Saturday brings us the first two Grade 1 stakes races of 2021: the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf, coming to you from Gulfstream Park. The Florida track captures this weekend’s stakes spotlight with those two high-profile races, along with five other graded stakes on its card.
Tops among the Pegasus undercard are the Grade 2 Inside Information, the Grade 3 Fred Hooper, and the Grade 3 W.L. McKnight. The Inside Information brings back Thisismytime in search of her third consecutive win. The Fred Hooper brings us Shivaree and Performer tangling over a mile. And the McKnight brings us Sadler’s Joy, Channel Cat, and Sir Anthony in a 1-½-mile turf duel.
One time zone over, meanwhile, Oaklawn Park opens its 2021 season Friday with the Smarty Jones, the first of its four Kentucky Derby prep races. The one-mile Listed Stakes event features likely favorite Caddo River making his first jaunt around two turns. That race is one of three stakes on Oaklawn’s opening-weekend card.
Santa Anita comes in this weekend with the Grade 3 Palos Verdes Stakes, featuring defending champion Captain Scotty. Waiting for him, among others, is Collusion Illusion, dropping in class after his third in the Grade 1 Malibu to Charlatan and Nashville on Dec. 26.
OG News takes a closer look at this weekend’s selected races.
Listed Smarty Jones Stakes, Oaklawn
Expect Brad Cox’s Caddo River and Steve Asmussen’s Cowan to grab the spotlight and wagering attention. Caddo River makes his 2021 debut after winning a November maiden special weight race at Churchill Downs. He sits at 30/1 on Circa Sports’ Kentucky Derby Futures Board, and 25/1 at William Hill Nevada. Cowan (100/1 at Circa), meanwhile, comes off his Dec. 18 runner-up finish in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park. Six weeks earlier, he closed for second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November. Saffie Joseph Jr.’s Moonlite Strike enters off his two-turn mile win at Gulfstream last month.
Grade 2 Inside Information Stakes, Gulfstream
Will this be the time again for Thisismytime? She’s the only one of the six entered horses not coming out of a stakes race, having won a Christmas Eve allowance. Waiting for her in this seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, 4-years-old and up are Bronx Beauty and Cinnabunny, who went 2-3 in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl last month. Grade 3 Rampart runner-up Dream Marie also warrants attention.
Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Stakes, Gulfstream
This mile race for older male horses gives us one horse who broke a long losing streak – Shvaree – and one who had a lengthy winning streak broken – Performer. Shivaree snapped his seven-race skid last out, winning the Florida Sire Stakes last month. Performer, meanwhile, had his five-race win streak snapped at the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last month. The Shug McGaughey-conditioned colt finished third. Keep an eye on Eye of a Jedi and Phat Man, who went 2-3 in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream last month.
Grade 3 W.L. McKnight Stakes, Gulfstream
This eclectic field brings us four horses from the Listed H. Allan Jerkens Stakes, including winner Sir Anthony and runner-up Conviction Trade, who makes his graded-stakes debut. Barclay Tagg’s Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale runner-up Doswell is one of three entries from that race here. Likely favorite Sadler’s Joy enters off his fourth in the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct. And, Admission Office, coming off his disappointing seventh in the Listed Tropical Turf two weeks ago, turns around for this marathon.
Grade 3 Palos Verdes Stakes, Santa Anita
Captain Scotty, who won this six-furlong race for older horses last year, brings a two-race winning streak to the fray. The 7-year-old gelding is one of two Peter Miller horses entered, along with Shashashakemeup, making his West Coast debut for Santa Anita’s leading trainer this meet. Shooter’s Shoot cuts back 2-½ furlongs from his last outing, a seventh in a 1-1/16-mile allowance Jan. 2. That was his first outing since finishing fifth in the Santa Anita Derby six months earlier. Bob Baffert brings Ax Man back for the first time since last July’s fourth in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap. We may also see Wildman Jack, who folded down the stretch as the favorite in the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez on New Year’s Day. He finished sixth out of seven.