Bob Baffert trainee Improbable returns to stakes racing today at Oaklawn.
Bob Baffert trainee Improbable returns to stakes racing today at Oaklawn.|Coady Photography | Churchill Downs | kentuckyderby.com
Thoroughbreds

Garrity picks two Saturday stakes races at Oaklawn plus action at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs

Garrity's first post is at 3:52 pm EDT. The first stakes race is at 5:43 pm EDT.

Chris Garrity

This is not a recording: the tracks running today are Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and Oaklawn Park. There’s actually a terrific card at Oaklawn today, with two stakes, and there are some playable races in Florida as well. We expect fast dirt and firm turf everywhere. We’ll lead with the stakes races, and then go in chronological order after that. Let’s go.

Oaklawn Park Race 9, 5:43 pm ET

$150,000 Oaklawn Mile Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 4 & Up

The Oaklawn Mile Stakes drew a full field of 14. One of them is a name even casual fans might remember: 14-Improbable, a Bob Baffert trainee who finished fourth as the favorite in last year’s Kentucky Derby. He faces two formidable challenges today, one from the rest of the field, especially 3-Tom’s d’Etat, who won the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs last out, and the other from his post position, as he’s mired all the way on the outside, in gate number 14.

We think Improbable will handle both challenges. While the post is a real disadvantage, it is not an insuperable one: Horses can and do get good trips from the outside gates, and Improbable has the kind of tactical speed that rider Drayden Van Dyke can use to avoid getting hung wide on the first turn. And while Tom’s d’Etat is a formidable opponent, he is coming off a layoff (the Clark was in November), and the mile distance is probably a bit shorter than where he is best.

Add it all up, and we like Improbable to win the Oaklawn Mile. We will bet him to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 14-Improbable.

Oaklawn Park Race 11, 6:48 pm ET

$250,000 Oaklawn Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

3-year-olds take center stage in the spring, and the Oaklawn Stakes is a good example: it’s a $250,000 race that drew a terrific field of thirteen sophomore colts. The headliner and morning line favorite is another Bob Baffert trainee, 4-Thousand Words, who’s 5/2 off wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity in December and the Bob Lewis in February. But Thousand Words ran lousy in his last race, a very dull fourth in the San Felipe at Santa Anita, and will have to improve on that drastically to have any chance against a very tough field.

We do not like Thousand Words to win -- we wouldn’t bet him with counterfeit money -- and instead like a horse we think will be a giant price: it’s 2-Coach Bahe, who starts for trainer Phil Bauer. This son of Twirling Candy has had mixed results in his four career starts, but he has also never been able to run on fast dirt, as one start was on turf, and in the other three races, the track came up wet. He will get fast dirt today, which we think will result in improvement for him, and we also think that the pace will favor him, as he is a stretch runner in a race that has plenty of early speed. He’s 20-1, and may be even higher at post time; we will bet him to win and to place. The bets: Oaklawn Park, Race 11, $30 to win/$20 to place on 2-Coach Bahe.

Gulfstream Park Race 8, 3:52 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

1-Per Capita is a standout here. The Chad Brown trainee has two career starts, both in New York last summer, but both were good, better than any other maiden in this race has done so far. He’s coming off a layoff, having last raced in at Saratoga in July, but Brown is good with horses coming off the bench (28% win rate), and Per Capita has been working very strongly in the morning, suggesting that he is fit and ready to fire today. He is also the lone older horse in the field: he’s a 4-year-old running against nine 3-year-olds, and we think this is going to be like a high school basketball player dropping to a middle school game and scoring 50 points. Per Capita is 9/5 on the morning line, and will likely be shorter at post time; we will bet him anyway, as we think he will romp. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $60 to win on 1-Per Capita.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, 4:15 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

A field of eleven goes in this maiden turfer. We like 8-Channel Stuffer: he’s been away from the races for a long, long time, having last run in the summer of 2018, in a trio of juvenile races in Ireland. He faced some pretty classy fields in those races, including Ten Sovereigns, who is a Group 1 winner. We think Channel Stuffer outclasses this modest field of maidens, and we also like that his trainer, Michael Stidham is good in all the relevant categories, with horses coming off a layoff, horses making their first North American start, and so on. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 8-Channel Stuffer.

Gulfstream Park, Race 10, 4:54 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Nine fillies line up for this first-level allowance sprint. We like 4-Gogo Shoes, who broke her maiden at Tampa Bay last out, in her second career start. She stalked the pace in that race, and that is a key factor, as there are some very, very fast entrants in this field, and we are expecting a scalding early pace, and the pacesetters collapsing late. We think Gogo Shoes can get a good trip behind the leaders, and pounce when they start to shorten stride. She’s got the best last-race Beyer Speed Figure in the field, 76, but because she earned it at Tampa Bay, she’s 6-1 on the morning line. We’ll take that all day long, and bet her to win -- baby needs a new pair of Gogo Shoes. The bet: Gulfstream Park,Race 10, $35 to win on 4-Gogo Shoes.

That’s all for today. Enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows. In Pennsylvania? For all your sports wagering, go to the Parx Casino website.

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