For some, Thanksgiving Weekend is a weekend for family functions. For others, it means a mad run on the retail world looking for bargains.
For horseplayers, it's an underrated weekend featuring cross-country stakes. Breeders' Cup winners (like Groupie Doll in the Cigar Mile) may use this to experiment or perhaps garner some additional year-end votes. Breeders' Cup to losers (such as Pool Play in the Clark Handicap) look to this weekend to regain confidence.
Festival days like Stars of Tomorrow II (Churchill), HolidayFest (Aqueduct), and the Autumn Turf Festival (Betfair Hollywood) serve as the backbone of the weekend. Mix in the opening of Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, which sees many of the day-to-day stables from Arlington.
Hawthorne doesn't have any stakes race on this weekend (the last two stakes of the meet will be in December), but Friday's cross country programs serve as excellent material for a two-day qualifying contest to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Challenge (NHC). Finals are Saturday and Sunday.
On top of that, many Chicago-based and Arlington/Hawthorne-campaigned stars pepper the biggest stakes from around the country, and we'll give you a schedule to watch the local stars below. (All times given are Central Time.)
- Thursday, 1:32 PM. Calder Race Course in Miami has the G3 My Charmer at 1 1/8 miles on the grass as the feature on the Holiday card, and you can root on G3 Arlington Matron runner-up HOOH WHY.
- Friday, 4:35 PM. Perhaps the race of the weekend is this one. The G1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs sees the 1-2 finishers of the Hawthorne Gold Cup (POOL PLAY, CEASE) and locally owned TAKE CHARGE INDY. (One race before, they sound out AWESOME ATTACK in an allowance race)
- Saturday, 2:57 PM. Double G3 winner and Illinois Horse of the Year candidate IOYA BIGTIME draws the rail in the three turn, 1 1/2 mile G2 W. L. McKnight Handicap on the grass at Calder.
- Saturday, 4:35 PM. Owned by Chuck and Maribeth Sanford and trained by Patrick Byrne (the same team of Take Charge Indy), they have G3 Iroqouis runner-up POSITIVELY in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, the penultimate race on Stars of Tomorrow II.
- Sunday, 12:40 AM. If you've got the Midnight munchies, turn on the Japan Cup. The archipelago's richest race is also one of the world's richest and most esteemed turf races. It sees JAKKALBERRY, hero of the American St. Leger on Arlington Million Day, looking to build on his third place showing in the Melbourne Cup.
- Sunday, times TBA. The closing day of the Churchill meet features the G3 River City. It also features the G1 Hollywood Derby and G1 Matriarch which wrap up the Autumn Turf Festival at Betfair Hollywood Park. Entry information was not available at publish time, but check the entries on these three turf races.
Whatever you play, Good Luck!