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Jo Jo Air winning the William Walker Stakes on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at Churchill Downs.
Jo Jo Air winning the William Walker Stakes on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at Churchill Downs.|churchilldowns.com
Thoroughbreds

Thoroughbred Thursday: Garrity picks the horses at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs

Chris Garrity

The two marquee tracks running today are Belmont Park and Churchill Downs. There are a couple of races at each that we like. Belmont has an afternoon card, with first post at 1:00 pm; Churchill runs a twilight card that starts at 5:00 pm. We expect fast dirt and firm turf at both; let's go.

Belmont Park Race 3, 2:04 pm ET

$50,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, turf, 3 & up

This maiden claimer drew six entrants, and while it's a small field, it's an interesting race to handicap. The overwhelming favorite, 3/5 on the morning line, is 5-Bail Out, a Phipps Stable 4-year-old homebred trained by Shug McGaughey. The Phipps runners are among the best-bred horses in the world, and this guy is no exception: he's by the late stallion Arch, out of a Mr. Prospector mare. If we are betting on pedigree, Bail Out is a cinch.

But there are reasons to be hesitant about taking Bail Out at a short price: he's had 11 chances to break his maiden, and missed all 11. Even worse: he's finished second in nearly half of his races (five runner-up finishes), which suggests that he has the physical ability to win, but lacks the mental toughness, that extra inch of steel, to get the job done. He may win, but his record, and the fact that McGaughey drops him into a maiden claimer, makes us want to look elsewhere for a winner.

We like a price here: it's 4-Final Say. This 3-year-old was purchased for $470,000 in the March 2018 Ocala Breeders Sale, which suggests that he has some ability. His seven career starts have all come on dirt, where his lack of early speed compromised his chances, but we like his prospects on turf. Even better: trainer David Cannizzo has very good stats with horses making their first turf start, and with horses switching from dirt to turf. We like this colt's prospects, and at 12-1, he is worth a bet. We will bet him primarily to win, but we'll also make a small saver bet on him to place. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 3, $25 to win and $10 to place on 4-Final Say.

Belmont Park Race 6, 3:39 pm ET

$50,000 Maiden Claiming, 5 1/2 furlongs, dirt, 2-year-old fillies

Eight juvenile fillies will go to the post in this maiden claimer. We like the favorite in here, 4-Stunning Munnings. This girl appears to have a significant edge in early speed; we expect her to get an easy lead, and from there, she will be dangerous. The blinkers come off for her, which should help her relax, and she is trained by Wesley Ward, who is as good a trainer with 2-year-olds as anyone in the world. All signs point to go, so we will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 6, $30 to win on 4-Stunning Munnings.

Churchill Downs Race 3, 5:58 pm ET

$10,000 Claiming, 6 furlongs, dirt, 3 & up

A field of ten goes to the post in this claimer. We like jazz music, and we like 6-Jazz Music: this colt ships in from Arlington Park in suburban Chicago, where he's been running on the synthetic racing surface there. Today he drops in class, from $20k to $10k, and we think think this level is probably where he belongs. We also think he will run better on natural dirt -- he has done so in the past. We expect a good stalking trip from him, and will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 3, $25 to win on 6-Jazz Music.

Churchill Downs Race 5, 6:56 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, turf, 3 & up

This upper-level allowance/optional claimer drew a full field of twelve, and it's a terrific race to handicap and to bet. The field is evenly matched, and one could go in many different directions looking for a winner.

The direction we've gone is toward 4-Secretary at War. This 5-year-old son of War Front has been running in Southern California for trainer Richie Baltas, but today makes his first start after being transferred to the barn of Brad Cox. We like this horse's class: he's been competing in some pretty good stakes races, and while he didn't embarrass himself in them, this level seems to be a better fit for his ability. He has good tactical speed and a good closing kick, which are good on the grass; he also has an inside post position, which is very important in a field this big, because to win grass race at this distance it's damn near a requirement to get a clean trip. We see him getting a good stalking position on the rail, just behind the leaders, and winning the race with a move at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 5, $30 to win on 4-Secretary at War.

That's all for today. We will be back Saturday with a look at the national stakes action. Until then, good luck at the windows.

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