After a slow weekend on the stakes front, things kick back into high gear on Saturday. At Gulfstream Park, the Fountain of Youth (G2) highlights a stakes-laden program that also features the Davona Dale (G2) for fillies looking to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks.
But prior to the nine graded events at Gulfstream Park, race fans will be treated to more than just a juicy appetizer Saturday morning when the inaugural Saudi Cup program kicks off from Riyadh. In addition to the $20 million Saudi Cup, U.S. based-runners will also take aim at lucrative scores in the $1 million 1351 Turf Sprint, $1.5 million Saudia Sprint and $800,000 Saudi Derby.
Below is a closer look at this week’s biggest races. Click on the race name to see a list of potential starters.
GULFSTREAM STAKES BONANZA
$400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)
With 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points on the line, this is shaping up as potentially the best of the Triple Crown preps to this point. According to the Gulfstream Park racing office, eight colts are so far probable for the 1 1/16-mile feature with more possible.
The Fountain of Youth is expected to mark the 3-year-old debut of Dennis’ Moment for trainer Dale Romans. This will be his first start since being the beaten favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after stumbling badly at the break.
Other notable contenders include Chance It, who earned his third stakes win from six starts in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.; Ete Indien, who was second to Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull (G3) most recently for trainer Patrick Biancone; As Seen on Tv, narrowly beaten by Chance It in the Mucho Macho Man; and Gear Jockey, continuing a transition from turf to dirt since running third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
The Fountain of Youth winner earns 50 points towards the Kentucky Derby. The remaining points are distributed 20-10-5 for second through fourth.
$300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2)
Among a deep field of older dirt runners projected are several runners exiting last month’s Pegasus World Cup (G1), including runner-up Mr. Freeze.
Trainer Dale Romans said Sunday he will likely enter Mr. Freeze after the son of To Honor and Serve posted a sharp five-furlong breeze in 1:00.20 earlier in the day. Also exiting the Pegasus are Diamond Oops, who ran fourth for Biancone; fifth-place finisher Bodexpress for trainer Gustavo Delgado and True Timber, who was eighth for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
This race could also mark the stakes return of Haikail, who was scratched the week of last year's Kentucky Derby. He won at this one-turn mile trip as a 3-year-old in the Gotham (G3) and has run once since the first Saturday in May, posting a narrow allowance loss at Aqueduct on Jan. 5.
$200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2)
This one-mile stop on the road to the Kentucky Oaks pays out qualifying points on an identical 50-20-10-5 scale as that of the Fountain of Youth.
Among the headliners are Tonalist’s Shape from the Joseph barn. The daughter of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tonalist won the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) at Gulfstream earlier this month to remain unbeaten in four starts.
Trainer Mark Hennig is set to enter Maedean, who will be making her first start since running second in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct on Dec. 7. Others expected include Spice is Nice, a $1 million filly out of Grade 1 winner Dame Dorothy who was a debut winner at Gulfstream on Jan. 12 for trainer Todd Pletcher; and maiden Nikki and Pappa, who was third to Tonalist’s Shape when debuting in the Forward Gal.
$200,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2)
Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) winner Zulu Alpha is expected to defend his title in this 1 3/8-mile event for trainer Mike Maker. Zulu Alpha’s win in last year’s Mac Diarmida was one of three graded stakes victories on the season for the son of Street Cry.
Other notable runners expected are Grade 1 winner Sadler’s Joy, along with graded stakes winners A Thread of Blue for McLaughlin and Spooky Channel from the Brian Lynch barn.
Other graded races on the undercard
Six remaining graded stakes on the card, all Grade 3s worth $150,000, round out the offerings. The highlight could come in the Palm Beach for 3-year-olds on turf as Vitalogy makes his return. A tough-luck second last fall in Keeneland's Bourbon Stakes (G3), the late rallying colt was then scratched by veterinarians from a try at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Other races lined up are the Canadian Turf for older horses; the Honey Fox, its counterpart for females; the Herecomesthebride for 3-year-old fillies, and the The Very One the female counterpart to the Mac Diarmida.
SAUDI CUP PROGRAM
$20 million Saudi Cup (12:40 p.m. ET)
Among the star-studded field of 14 projected for the inaugural running of the world’s richest horse race is a pair of Eclipse Award winners from a season ago. Maximum Security, last year’s champion 3-year-old male, will make his first start since winning the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct in early December. Midnight Bisou, winner of the 2019 Eclipse Award for champion older dirt female, will take on males for the first time in her 5-year-old debut.
Trainer Bob Baffert could also loom large in the desert with the pair of Mucho Gusto, winner of the Pegasus World Cup last out, and Grade 1 winner McKinzie, who has been first or second in 13 of 14 career starts.
Tacitus, a top 3-year-old from a season ago, is also set to make his first start as an older horse here for trainer Bill Mott.
Among the notable overseas runners are the world-class turf mare Magical Wand, who will try dirt for the first time for trainer Aidan O’Brien; Benbatl, an eye-catching winner when trying dirt for the first time last out at Meydan for Saeed bin Suroor; and Gronkowski, who was second in last year’s Dubai World Cup (G1).
This race has attracted entries from the United States, Europe, Japan and Dubai in addition to a local runner.
$1.5 million Saudia Sprint (11:50 a.m. ET)
U.S.-based runners pointing to this six-furlong event are Grade 1 winner Imperial Hint and recent Palos Verdes (G2) winner Captain Scotty for trainer Peter Miller. American fans will also recognize graded stakes winner New York Central, a former member of the Steve Asmussen barn purchased last fall by Saudi interests.
Trained by Luis Carvajal Jr., Imperial Hint bagged a pair of Grade 1 wins a season ago when rattling off consecutive victories in the Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga and the Vosburgh (G1) at Belmont Park. Now 7, this will be his first start since finishing third in the Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream on Dec. 21.
$800,000 Saudi Derby (11:10 a.m. ET)
Miller and Asmussen will also be represented in this one-mile event with Billy Batts and Rowdy Yates, respectively.
By City Zip, Billy Batts capped a productive seven-race juvenile campaign by springing a nearly 55-1 upset when second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He kicked off his sophomore season with a win in the Baffle Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 and will try dirt for the first time in this one-mile event.
Rowdy Yates, who has won five of eight starts, tallied a stakes victory at Ellis Park and added a pair of stakes wins at Remington Park a season ago. He kicked off his 3-year-old campaign with a win in the Riley Allison Stakes at Sunland Park on Jan. 26.
$1 million 1351 Turf Sprint (8:35 a.m. ET)
Presumably named after its distance -- 1,351 meters, or about 6 3/4 furlongs -- this heat is slated to have American representation by way of Legends of War for Doug O’Neill and Ghoul from the Miller barn.
Legends of Ward took down a Grade 3 race at Kentucky Downs last year and concluded the season with a 12th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. He prepped for this spot by running ninth -- beaten about six lengths -- in the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 1.
Ghoul, meanwhile, will show up as fifth, but hit the wire second and was disqualified from his placing in the Jan. 26 Clockers' Corner Stakes.
There is a quartet of six-figure carryovers to chase this week with the most notable being Friday's Stronach 5.
At Fair Grounds, the Fat Tuesday program will feature a Black Gold Pick 5 carryover of $175,568. Meanwhile, Golden Gate Fields and Gulfstream Park will each have Pick 6 jackpot carryovers when racing resumes. On Wednesday at Gulfstream, players will be greeted with a $209,566 carryover, while Golden Gate will feature a pick six carryover of $139,161 on Thursday.
With the Stronach 5, handicappers will be chasing a carryover of $167,951. The $1 minimum wager comes with a 12% takeout and does not offer a jackpot component, which means the entire pool is paid to those tickets with five winners.