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In this April 6, 2019, image provided by Benoit Photo, Bellafina, with Flavien Prat aboard, wins the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks. She’s racing again at the Longines Test Stakes at Saratoga. (Benoit Photo via AP)
In this April 6, 2019, image provided by Benoit Photo, Bellafina, with Flavien Prat aboard, wins the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks. She’s racing again at the Longines Test Stakes at Saratoga. (Benoit Photo via AP)|Associated Press
Thoroughbreds

Saturday Stakes: Garrity picks The Whitney at Saratoga, the Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar, the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer and more

His first post is 5:06 pm EDT

Chris Garrity

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There's a lot going on today in the horse racing world, so much, in fact, that we will only be able to cover a portion of it. There are stakes races in abundance, all over the country; Sataroga has the day's most prestigious races, but there's terrific action elsewhere. It's just a great day to be a fan of the Sport of Kings. In terms of handicapping the races, we will note that we are expecting conditions to be fast and firm everywhere, and with that out of the way, let's go.

Saratoga, Race 8, 5:06 pm ET

Grade 1 Longines Test Stakes, 7 furlongs, dirt, 3-year-old fillies

The Test drew a strong field of seven. The 2-1 morning line favorite, 2-Bellafina, comes into the race with 6 wins from 9 career starts, but has yet to run truly fast. The marvelously-named 3-Covfefe, the 5/2 second choice, has run truly fast -- her win in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness in May was good for a 107 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest fig earned by any filly in the race -- but she disappointed last out, losing the Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs as the 2/5 favorite. Covfefe is seriously fast, but 1-Serengeti Empress and 6-Please Flatter Me also have abundant early speed, which virtually guarantees that the Test will have a very fast early pace.

We like a huge longshot here, 7-Jeltrin. This filly has the kind of hidden form we love: She was excellent in sprints earlier in the year, but faltered trying to go longer. She now cuts back to sprinting, and we expect her to improve significantly today. Even better, she has a late-running style that the expected hot pace should favor, and her recent route races should have her absolutely dead fit. We see making a big late move to get past the tiring pacesetters, and lighting up the toteboard at a huge price. We will bet her to win and to place at 20-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $25 to win and $15 to place on 7-Jeltrin.

Saratoga, Race 9, 5:06 pm ET

Grade 1 Whitney Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, dirt, 3 & up

The Whitney is yet another Saratoga stakes race with a long and rich history; past winners include all-time greats like War Admiral, Kelso, and Dr. Fager. This year's field lives up to the race's heritage; it's a fascinating group of eight runners, with 6-McKinzie, 4-Thunder Snow, and 8-Preservationist the headliners.

We like McKinzie in this spot. He's had some terribly bad luck, running very fast in big races, but losing to horses who ran out of their minds. He finished a dead-game second in the Met Mile to Mitole, and he lost the Santa Anita Handicap by a nose to Gift Box. We don't see another horse outshining McKinzie today; we like his forwardly-placed running style, and we think the Whitney's nine furlongs are right in his wheelhouse. We will bet him to win at 7/5. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $50 to win on 6-McKinzie.

Mountaineer Park, Race 8, 5:35 pm ET

Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, 1 1/8 furlongs, dirt, 3-year-olds

It's the biggest day of the year for racing in West Virginia, and the headliner is the West Virginia Derby. A field of ten is entered, but one stands out: 9-Mr. Money. This son of Goldencents has been very, very good in his last three races, and a repeat of any of them should be good enough to win here. Anything can happen, especially with this many runners, but Mr. Money looks to us to be the overwhelmingly the likeliest winner. We will bet him to win. The bet: Mountaineer Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Mr. Money.

Del Mar, Race 5, 7:09 pm ET

Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes, 6 furlongs, dirt, 2-year-old fillies

A field of six goes in the Sorrento, but the unquestioned star is 3-Amalfi Sunrise, who won her first career start in June, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 88, which is merely the fastest fig earned by any 2-year-old filly on dirt anywhere in North America this year. Even better, her win was as visually impressive as it was fast; she looks like she could be something special. She appears to have this field over a barrel; we expect her to win dramatically, and we will bet her to win as a result. We do not think we will get her 8/5 morning line price, but we'll happily take even money. Bet her now, because if she wins this one the way we expect her to, she'll be 2/5 the next time she runs. She's got a great name, and write it down, because you'll be hearing it a lot the rest of the year. The bet: Del Mar, Race 5, $50 to win on 3-Amalfi Sunrise.

Del Mar, Race 8, 8:30 pm ET

Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap, 1 1/16 miles, turf, fillies & mares 3 & up

An excellent field of nine goes in the Yellow Ribbon, headlined by win machine 4-Vasilika, who has won 12 of her last 13 starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who returns from exile after being banned by track management, and successfully petitioning a court to overturn the ban. She's going to be plenty tough, but the confusion over whether Hollendorfer would be able to saddle her -- the ban was only overturned a few days ago -- makes backing her at a short price unappealing to us. We're looking elsewhere.

We like 8-Toinette. This 4-year-old Neil Drysdale-trained filly has been away from the races for a while, with her last race a win in the Autumn Miss at Santa Anita last October, but Drysdale is excellent at getting horses to run first off a layoff, and he's also good at getting horses to peak in a big race. We think she's got a big shot here, and we like her morning-line price of 6-1. We will bet her to win. The bet: Del Mar, Race 8, $30 to win on 8-Toinette.

That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and as always, good luck at the windows.