Horse racing news, notes, & stakes previews for 1/7/21

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

CAPO KANE, MUTASAABEQ, LIFE IS GOOD win first three Derby preps of 2021

Aqueduct’s road to the Kentucky Derby began on Friday with the $100,000 Jerome Stakes. CAPO KANE splashed home to a 6 1/4-length victory at nearly 7-1 in a field of five, earning 10 Derby points in the process. Dylan Davis was aboard for the one-mile journey in the mud.

MUTASAABEQ delivered the goods as the 6-5 favorite in Saturday’s one-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Todd Pletcher trainee, ridden by Luis Saez, scored 10 Derby points.

LIFE IS GOOD blazed the way early in Saturday’s Sham Stakes at Santa Anita under Mike Smith, opening up a four-length lead. His strides shortened noticeably at the wire, but the Bob Baffert pupil held on by 3/4-lengths over stablemate MEDINA SPIRIT.

Rosario takes trio of stakes at Santa Anita

Joel Rosario, in line for his first ever Eclipse Award for Outstanding Rider, began the new year in style by swiping three stakes races at Santa Anita.

Rosario rode HEMBREE along the rail to grab the Grade II Joe Hernandez on New Year’s Day before taking Saturday’s Grade II San Gabriel atop ANOTHERTWISTAFATE. He completed his stakes trifecta with a Grade II Santa Ynez triumph on Sunday aboard KALYPSO.

Ortiz Jr. begins new year in grand fashion at Gulfstream

Irad Ortiz Jr. is still looking up at Luis Saez in the jockey’s race at Gulfstream (Saez leads 38-34 as of Tuesday), but he completed an impressive feat on New Year’s Day at the Hallandale Beach oval by scoring in all three stakes races. He was aboard IMPRIMIS ($3.60) in the Janus, GULF COAST ($6.40) in the Cash Run, and HEAR MY PRAYER ($21.00) in the Abundantia.

Troika of Grade IIIs highlights second Saturday of 2021

Let’s review the major stakes races taking place this Saturday from coast to coast!

The Grade III, $200,000 La Cañada Stakes (Santa Anita Race 8, 6:30 p.m. ET)

#2 HARD NOT TO LOVE, last seen running second in the Zenyatta Stakes over this course, will take on the Bob Baffert-trained duo of #3 FIGHTING MAD and #4 MESSAGE in the La Cañada on Saturday. A field of seven will cover 1 1/16th-miles in this one.

The Grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas Stakes (Santa Anita Race 9, 7 p.m. ET)

JOLIE OLIMPICA and OLEKSANDRA will face off once more in the Las Cienegas Stakes on Saturday.

The former, who won this race last year, beat OLEKSANDRA in their lone prior meeting last May in the Monrovia Stakes over this course. The latter went on to win the Jaipur Stakes against the boys before hitting the shelf and reappearing in disappointing fashion in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. JOLIE OLIMPICA is unseen since running second to Rushing Fall in July’s Jenny Wiley Stakes.

Mike Smith and Joel Rosario are the respective riders.

The Grade III, $100,000 Tropical Turf Stakes (Gulfstream Race 10, 4:49 p.m. ET)

2019 Tropical Turf winner #4 DOCTOR MOUNTY and 2020 Tropical Turf champ #7 TUSK will do battle in the 2021 renewal of this stakes race. Seven others will line up against them in this one mile affair, all of which have won at least one graded stake.

The $75,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial Stakes (Fair Grounds Race 9, 5:52 p.m. ET)

A field of eight, mostly of the stakes-placed variety, will do battle on the turf in the 5.5-furlong Menard Memorial this Saturday at the Fair Grounds. #3 INTO MYSTIC (9-5, morning-line favorite), with a 7-for-11 Florent Geroux (from Jan. 1 through Jan. 5) aboard, figures to take support at the windows.