s smashing 2020 debut became all the more impressive when Ete Indien, who finished three lengths behind him in the Holy Bull, went on to produce an eye-catching 8 ½-length front-running victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes Gulfstream Park in his absence. The Barclay Tagg-trained colt will also try to cement a place in the starting gate for the 2020 Kentucky Derby, which has been postponed to September 5, as the Florida Derby winner will earn 100 qualifying points toward the Run for the Roses.