The year is coming to a close, with the vast majority of the big races this year already behind us. However, a few big stakes events still remain. Churchill Downs, Aqueduct, Del Mar, Santa Anita, and other tracks still have important days remaining. The Kentucky Derby trail will start to heat up in the coming weeks, while the older horses will take one more shot at earning Grade 1 wins. Here are five MUST SEE races still left in 2018:
1. Cigar Mile (Grade 1)
When: December 1, 2018
Why Watch: The stars seem to be lining up for this race. The Cigar Mile is always the highlight of the December racing schedule, with this year shaping up to be no different. Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light is currently pointing towards the race, which gives the event a major headliner. City of Light is the only horse to defeat Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate this season.
2. Los Alamitos Futurity (Grade 1)
When: December 8, 2018
Where: Los Alamitos
Why Watch: The Los Alamitos Futurity has turned into the Bob Baffert Invitational. Since the race moved to Los Alamitos, Baffert has been victorious in all four runnings. Dortmund, Mor Spirit, Mastery, and McKinzie won for him before going on to various amounts of success. This race has a rich history dating back to when it was contested at Hollywood Park, too. Horses such as A.P. Indy, Real Quiet, Point Given, Brother Derek, Into Mischief, Pioneerof the Nile, Lookin at Lucky, and Shared Belief have won this historic race. This race usually produces several strong Kentucky Derby contenders.
3. Clark Handicap (Grade 1)
When: November 23, 2018
Where: Churchill Downs
Why Watch: As tradition holds, the Clark Handicap is contested on Black Friday, which makes this a unique race that racing fans always look forward to watching. Defending champing Seeking the Soul headlines the probables for this event, with gritty 3-year-old Bravazo also targeting this race for Hall of Fame trainer D Wayne Lukas. There have been many fantastic winners of this race in the past, including two years ago, when Gun Runner used this race as a launching point to a Horse of the Year campaign the next season.
4. Remsen Stakes (Grade 2)
When: December 1, 2018
Why Watch: The Remsen Stakes has been heavily criticized as a poor Kentucky Derby prep event, which has been true recently, yet the race is still one that can produce very good horses. Look no further than last season as a good example. Catholic Boy won the Remsen Stakes, before going on to win multiple Grade 1 races this year, including the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. There are several young 2-year-olds that are starting to develop in New York, which makes this a very intriguing race.
5. Malibu Stakes (Grade 1)
When: December 26, 2018
Where: Santa Anita
Why Watch: Christmas Day for horse players comes on December 26th! This is one of the most celebrated days of racing. The day after Christmas is Opening Day at Santa Anita and the Malibu is the feature race on the card each year. The race serves as the last Grade 1 event on the racing calendar and is also one of the last opportunities for 3-year-olds to face horses their own age. It’s also a card that’s heavily handicapped, as racing goes dark for the two days leading up in celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Honorable Mentions: Hollywood Turf Cup (Del Mar), Hollywood Derby (Del Mar), Golden Rod Stakes (Churchill Downs), Matriarch Stakes (Del Mar), Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (Churchill Downs), Starlet Stakes (Los Alamitos), Springboard Mile (Remington Park), La Brea Stakes (Santa Anita)