The Month Ahead: January 2013
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
Happy New Year! After a brief respite in December, we are back with the first edition of The Month Ahead for 2013. While we are a few months away from the frantic spring racing schedule, we have plenty of great racing to look forward to in the winter months.
January 1 brings a collective birthday for all North American thoroughbreds, including all the colts and fillies born in 2010. They all turn three and will be the focus of the racing world leading up to Triple Crown season. This month will have eight races with Kentucky Derby and Oaks implications. California, New York, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida will host races that are part of the new points system to qualify for entry in the Oaks and Derby on the first weekend in May.
Most of the major circuit tracks opened for their winter meetings at the end of last year with the exception of Oaklawn Park, which will open its doors in Hot Springs, Arkansas on January 11.
High-profile horses expected to make their 2013 debuts in January include the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Beholder and the runner-up in the recent Breeders’ Cup Classic, Mucho Macho Man. And, of course, all races with 3-year-olds this month could produce a contender for this year’s Triple Crown. It’s never too early to grab hold of a Derby or Oaks horse to follow in 2013.
Here is a closer look at the first month of racing for the 2013 season:
Gulfstream Park will host the first race of 2013 that offers qualifying points under the new system for entry into the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. The Grade 3 Old Hat at 6-furlongs for fillies will award points for the Kentucky Oaks to the top four finishers. Also on the card is the 6-furlong Spectacular Bid for colts. While it isn’t a qualifying race for the Derby, colts running well will likely return in the lucrative 3-year-old races run in Florida in the coming months.
Jan 5 – 6
The first weekend of the month brings five graded stakes races and the first Kentucky Derby qualifying race, the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in California. The promising Doug O’Neill-trained Goldencents, winner of the $1 million Delta Jackpot in November, is expected to make his 3-year-old debut in the Sham. Santa Anita will also have the Grade 2 San Pasqual and the Grade 2 Monrovia for turf fillies and mares.
Opening day at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The southern track is well-regarded and stands among the jewels of American race venues.
Jan 12 – 13
Gulfstream and Santa Anita will have four graded stakes for older horses, including the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes and the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes, the first two graded races of the year for horses in the older division. For the older horses on the turf, Gulfstream has the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale Stakes and Santa Anita cards the Grade 2 San Gabriel.
The biggest race weekend of the month is highlighted by the popular Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park with six races for Florida-breds, capped by the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic. Expected to start in the Classic are Mucho Macho Man, second-place finisher in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Ron the Greek, winner of the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap. If the Millions Day holds to form, expect to see a few horses who will compete later in high-profiles stakes races in 2013.
In Louisiana, the Fair Grounds will have qualifying races for the Derby and Oaks. For the colts. It’s the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, and for the fillies, the Silverbulletday Stakes. Believe You Can, last year’s Silverbulletday winner, went on to win the 2012 Kentucky Oaks.
Santa Anita has a pair of Grade 2 races, the Palos Verdes Stakes for sprinters and the La Canada Stakes for female turf runners.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day fittingly brings the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes to Aqueduct. The race is named in honor of the Hall of Fame African-American jockey who won two editions of the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and 1902.
The Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita Park will be an opportunity for the fillies to earn qualifying points towards the Kentucky Oaks. Beholder, the winner of the 2-year-old Eclipse Award for fillies and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, is expected to make her first start of the year in the Santa Ynez.
The final Saturday of the month brings a double-header of Derby/Oaks qualifying races to Gulfstream Park. The Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes will offer entries the chance to earn points towards a place in the gate for the Kentucky Derby. The Grade 2 Forward Gal will be a qualifier for the Kentucky Oaks. Last year’s Forward Gal winner, Broadway’s Alibi, finished second in the Oaks.
Santa Anita closes the month with a big day of stakes races including four stakes restricted to California-breds with a combined purse of $800,000. In addition to the state-bred races is the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf and the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes for older fillies and mares.