The year is coming to a close and the vast majority of the major races are behind us, but a few big events still remain. Churchill Downs, Aqueduct, Del Mar, Santa Anita, and Remington Park still have important days left on the calendar.
The Kentucky Derby trail will heat up in the coming weeks while the older horses take one more shot at earning graded stakes honors. Here are 5 MUST-SEE races still left in 2020:
1. Malibu Stakes (Grade 1)
When: December 26
Where: Santa Anita
Why Watch: This is easily the top race on the list this year. The potential star-studded field includes the fast-rising sprinter Nashville, who might have very well won the Breeder’s Cup Sprint (G1) if entered. We also will get to see Charlatan for the first time since May, as well as Independence Hall, who returned to the races as a winner last time out at Del Mar. If all three make the starting gate, this could become one of the best races of the season.
2. Cigar Mile (Grade 1)
When: December 5
Why Watch: It doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, but the Cigar Mile is always one of the better races of the year and carries a lot of weight; Maximum Security won last year’s race to lock up an Eclipse Award. This year’s list of probables make it a can’t-miss event: the headliners King Guillermo, Code of Honor, and Firenze Fire could face the up-and-coming Performer.
3. Clark Stakes (Grade 1)
When: November 27
Where: Churchill Downs
Why Watch: An annual staple of Thanksgiving weekend racing action, the historic Clark could be headlined by the Bret Calhoun-trained By My Standards, who will try to rebound from a poor effort last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). The Shug McGaughey-trained Code of Honor could show up if he bypasses the Cigar Mile, and multiple graded stakes champs Owendale and Mr. Freeze are also pointing here.
4. Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (Grade 2)
When: November 29
Where: Churchill Downs
Why Watch: The last portion of the season shifts the focus towards the 2-year-olds as they prepare for the Road to the Kentucky Derby. This race, along with the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), the Remsen Stakes (G2), and the Remington Park Springboard Mile, shape the early part of the 2021 season. Kentucky’s crop of juveniles looks fairly deep this season, further emphasizing why this is a “must-see” race.
5. Hollywood Derby (Grade 1)
When: November 28
Where: Del Mar
Why Watch: East Coast invaders have done well in this race in years past, and with no real local standouts, expect that trend to continue. Solid horses such as Gufo and Decorated Invader are said to be pointing towards this spot for Christophe Clement, as are Fancy Liquor and Bye Bye Melvin. We could have a pretty amazing turf race round out Thanksgiving Weekend.
Honorable Mentions: Hollywood Turf Cup (Del Mar); Los Alamitos Futurity (Los Alamitos); Golden Rod Stakes (Churchill Downs); Matriarch Stakes (Del Mar); Starlet Stakes (Los Alamitos); Springboard Mile (Remington Park); La Brea Stakes (Santa Anita); Remsen Stakes (Aqueduct).