Horse racing news, notes, & stakes previews for 2/17/21

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

MANDALOUN raises Derby stock in Risen Star

Sent off as the 2-1 favorite despite running a dull third in the Lecomte Stakes last month, MANDALOUN rewarded his backers with a 1 1/4-length score in the Risen Star, the first 85-point race (50 to the winner) for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. The victory all but assures the Brad Cox trainee a spot in the starting gate for this year’s “Run for the Roses.”

Baffert sweeps Santa Monica trifecta

It was odd to see Edwin Maldonado taking the call for Bob Baffert on MERENEITH in Saturday’s Santa Monica at Santa Anita, but the pairing paid off handsomely ($20.40) as the daughter of American Pharoah went gate-to-wire in the seven-furlong affair.

Baffert also trained runner-up GOLDEN PRINCIPAL and third-place finisher QAHIRA.

Winter weather wipes out racing week at Oaklawn

Oaklawn Park lost Presidents’ Day weekend due to snow and punishing cold, and a similar extended forecast for this week prompted officials to cancel the entire week of racing through Sunday.

The Grade III Southwest Stakes, a 17-point prep race for the Kentucky Derby originally scheduled for Presidents’ Day, was expected to be run this coming Sunday.

Saudi Cup center of attention on Saturday

Let’s review the upcoming slate of stakes races for this weekend!

The $20 million Saudi Cup (King Abdulaziz Racetrack Race 8, 12:40 p.m. ET)

A field of 14, including five American-based runners, will contest the second annual Saudi Cup. From the rail out, the U.S. entrants are #4 MAX PLAYER (16-1), #5 KNICKS GO (5-2), #7 TACITUS (14-1), #8 SLEEPY EYES TODD (20-1), and #9 CHARLATAN (7-5, morning-line favorite).

The Grade II, $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes (Santa Anita Race 7, 6:30 p.m. ET)

Most of the usual suspects in the turf female division in California have shown up for the 10-horse, one-mile Buena Vista Stakes on Saturday. That includes #2 MUCHO UNUSUAL, last seen winning the Grade III Megahertz, and #4 NASTY, last seen winning the Lady of Shamrock over this course.

The Grade III, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes (Laurel Race 7, 3:46 p.m. ET)

Rescheduled from last Saturday due to a winter storm, the Barbara Fritchie drew a field of eight, led by state-bred mainstay #8 HELLO BEAUTIFUL (8-5, morning-line favorite).

The Grade III, $250,000 General George Stakes (Laurel Race 8, 4:19 p.m. ET)

The postponed co-feature on last Saturday’s Laurel program – the General George – attracted 10 runners, including overachieving NY-bred #2 FUNNY GUY (9-5, morning-line favorite).

The Grade III, $100,000 Royal Delta Stakes (Gulfstream Race 11, 5:16 p.m. ET)

Grade III Comely winner #7 MRS. DANVERS will try to get her 2021 campaign started on the right foot in Saturday’s Royal Delta Stakes against seven others under Jose Ortiz.

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