The days of 2011 dwindle down to a precious few and so do the major races remaining on the schedule.
The sole graded stakes on this weekend's slate is the $750,000, Grade I Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park, which attracted a promising field of 13 -- three of them from trainer Bob Baffert's barn.
Gulfstream Park offers the $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 mile on the grass Sunday.
Fair Grounds features three $75,000 stakes on Saturday's card, including a grass sprint with proven Breeders' Cup runners.
Baffert's triple team in the 1 1/16-mile Futurity includes Drill, a Lawyer Ron colt who will try to bounce back from a seventh-place, thoroughly beaten effort in the Nov. 19 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs; Liaison, a son of recently deceased sire Indian Charlie, who will attempt to become only the second horse to win the Real Quiet Stakes and the Futurity; and Sky Kingdom, an Empire Maker colt who has won a single time from three starts.
The field also includes Rousing Sermon, who was second in the Real Quiet; Majestic City, who won the Grade III Hollywood Juvenile Championship in July; Handsome Mike, coming off a second in the Nov. 21 Generous Stakes; Basmati, a Borrego colt who was second in the Delta Jackpot; and Empire Way, a full brother to this year's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta.
The winner's share almost certainly would be enough to ensure a starting position in next year's Kentucky Derby.
Saturday's Fair Grounds card has three interesting races -- none more so than the $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass. In that event, Country Day, who finished second by 1 1/2 lengths in the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, was installed as the 3-1 morning line choice. The competition includes Chamberlain Bridge, who ran eighth in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint but won the 2010 renewal by 1 1/2 lengths. He is the morning-line second choice at 4-1.
The Dania Beach on Sunday in South Florida features Excaper, who finished second to Irish import Wrote in last month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf -- at odds of 33-1. Ten rivals include Finale, who won the Summer Stakes with Excaper second, but finished seventh behind that rival in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Many of the field could be candidates to try the main track if they do well Sunday, and success there could lead to Florida Derby temptation. Excaper's trainer, Ian Black, summed it up: "We look at this race more as the start of a new season rather than the end of a campaign. I'm pretty sure we'll eventually try him on dirt at some point. At his age, you pretty much have to find out."
Even the foreign scene is relatively quiet with the only Group 1 race of note the $1.9 million Asahi Hai Futurity Sunday at Nakayama. The 1-mile turf event is open to colts and fillies but not geldings. No foreign horses are entered.