LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 13, 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.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced cancellations or postponements of virtually every major sport, tracks around the globe have announced that race cards will be held without spectators. Tracks in California, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, and Texas all announced racing would be held without patrons and Meydan Racecourse announced plans for the Dubai World Cup meeting on March 28 to also proceed without spectators.
The show does go on, however, as does the march toward the first Saturday in May. At Oaklawn Park, Saturday’s crowd-free card features the $1 million Rebel Stakes, which offers 50 qualifying points to the winner toward the Kentucky Derby. At Santa Anita Park, the popular Hard Not to Love looms the favorite in the Grade 1 Beholder Mile.
All NYRA racing can be streamed for free in high-definition at NYRA.com/aqueduct/racing/live and all NYRA races are available to wager on through NYRA Bets. Oaklawn fans will be able to view all weekend races on OaklawnAnywhere.com and TVG with select races on FoxSports2 and MSG Network. Wagering on all Santa Anita live racing is available via the track’s 1/ST BET and Xpressbet apps.
NYRA will also partner with Oaklawn Park and Turfway Park to host a Cross Country Pick 5 on Saturday, highlighted by the Rebel and the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Stakes. Free Equibase past performances for the Cross Country Pick 5 sequence are now available for download at https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/cross-country-wagers.
Saturday March 14
5:50 p.m.—$350,000 Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park on TVG
Serengeti Empress, winner of the 2019 Kentucky Oaks, seeks her first victory since taking the lilies last May when she faces six challengers in the Azeri Stakes, the final major local prep for the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 18. Trained by Tom Amoss, Serengeti Empress finished second in the Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic during her seasonal bow on January 26. She was beaten that day by Lady Apple, who is also set to be in the Azeri starting gate along with Grade 1 winner Street Band.
5:52 p.m.— $150,000 Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Nonna Madeline didn’t get any breaks in her most recent start, but with a good break the Todd Pletcher trainee should prove tough to beat in Saturday’s Hurricane Bertie. Nonna Madeline was partly responsible for her third-place finish in the Grade 2 Inside Information by leaving the starting gate slowly, but the 4-year-old daughter of Candy Ride (ARG) was valiant in defeat despite having to be steadied on the backstretch.
6:23 p.m.—$1,000,000 Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on TVG
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is No. 1 in Rebel Stakes victories, and his latest hope, Nadal, will break from post No. 1 in the $1 million Grade 2 race for 3-year-olds Saturday afternoon. Nadal will try to remain unbeaten in his two-turn debut and first start outside California. In his stakes debut, the son of Blame won the Grade 2 San Vicente February 9 at Santa Anita. Baffert is seeking his seventh Rebel victory after taking the race in 2010 (Lookin At Lucky), 2011 (The Factor), 2012 (Secret Circle), 2014 (Hoppertunity), 2015 (American Pharoah) and 2016 (Cupid).
6:42 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park on TVG
It’s fitting that Field Pass and Invader are one-two on the morning line for Jeff Ruby Steaks. Their trainers are neck-and-neck in the standings for the current Turfway Park meet. Mike Maker trains Field Pass, who tops the morning line at 3-1, while Wesley Ward trains Invader, the 7-2 second choice. Ward currently leads Maker 15 wins to 13 in the Turfway standings. A full dozen will line up for the Jeff Ruby Steaks, which awards 20 points to the winner toward the Kentucky Derby.
7:07 p.m.— $400,000 Grade 1 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Blinded in one eye since an incident as a youngster, trainer John Shirreffs’ brilliant Hard Not to Love seeks her fourth consecutive win as she heads a field of seven older fillies and mares in Saturday’s Beholder Mile. With two graded stakes wins at the current Winter Meet, the most recent a 3 ½ length romp in the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes, the daughter of Hard Spun will be trying two turns for the first time. Hard Not to Love’s primary opposition would appear to be Grade 1 winner Ollie’s Candy and Bob Baffert’s multiple graded stakes placed Mother Mother, who has been beaten by the top selection in two out of her last three starts.
Although plenty of attention will be focused on the Beholder Mile, the eyes of the racing world will also be riveted on the race just before it, a $57,000 allowance for 3-year-olds at one mile. Baffert’s talented Charlatan, a 5 ¾ length first-out maiden winner on February 16, will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Baffert’s 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify as he stretches out and tries to muscle his way onto the Kentucky Derby trail.