Garrity likes Mubarmaj today at Aqueduct.
Garrity likes Mubarmaj today at Aqueduct.|NYRA

Saturday Stakes Racing 1: Garrity picks Aqueduct, Churchill Downs and the wet grass of Del Mar in the year's last BIG day of racing

His first post time is 2:15 pm ET.

Chris Garrity

It's a big day today, probably the biggest day of racing for the rest of the year. We will savor what's left of fall by enjoying, and betting, some very good stakes racing from coast to coast. There are way too many races for us to cover here -- by our count, there are 23 stakes today with purses of $50,000 or more -- so we've picked a few that we think are the most interesting, from both a wagering and sporting perspective.

We expect fast dirt and firm turf everywhere, except as noted. Let's go.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:15 pm ETGrade 3 Discovery Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

We start the day off with a corker, a very, very good race from the Big A. There's a field of eight in here, and the headliner is Phipps Stable homebred 6-Performer, who's trained by Shug McCaughey and who is undefeated in three starts this year. 2-1 second choice Tax is a horse casual racing fans may recognize: He ran in this year's Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, and won the Jim Dandy at Saratoga in July. The wonderfully named 4-En Wye Cee (say it out loud) is 6-1 for the powerful Todd Pletcher barn. A win by any of these three would not be a surprise, but we are looking elsewhere, and it is to 2-Mubarmaj. This colt was a late bloomer, not getting to the races until August, but since then, he's done nothing wrong and plenty right: he finished third in his career debut, a 6 furlong sprint at Saratoga that was probably a shorter distance than he wanted, then he won a maiden race at Belmont in September at a mile, and followed that up with an impressive allowance win, also at Belmont, last month. We expect Mubarmaj to improve today, as his pedigree suggests that he wants longer races, and he's a big, long-striding colt who will do well going around two turns. We think 6-1 is a very square price on a horse who could be a star in the handicap division next year. We will bet him to win. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $35 to win on 2-Mubarmaj.

Aqueduct, Race 9, 3:44 pm ETGrade 3 Long Island Stakes, 1 3/8 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

The turf at Aqueduct was rated good yesterday, and we expect it to be a bit firmer today, but still rated good -- there's too little sunshine this time of year for the turf to dry out the grass quickly enough to get it firm. A full field of twelve drew into the Long Island, and it's yet another good race to handicap. We like the horse on the rail, 1-Si Que Es Buena. This Argentine-bred 6-year-old mare was last seen getting outrun in the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine, but that race is an elite Grade 1, and finishing 6th, as she did, is no disgrace, especially since she was only 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner. She's facing softer company today, which will help, and the good turf should be just about perfect for her, as she has run her best races on grass with some cut in it. She should be able to get a good trip from her inside post, saving ground until the top of the stretch, where she can unleash her strong stretch run. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 9, $25 to win on 1-Si Que Es Buena.

Churchill Downs, Race 11, 5:56 pm ETGrade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds

Though there are nine colts in the field of this year's Kentucky Jockey Club, on paper it looks to be a match race, as 7/5 favorite 3-Tiz the Law and 9/5 second choice 4-South Bend have a significant edge on the rest of the field. We prefer Tiz the Law, who was last seen winning the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in October. Trained by Barclay Tagg for the Sackatoga Stable, the same connections who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness with Funny Cide 15 years ago, Tiz the Law looks like he could really be something special, a horse to pay attention to during Triple Crown prep season next year. He's a gorgeous, long-striding colt who should keep improving as the distances get longer. We think he's going to win this race easily, with South Bend taking the place; we will bet Tiz the Law to win, and play them in the exacta in that order. The bets: Churchill Downs, Race 11, $40 to win on 3-Tiz the Law; $15 exacta, 3-Tiz the Law with 4-South Bend.

Del Mar, Race 2, 3:33 pm ET

Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 2-Year-Old Fillies

Del Mar runs a quartet of stakes today, all of them on grass, as part of their Fall Turf Festival. After a couple of days of heavy rain in Southern California, the turf course is going to be wet today, somewhere between yielding and good. This is a drastic change for most California turf horses, who are used to running on very firm turf. We need to focus on runners who we think will do well on the softer going.

There's no better place to start a look at Del Mar than with a race named after Jimmy Durante, whose name is still synonymous with the track even nearly 40 years after his death. And the 2019 renewal of the Jimmy Durante Stakes is a good one, with a full field of 14 colts going to the starting gate. The headliner is 12-Princesa Caroline, who ships West for New York-based trainer Chad Brown. She's only run once, but it was an eye-popping maiden win in September at a mile and a sixteenth on the Belmont Park turf course. She is a very large threat to win this race.

We are going with a different filly, however, because of the softer turf, which we don't know if Princesa Caroline can handle, and also because we think she will be overbet. We like the horse on the outside, 14-Guitty, a French-bred who has won both of her U.S. starts on firm turf, but should be able to handle grass with some give in it. She will have to improve to be able to win this, but we think that she is capable of moving forward, and will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 2, $25 to win on 14-Guitty.

Del Mar, Race 6, 5:33 pm ET

Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3 & Up

We like Chad Brown's 5-Sacred Life in here. This French-bred 4-year-old colt has run three races in the U.S. after a career in France, and they've all been good, one win and two seconds. His form makes him a threat under any conditions, but we move him up on soft turf, as he has run well on it more than once. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 6, $35 to win on 5-Sacred Life.

Del Mar, Race 8, 6:33 pm ET

Grade Hollywood Derby, 1 1/8 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

We've saved the best for last: the Hollywood Derby is the day's lone Grade 1 race, and it's a doozy, with a good field of 13 going to the starting gate. It's as wide-open a betting race as we can remember, as illustrated by the fact that the tepid morning line favorite, 5-Neptune's Storm, is 9/2.

We like another Chad Brown runner in here, 9-Standard Deviation. After starting his career on dirt, with five races with fair-to-middling results, this 3-year-old colt has found a new level racing on turf, where he's won of his last four. He last race in October, nearly two months ago, and we think he looks likely to have matured in the interim, and that he is sitting on a giant race today. Even better is the fact that he has shown ability to handle soft turf, as he won a minor stakes in July at Monmouth Park on a turf course rated "good." We will bet Standard Deviation to win at 6-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Standard Deviation.

That's all for today. As always, good luck at the windows.


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