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Turco Bravo is set to run in the Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga.
Turco Bravo is set to run in the Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga.|NYRA
Thoroughbreds

Thoroughbred Thursday: Garrity picks races at Saratoga – including the Birdstone marathon – and Del Mar

His first post is 2:48 pm

Chris Garrity

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It's another summer day, and fresh cards at Saratoga and Del Mar. Saratoga got rain yesterday, and while the main track should be fast by first post, we are expecting the races to stay on turf, but for the course to have some give to it. With that out of the way, let's go.

Saratoga Race 4, 2:48 PM ET

$40,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, turf, New York-bred fillies & mares 3 & up

Chad Brown, the trainer who seems to win two of every three turf stakes in New York these days, has the favorite in here, 1-Ideational. On class, she is an absolute standout, but we don't like her in this spot. A well-bred filly, she was purchased for $135,000 as a yearling in September of 2016, and she has one career start, a 5th-place finish in a Maiden Special Weight race at Aqueduct in November. That her connections, after investing a large sum of money in her, have her up for sale for $40k, after just one career start, is an enormously negative sign to us. It seems they want her to be claimed, and an iron handicapping rule is never to bet on a horse someone is trying to get rid of.

The pick is 7-Memories Eternal. She too is dropping from Maiden Special to maiden claiming, but with her, the drop is not concerning, because this is probably where she belongs. She's bred for turf, and the spacing of her recent races suggests that she's ready to move forward, and a step forward would make her the winner here. We will bet her to win at 9/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 4, $20 to win on 7-Memories Eternal.

Saratoga Race 8, 5:15 PM ET

Allowance, 1 3/8 miles, turf, fillies & mares 3 & up

This is a very good race, with some seriously talented runners entered. Chad Brown has the favorite in this one as well: it's the French-bred 5-My Sister Nat, who's 6/5. And we think she is a very, very solid favorite: in fact, we think she is pretty close to a sure thing. She was a Group 3 winner in France last year, and was good enough to finish 6th, only 3 3/4 lengths behind the winner, in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamps, which is a huge race over there. That kind of talent is certainly good enough to win here. She disappointed as the favorite in her North American debut, finishing third at 9/10 odds, but we think that she will move forward off that effort, and that will leave the rest of the field fighting strictly for second money. We will bet her to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $50 to win on 5-My Sister Nat.

Saratoga Race 9, 5:51 PM ET

$100,000 Birdstone Stakes, 1 3/4 miles, dirt, 3 & up

This is a rare bird, a dirt stakes race at the marathon distance of 1 3/4 miles. The distance is so rare that the entire field has a grand total of four starts on the same surface and at the same distance as today's race -- and three of those races were made by one horse, 7-Turco Bravo, a long time ago, and in a far-off land (Chile).

We mention this because we actually like the one horse who has run a race at 1 3/4 miles on dirt in this country: It's 8-Rocketry, who last fall won two long dirt stakes, the 1 5/8 mile Temperance Hill at Belmont Park and the Breeders Cup Marathon, which is 1 3/4 miles. He has lost some races since, but they have all been at much shorter distances, and we are assuming that these were an instance of trainer Jimmy Jerkins having a fit and sound horse, and wanting to run him where he could -- and all he could find were races at shorter distances, because races as long as this one come along very infrequently. So we will forgive his recent losses, and we will pick him to win. He's a one-run plodder, but he loves these dirt marathons, and that's enough for us. We will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 8-Rocketry.

Del Mar Race 6, 7:30 PM ET

Allowance/Optional $40,000 claiming, 1 3/8 miles, turf, 3 & up

Del Mar has a pretty weak card today, but this race is a good one. There are two ways a horse can be eligible for this race: the first is to have not won a race other than maiden or claiming (this is the allowance condition), or to be entered for a $40,000 claiming price. Hence the "Allowance/Optional Claiming" description.

These races are usually filled with allowance horses, and we normally treat them as such. This one is different though, because 6-Unapologetic is entered for the $40k tag -- and this is noteworthy, because he has won far too many races to be eligible for the allowance condition. Looked at another way, he is dropping in class, while the other horses are either stepping up in class or trying to win at this level after one or more unsuccessful attempts to do so.

Moreover, the class drop with Unapologetic is not a negative sign from us: he's a 6-year-old gelding, a grizzled vet with 31 career starts, and trainer Bill Spawr, who has quietly been doing quality training work on the West Coast for decades, is merely looking for a good spot for him. We think he's found it here, as the rest of the field looks weak. We will bet Unapologetic to win, at 5/2, and we will do so unapologetically. The bet: Del Mar, Race 6, $35 to win on 6-Unapologetic.

That's all for today. Good luck at the windows.