Horse racing news, notes, & stakes previews for 1/20/21

Let’s recap the horse racing headlines from last weekend and preview what’s to come in the week ahead.

MIDNIGHT BOURBON surprises in Lecomte

Most of the betting attention went to MANDALOUN (4-5), but MIDNIGHT BOURBON (7-2) and Joe Talamo took the lead and never looked back in Saturday’s Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds, earning 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby.

PROXY won the photo with MANDALOUN for place while racing well clear of the others.

QUICK, MUCHO UNUSUAL impress in pair of Grade IIIs

QUICK stretched out successfully in Sunday’s 1 1/2-mile Astra Stakes at Santa Anita, holding off stablemate HERMAPHRODITE by a nose with Umberto Rispoli in the irons.

MUCHO UNUSUAL pulled away late in Monday’s Megahertz Stakes at “The Great Race Place,” beating three others with ease under Joel Rosario.

Pegasus World Cup, Oaklawn opening headline busy weekend

Let’s highlight some of the weekend’s biggest races, beginning with Friday’s Opening Day feature at Oaklawn Park.

Friday

The $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes (Oaklawn Race 8, 5:11 p.m. ET)

A field of seven will contest this one-mile event that offers 17 points (10-4-2-1) toward the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out two in the Smarty Jones, including 9-5 morning-line favorite #3 COWAN. Preferred pilot Ricardo Santana Jr. takes the call.

Saturday

The Grade I, $3 million Pegasus World Cup (Gulfstream Race 12, 5:44 p.m. ET)

Off a scintillating score in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, #4 KNICKS GO is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of 12 for the Pegasus World Cup. Joel Rosario flies in from California for the call.

Set as the 9-2 second-choice is multiple Grade I winner #10 CODE OF HONOR. Other familiar faces include #1 SLEEPY EYES TODD, #5 JESUS’ TEAM, and #7 TAX.

The Grade I, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (Gulfstream Race 11, 4:59 p.m. ET)

Todd Pletcher has a strong hand in the Pegasus World Cup Turf, with three of the top five choices in the betting. That includes 7-2 favorite #5 COLONEL LIAM, last seen winning the Tropical Park Derby over this course, and 9-2 second-choice LARGENT, who recently took Gulfstream’s Ft. Lauderdale Stakes. #12 SOCIAL PARANOIA rounds out the Pletcher triumvirate.

The Grade III, $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes (Santa Anita Race 7, 6:30 p.m. ET)

#2 WILDMAN JACK will try the dirt once more in the six-furlong Palos Verdes on Saturday, which drew a field of eight, under Abel Cedillo. The speedy #7 TAKE THE ONE O ONE turns back in this spot with Jose Valdivia Jr. aboard.

The $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes (Oaklawn Race 6, 4:39 p.m. ET)

#1 NIGHT OPS is the 2-1 favorite in a salty field of seven for the one-mile Fifth Season. He was last seen winning the Grade III Cornhusker Handicap last July.

Other entrants include 2020 Fifth Season victor #3 PIONEER SPIRIT (5-1), and 2020 Santa Anita Handicap winner #7 COMBATANT (5-2).