Racing last fall at Churchill Downs -- Accelerate wins the Breeders Cup Classic.
Racing last fall at Churchill Downs -- Accelerate wins the Breeders Cup Classic.|Churchill Downs

Thoroughbreds: Garrity’s Saturday stakes picks take him to Belmont, Churchill Downs and Santa Anita

Picking the late reces, Garrity’s first bet goes off at 5:51 pm EDT

Chris Garrity

It's a quiet Saturday in horse racing land, which is unsurprising, as we're now only a week away from the Kentucky Derby. This is the calm before the storm, as it were, and partly because of that, and partly to conserve our energy for Derby week, we're going to  be briefer here than we usually are on Saturdays. We still have a few plays for you, but we're going to save some juice for one of the biggest days of the year in a week's time. We will note that we are handicapping for fast and firm everywhere. With that out of the way, let's go.

Opening day at Belmont Park was yesterday, and today, they're running one stakes, the $125,000 Elusive Quality, which goes as Race 9, with a 5:51 pm post (as always, all times here are Eastern). This is a 7 furlong grass race for older horses. We like 3-Emmaus: This Irish-bred 5-year-old son of Invincible Spirit makes his first North American start today for trainer Conor Murphy, and Murphy has been good in that situation this year, with a 20% win rate (1-for-5). And we like the fact that top rider Irad Ortiz will be riding him. While we generally dislike jockey plays (we actually think plays based on jockeys are mostly idiotic), we do think that the rider on a horse can sometimes show intent, and the fact that Morley gives a leg up to Irad is a sign here. We think that they think they have a live one. We also like that this horse has three wins from five career starts at 7 furlongs on the grass. This is an odd distance on turf, as it's not quite a sprint and not quite a route; the fact that it's a distance that Emmaus likes is a huge positive for us. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $25 to win on 3-Emmaus.

It's opening day at Churchill Downs today, and it's not a day at all, actually: they are starting at night, with a 6 pm first post that reminds us of our wayward youth, much of which was spent on Friday nights at Hollywood Park. The lone stakes race on the card in Louisville is, like at Belmont, a turf sprint: it's the William Walker, a 5 furlong dash on the sod for 3-year-olds. It is Race 8, with a post time of 9:39 pm. The hot favorite here is 1-Bulletin, who's been brilliant winning all three of his career starts, all on grass and all at this distance. This guy is odds-on (4/5) on the morning line for a reason, but we are going to try to beat him, and we are going to do it with 3-Legends of War. This colt has been racing at a very, very high level in France, for famed English trainer John Gosden, and he makes his North American debut here for Doug O'Neill. Bulletin will be tough but we think the 6-1 morning line price on Legends of War makes him the better bet. We will play him to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $20 to win on 3-Legends of War.

We'll head out West for our last stop, to Santa Anita Park in California. There are two stakes on the card in Arcadia today, the overnight, $100.000 Crystal Water Stakes, and the Grade 2 Santa Margarita. These go off as Race 5 and 8 on the card; post times are 6:02 pm and 7:50 pm.

The Crystal Water is a mile on turf for California-bred horses 3 and up. There's a field of seven. We like 1-The Street Fighter: this 5-year-old Bruce Headley trainee's last race, a win in a Cal-bred allowance race, looks good on paper, but the numbers say it was even better than it looks: he ran the last quarter of that mile grass race in something like 23 flat, and this is significantly better than his rivals. Moreover, he has tactical speed to stay close, and the enviable rail draw for these mile turf races at Santa Anita. He's a go at 5-1. We will bet him to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 5, $25 to win on 1-The Street Fighter.

The Santa Margarita is a Grade 2 race for fillies and mares 4 and up at a mile and an eighth on the dirt. The headliner here is Paradise Woods, the 9/5 morning-line favorite who will attract plenty of support because of her back class, like her 2017 win in the Grade 1 Zenyatta at Santa Anita.

We'll be blunt: we hate Paradise Woods here. She hasn't won a race -- any race -- in more than a year and a half, and we think that money bet on her is money thrown down the toilet. We are going to look elsewhere for a top pick.

We like 5-Withholding Info. This lightly raced Bob Baffert trainee has been slow getting to the races -- this is just her 4th career start -- but she's done nothing wrong along the way, with two wins and a second in those three races. She looks to us like a horse ready to make a big step forward, and she doesn't need to improve that much to be a huge contender here. We are getting 6-1 on her, and while she's no cinch, if she runs the way we think she will, then that will be the last time you'll get anything anywhere even close to 6-1 on her for a long, long time. We will bet her to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $25 to win on 5-Withholding Info.

That's all for today. We'll be back next week. Enjoy the weekend, and good luck at the windows.

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