Welcome to our new feature, The Month Ahead. On the first of each month we’ll post a preview of racing’s coming attractions to help keep you in the loop.
January 1 marks the unofficial beginning of the unorganized racing season. By the end of the month, all five major racing circuits will be running their winter meets. Fair Grounds (Louisiana), Gulfstream Park (Florida), and Santa Anita Park (California) all kicked off their 2012 winter meets at the end of last year. The Aqueduct (New York) winter meet starts on January 1st and Oaklawn Park (Arkansas) will open on January 16.
Once all five tracks are open, the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks begins. All five circuits will host prep races for contenders whose connections dream of running on the First Saturday (and Friday) in May. The 3-year-old racing begins at Oaklawn with the Smarty Jones Stakes on January 16; Louisiana follows with the Lecomte for colts and the Silverbulletday Stakes for fillies; and, at the end of the month, Gulfstream Park will host the Holy Bull.
But, of course, the racing season is more than just the 3-year-olds. Also on the schedule this month is the first Grade 1 of the season, the Santa Monica Stakes for female sprinters, at Santa Anita Park. At Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park, the 10th annual Sunshine Millions series for California and Florida breds will be on January 28. The second leg of the Strub Series for 4-year-olds will be held at Santa Anita Park.
This month at Hello Race Fans we will kick off our Derby Prep Alerts on Friday the 20th with a preview of the Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana. At the end of this week we’ll launch our Eclipse section with lifetime PPs and race charts for each of the finalists courtesy of our new partner Brisnet.com. Eclipse Awards will be given out on January 16 in Beverly Hills, California. In the meantime, learn about how the Eclipse came to be in this article by HRF Contributing Editor Jessica Chapel.
Happy New Year, race fans — we hope your year is filled with a few trips to the IRS window and many sunny days at the track!
All Northern Hemisphere Thoroughbreds celebrate their official birthday on the first of January. Thoroughbreds born on any day in 2009 turn three on January 1 and become eligible for 3-year-old racing, which, of course, includes the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
Santa Anita Park: Grade 2 Robert Frankel Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf is the first graded stakes race run in California for the year.
Aqueduct: The Ladies Handicap will be run for the 140th time. The ungraded race for older females has a history that traces back to 1868.
Aqueduct: The Count Fleet Stakes, a $150,000 ungraded stake for 3-year-olds, is the first race for colts in New York and could include runners who will compete in the three graded stakes for colts during the winter meet.
Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas opens for its 2012 meet.
Gulfstream Park: The Grade 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes is the first graded stakes this year for older horses in Florida. The race for 4-year-olds and up will be run at one mile on the dirt.
Santa Anita Park: The Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes is the second race in the Strub Series, which started with the Malibu Stakes run in December for 3-year-olds and concludes with the Strub Stakes in February. The Factor won this year’s Malibu. The final two legs of the Strub Series are restricted to 4-year-olds.
Oaklawn Park: The one mile Smarty Jones Stakes kicks off the series of races at Oaklawn for Kentucky Derby hopefuls. The 2011 Arkansas Derby winner, Archarcharch, finished fourth in last year’s Smarty Jones. Grab a free past performance courtesy of Brisnet.com for this year’s Smarty Jones Stakes at Trip Notes!
The NTRA’s Eclipse Awards ceremony will be held in Beverly Hills, California. All of the 2011 divisional winners will be announced, including the much-anticipated Horse of the Year. Check out our Eclipse Awards section for lifetime past performances for all finalists.
Fair Grounds Race Course: The track in New Orleans hosts six stakes races for an event billed as the Road to the Derby Kickoff Day. The Silverbulletday Stakes (for 3-year-old fillies) and the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes (for 3-year-old colts) are the first in the series of preps for Kentucky Derby and Oaks hopefuls at the Louisiana track. Also on the day’s bill is the Grade 3 Col. E.R. Bradley Stakes for older horses on the turf.
Santa Anita Park: The first Grade 1 of the racing season will be the Santa Monica Stakes for fillies and mares run at seven furlongs. Santa Anita Park will also have the popular Food Truck Festival in the track infield and will be giving away beach chairs!
Gulfstream Park: The 3-year-old stakes series begins in Florida with the Grade 3 Holy Bull.