LEXINGTON, Ky. (January 31, 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.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby starts to heat up this week with the Grade 3 Withers, Holy Bull, and Robert B. Lewis Stakes all offering qualifying points toward the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Holy Bull is one of five stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday’s program at Gulfstream Park while the Robert B. Lewis is one of three graded stakes on the lineup at Santa Anita Park.
Saturday February 1
2:34 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Slam Dunk Racing, Legacy Ranch Inc. and Doug Branham’s Tonalist’s Shape, undefeated through three starts, takes another step up the ladder as she puts her perfect record on the line in Saturday’s Forward Gal. Tonalist’s Shape, a chestnut daughter of Tonalist, has progressed steadily in distance and competition since capturing her debut, a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight sprint September 28 at Gulfstream.
3:34 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
In more than four decades of training horses, Michael Stidham never had a year like 2019, setting career highs across the board and reaching the 2,000-win milestone. He hopes to keep the momentum going with Godolphin’s stakes-winning homebred Micheline in Saturday’s Sweetest Chant. Micheline broke her maiden in her second start, a 1 ¾-length triumph in the one-mile Sorority Stakes on the grass at Monmouth Park. After finishing off the board in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades on the dirt at Keeneland and the Chelsey Flower over Aqueduct’s turf, she rebounded with a one-length optional claiming allowance going a mile December 20 at Tampa.
4:04 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Stronach Stables’ homebred Green Light Go, a graded-stakes winner in his second career start, is set to launch his 3-year-old campaign Saturday in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Green Light Go has not raced since finishing second to Holy Bull favorite Tiz the Law in the one-mile Champagne October 5 at Belmont Park. He has been on a steady work pattern for his return, showing six timed breezes since mid-December at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
4:25 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on TVG
Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, Pantofel Stable and Mike Karty’s Shotski headlines a talented field of eight in Saturday’s Withers, a nine-furlong test for sophomores. Trained by Jeremiah O’Dwyer, the bay son of Blame earned 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points winning the Grade 2 Remsen on December 7 at the Big A and he will look to double that total in the Withers, which offers 10-4-2-1 points to the top-four finishers. Sent to post at odds of 8-1 in his two-turn debut in the Remsen, Shotski led the way under a well-managed trip by Luis Saez and held off a furious charge from Ajaaweed to secure a half-length win.
5:04 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law is expected to be solidly favored to win the Holy Bull Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile prep for the March 28 Grade 1 Florida Derby. Tiz the Law is a New York-bred who won at first asking for trainer Barclay Tagg, capturing an August 8 maiden special weight event for New York-bred. He jumped right into Grade 1 company after that, scoring a victory in the Champagne Stakes. Tiz the Law tasted defeat for the first time in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, where he lacked room into the stretch and came up short to finish third, beaten three-quarters of a length by Silver Prospector.
6 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
A Grade 2 winner in his second start on December 7, Bob Baffert’s Thousand Words heads a field of six Derby hopefuls going 1 1/16-miles in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Also prominent are Baffert’s High Velocity, who finished third behind Thousand Words in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity and Richard Mandella’s recent maiden winner Tizamagician, who put it all together in a 2 ½ length score going a flat mile here on January 1. The Lewis winner will receive 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
6:31 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Separated by a neck when last they met, top turf marathoners Oscar Dominguez and United head a field of seven older horses going 10 furlongs on the turf in Saturday’s San Marcos Stakes. Claimed seven starts back for $40,000, the Richard Baltas-trained Oscar Dominguez appeared to run the best race of his career when he rallied from off the pace to outrun even money favorite United in Del Mar’s Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup on December 1.
7:02 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
In what shapes up as an outstanding prep to the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap March 7, this Saturday’s San Pasqual Stakes has attracted a competitive field of 10 older horses, with C R K Stable’s Midcourt, Speedway Stable’s Roadster and owner/trainer Val Brinkerhoff’s versatile Restrainedvengence all prominent. Although he had a four-race winning streak snapped when third to Gift Box in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes, Midcourt will hope to mind his manners and break sharply with regular rider Victor Espinoza up. Last year’s Santa Anita Derby winner, Roadster stretches out off of a second place finish behind Omaha Beach in the opening day Malibu Stakes and speedy Restrainedvengence returns to Santa Anita following a smashing gate to wire win going 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Zia Park, New Mexico on November 27.