Looks like the good folks at NYRA knew what they were doing when they called a two-week holiday break. With the wind-chill at nine below as we speak, and six inches of snow forecast for the New York area on Saturday, chances are the Big A would have been wiped out anyway.
That said, there will be quality racing at two venues on Saturday.
At Hollywood Park, Lookin at Lucky and Noble's Promise, second and fifth, respectively, in last week's first printout of our Derby Top Ten, hook up in the $750,000, Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, with an Eclipse Award likely going to the winner.
A month back, Lookin at Lucky raced five-wide throughout as the stick in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and settled for second, beaten a head by Vale of York, an obscure 30-1 Euro. Noble's Promise, the 6-1 second choice, finished third, a half-length back.
Ken McPeek changes riders for the CashCall, replacing Willie Martinez with main man Robby Albarado on Noble's Promise, who will break from post six in a field of eight going 1- 1/16 miles.
Although critical of Garrett Gomez's ride in the Breeders' Cup, Bob Baffert is sticking with Gogo on Lookin at Lucky, who will break from the one-hole.
Look for a change in strategy for Lucky, who will be 3-5 in the Saturday headliner. Lucky was far back the first half-mile of the Breeders' Cup. He'll no doubt gun right to the top this time.
Baffert, who won this race four times when it was the Hollywood Futurity, also will run Marcello and The Program in this renewal. If by some miracle, either of those horses should beat Lookin at Lucky, you'll see a very angry white-haired chap in the winner's circle.
If Lucky does win, there is an excellent chance he will leapfrog Uh Oh Bango in our next Derby Top Ten, as well as confirming his position as the Derby Winter Book favorite in the various Vegas venues.
Meantime, if it's round-the-clock action you're looking for on Saturday, check out New Orleans, where nine consecutive stakes will be run at Fair Grounds in the afternoon, and Cowboys-Saints follow in the evening.
The nine FG stakes commence with race four, the $60,000 Sugar Bowl for 2-year-olds at six furlongs, and conclude with race 12, the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint for 3-and-up, also at six panels.
Steve Asmussen, who does some of his best work at Fair Grounds, has entered 12 in the nine races, and it goes without saying that are all live.
Let's take a look...
Asmussen will saddle the uncoupled entry of Enumerate and Big Texas Daddy, the likely first two choices, from the inside posts in a field of seven in the Sugar Bowl.
Enumerate, beaten necks in the Sanford at Saratoga and the NATC Futurity at Monmouth Park, will be the one to catch under Sellers, and Big Texas Daddy, the winner of a 125K stake at Lone Star, will be running late under Bridgmohan.
Steve Margolis, 7-5-0 from 14 starters at the meeting, counters with the uncoupled entry of Cool Bullet and Instant Message.
Cody Autry, 8-0-4 from 21 starters at the meet, has North of Alaska, a blowout winner of his debut, and old friend Calvin Borel is live with Vito Filitto for trainer Bernie Flint, a one-time New Orleans police officer.
Asmussen attacks the Bonapaw, a 5 1/2-furlong grass test for 3-and-up with Storm Treasure, a 6-year-old gelding who is pennies short of banking $700,000 in his career. By comparison, nothing else in the field of nine has earned as much as 250K.
Storm Treasure, who won this race last year from the outside post under Bridgmohan, draws widest again, and again with Bridgmohan..
Borel has the return call for brother Cecil on Cosmic, who exits a seven-furlong main-track win at Churchill in which he beat '08 Cigar Mile winner Harlem Rocker.
Proud Jefe, from trainer Amoss, a salty 7-6-6 from 28 starters at the meet, looks to be the main speed with Lanerie.
Morris Nicks has an uncoupled entry of Master Link and Foxy Flyer in a field of 11 in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Ladies Day Sprint, a six-furlong dash for fillies and mares, 3 and up.
Master Link, third at 1-5 in a prep for this, will come out swinging under Patrick Valenzuela, a rider of some renown.
Foxy Flyer won her last two starts at Louisiana Downs with jockey Dugas. Note that jockey Dugas this year is 2-for-2 on Foxy Flyer...and 0-for-89 otherwise!
Asmussen goes with multiple stakes-winner Seven Seventythree, Bridgmohan up.
Historians will recall that this is the 10th anniversary of Valhol's victory at 40-1 in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Unfortunately, Valhol, trained by Dallas Keen, was DQd after the fact because jockey Patin was found to be carryin'.
Trainer Keen keeps truckin', and he has the very fast Hotlantic in this race, the $60,000 Esplanade for fillies and mares, 3-and-up. She'll break from post six under Theriot in a field of nine.
She's Our Annie, a winner of four straight by a combined 14 lengths, will be the chalk from the one-hole under regular rider Smilin' Jon Court.
Asmussen will run two here -- Juliet's Spirit, the winner of a 100K stake at Charles Town, and Simplify, the winner of the Loudinville Stakes on Labor Day at Saratoga. Sellers and Bridgmohan are the respective riders.
Star Guitar, 8-for-8 when favored, and 10-for-13 overall, will be a short price from the outside in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic for 3-and-up at nine furlongs. Jockey Bourque rides for trainer Stall.
Grand Minit will be ridden by Francisco Torres, who played Braulio Baeza in the TV film Ruffian.
Takin' the Bullet is trained by Jim Hudson, who, as the strong safety for the New York Jets, made the key pick in Super Bowl III.
"Bullet" and Break Up are the lone 3-year-olds in the field of six.
War Echo, the winner of the Grade 1 Silverbulletday over the track last February, will be odds-on for Asmussen/Bridgmohan in the $100,000 Distaff for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at nine furlongs.
Pleasantly Blessed, 7-9-0 from 19 starts, completes an uncoupled entry from Super Steve.
Unforgotten, fresh from a blowout victory in the Treasure Chest on Delta Jackpot Night at Delta Downs, is a major player from the outside post in a field of six.
War Echo and Why Wonder Why are the lone 3-year-olds.
Desert Wheat, who beat many of these rallying from last to win a key prep for this, will be favored in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf for 3-and-up. Lanerie rides DW for trainer Bill Mott, who is 4-for-9 at the meet.
Snug (Hudson) and Hallway (Asmussen) will race coupled in the field of 10.
Lee's Spirit had a tough trip closing for third to Desert Wheat.
Eight of the 10 come into the $60,000 Letellier Memorial for 2-year-old fillies off a win, notably the uncoupled Asmussen entry of Kinsey (Bridgmohan) and Right to Rule (Sellers).
Borel can be forgiven for choosing Brown Eyed Beauty, trained by brother Cecil, over the Flint-trained Sheer Beauty, who exits a Churchill Downs stakes score.
You might recall that Dogwood's Snap Happy (Torres) won first pop at Saratoga.
The Wes Ward-trained Aegean was second choice in a field of 22 in a Grade 3 at Ascot.
Flashy Wise Cat will be favored in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint on the basis of a four-length win in the key prep. Sellers has the return call from trainer Troy Young.
Hear No Angel, 3-for-5 for Asmussen is a major player, as is Mr. Porter from the lethal Moss-Amoss Connection in the field of 12.
Tortuga Straits is 10-6-2 from 28 starts for earnings of 600K, but may be tailing off.
So that's it. Enjoy the racing, the football and the jambalaya.
Thanks for tuning in. Check out the red-hot John Piesen Hot Line for my Florida Weekend selections here online or at 1-888 612 2283, and see you back here Tuesday.
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