By Richard Rosenblatt
For those about to take the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks plunge, you’ll need to block out just over two hours on Saturday – from 5:09 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. ET — to take in seven preps for two of racing’s most prestigious races.
That’s a lot of pretty good racing to take in, and you can do it by tuning in to NBCSN and FS2, not to mention all the wagering available for so many races from Aqueduct, Keeneland, Santa Anita, and Oaklawn Park.
With the Derby and Oaks four weeks away – the Oaks on April 30, the Derby on May 1 – Saturday is must-watch day at the races.
Winners are guaranteed a berth in a maximum field of 20 Derby starters, while running second could clinch a spot, too. For some, even third or fourth could be an over-the-top boost into the Run for the Roses.
Four Oaks preps – the Gazelle (G3) at the Big A, the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland, the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn, and the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) also offer 100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers.
The Oaks field is limited to 14 starters.
And now, for the TV lineup:
NBCSN will televise live racing beginning at 5:30 p.m. – that includes the Wood [post time 5:5 8 p.m.], the Blue Grass [6:35 p.m.], and the Santa Anita Derby [post time 7:15 p.m.].
America’s Day at the Races, produced by the New York Racing Association in partnership with Fox Sports, will air live coverage from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., including the Wood, the Gazelle, and the Fantasy.
The Gazelle kicks off the point qualifiers with an approximate post time of 5:09 p.m., and the Santa Anita Derby closes the seven-race prep extravaganza with an estimated post time of 7:15 p.m.
$750,000 Wood Memorial (G1)
Post time: 5:58 p.m. (Race 10)
Withers (G3) winner Risk Taking is the slight 5-2 favorite for trainer Chad Brown in a field of nine, which also includes Gotham (G3) winner Weyburn, along with Prevalance at 3-1.
$250,000 Gazelle (G3)
Trainer Chad Brown sends out even-money favorite Search Results in this field of eight, with his other entry, The Grass is Blue to the 4-1 second choice.
Post time: 5:09 p.m. (Race 9)
$800,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G2)
Post time: 6:35 p.m. (Race 11)
Leading Derby contender Essential Quality takes on eight rivals, and this won’t be an easy race for the 2-year-old champion and winner of the Southwest (G3) in his 3-year-old debut for trainer Brad Cox. He is the 3-5 favorite in a nine-horse field that includes Highly Motivated, Keepmeinmind, and Hush of a Storm
3-5 9 horses
$400,000 Ashland Stakes (G1)
Post time: 5:30 p.m. (Race 9)
Demoiselle (G2) winner Malathaat, making her first start of the year, is the 9-5 favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher in a field of six. She needs a strong effort because she has just 10 Oaks qualifying points. Trainer Kenny McPeek sends out Simply Ravishing, 5-2 on the morning line.
$750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Post time: 7:15 p.m. (Race 8)
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is seeking his 10th win in this top prep for the Kentucky Derby with 5-2 favorite Medina Spirit and 8-1 choice Defunded. Other contender for the Run for the Roses in this 10-horse field include 4-1 second choice Rock Your World, The Great One and Roman Centurian.
$400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G2)
Post time: 5:48 p.m. (Race 6)
Moraz is the slight 8-5 favorite over 9-5 second choice Beautiful Gift in a field of five even though trainer Bob Baffert’s filly beat Moraz by a head in the Santa Ysabel (G3) last time out.
$600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3)
Post time: 5 :54 p.m. (Race 11)
Pauline’s Pearl, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, is the 9-5 favorite in a seven-horse field and she’ll need a solid performance to qualify for the Oaks. The filly is 15th on the leaderboard with 20 points. Trainer Brad Cox sends out two fillies – Sun Path at 2-1 and Coach at 5-1.