By Richard Rosenblatt
It’s opening night at Churchill Downs on Saturday – one week before the Kentucky Derby – as the racing world begins the final countdown to the Run for the Roses on May 1.
The Belmont Park spring/summer meet is underway, too, and there are several stake races of note on Saturday in California, the $200,000 Santa Margarita Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita and the San Francisco Mile (G3) on turf at Golden Gate Fields.
In addition, Pimlico Race Course opens a week earlier than usual due to issues at Laurel, with the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes on Saturday offering a guaranteed spot in the Preakness (G1) to the winner.
“America’s Day at the Races” will be live on Saturday on FS2 from 1-11 p.m. ET, featuring races from Belmont, Churchill Downs, Oaklawn Park and California.
First post time at Churchill Downs on opening night is 6 p.m.
NBC Sports is gearing up for its Derby Week coverage, the details of which will be released on Monday, April 26.
NBCSN will kick off its Saturday (May 1) Derby coverage from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on NBCSN. The telecast moves over to NBC from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Post times for the races will be announced early next week.
On April 30, the day before the Derby, NBCSN will have live coverage of Kentucky Oaks Day from 12-6 p.m.
The post-position draw for the Derby will air on FS2 on Tuesday, April 27 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Belmont Park: Partly sunny, temperatures in the mid-50s to low-60s.
Churchill Downs: The National Weather Service is calling for a 90% chance of rain in Louisville.
Golden Gate Fields: Cloudy skies, temperatures in the 50s.
Pimlico: Mostly cloudy temperatures in the low 60s.
Santa Anita Park: Partly cloudy, temperatures likely in the mid-60s.
$125,000 Federico Tesio
Post time: 5:37 p.m. (race 10)
Maythehorsebwithu is the 5-2 favorite in a field of eight going 1 1/8 miles with the winner gaining an automatic berth in the Preakness over the same track two weeks later. Others entered include The Reds at 4-1, Shackled Love at 9-2, and Hello Hot Rod at 5-1.
GOLDEN GATE FIELDS
$100,000 California Derby
Post time: 7:30 p.m. (race 8)
This is one of the highlights of Gold Rush Week at Golden Gate. The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds is headed by John Shirreffs-trained Parnelli, who ran sixth in the Santa Anita Derby in an attempt to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. A field of eight is entered for the race on the Tapeta synthetic surface.
$250,000 San Francisco Mile (G3)
Post time: 8:07 p.m. (race 9)
A pair of Grade 1 winners Ohio and Keeper Ofthe Stars headline the 1-mile on turf for 3-year-olds and up – the main feature of the day. Ohio, bred in Brazil, is trained by Michael McCarthy and has 11 career wins, including the 2019 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1). Keeper Ofthe Stars, the lone female in the eight-horse field, won last year’s Gamely (G1). She is trained by Jonathan Wong.
SANTA ANITA PARK
$200,000 Santa Margarita Stakes (G2)
Post time: 7:46 p.m. (race 8)
As Time Goes By is the 3-5 favorite in a field of five older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles. The 4-year-old filly is trained by Bob Baffert and will ridden by Mike Smith. A daughter of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, the filly ran second to Swiss Skydiver in the Beholder Mile on March 13 in her first stakes race.
$150,000 William Walker Stakes
Post time: 10:11 p.m. (race 9)
Cowan, runner-up in the BC Juvenile Turf Sprint, leads a field of 10 3-year-olds and two also-eligibles entered in 5 ½-furlong turf race. Trained by Sever Asmussen, Cowan is the 7-2 favorite in his first race since running 10th in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai (G1).