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Updated for weather: Garrity covers lots of ground — makes racing picks at Will Rogers Downs, Tampa Bay Downs, and Fonner Park

It’ll be fast and firm in Florida, and while the forecast at Fonner and Will Rogers is iffy, we’re playing for fast dirt at those two tracks as well. First post is 2:30 pm EDT.

Chris Garrity

Tampa Bay Downs joins Fonner Park and Will Rogers Downs on this May Wednesday. We’ll play races from all three. It’ll be fast and firm in Florida, and while the forecast at Fonner and Will Rogers is iffy, with showers scattered across the Midwest, we’re playing for fast dirt at those two tracks as well. Let’s go.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 4, 2:30 pm EDT

Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Eight fillies line up for this maiden race, and there are some well-bred and expensive ones among them. There’s also a lot of speed, especially 2-Onward and 5-Five Star Colonel, who should both be out there flying early. We think they’ll be going fast enough that the race will set up for a horse coming from just off the pace.

We like a 1-Branco Maria. She’s a first-time starter with a very impressive pedigree, by top stallion Candy Ride and out of a Rockport Harbor mare. She’s evidently as physically impressive as she is well-bred, because she sold for $385,000 as a yearling, a hefty sum, so she should at least look like a runner. We generally dislike the inside as a post for first-time starters in sprints, because if a horse does not break alertly, they can get buried on the rail, but we think this is a case where the post will actually help her, as she should be able to get a good position behind the dueling speedsters. Trainer Michael Stidham is good with firsters, winning at a 12% clip, so look for Branco Maria to earn a trip to the winner’s circle with a pace-stalking trip this afternoon. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 4, $30 to win on 1-Branco Maria.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 7, 4:00 pm EDT

$16,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A full field of ten goes to the post in this mile turf claimer. It’s a motley crew, with a lot of mixed form, but there’s a lack of speed in the group, so we’re going for a pace play: 5-Classy of Course is a cinch to get the early lead, and should be able to dictate the pace on the front end very comfortably. That will leave her with plenty of energy down the stretch to shake off the horses chasing her. She just missed at this level in her last, on April 5 here at Tampa Bay; we think she’ll not miss today. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 7, $35 to win on 5-Classy of Course.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, 5:00 pm EDT

Starter Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

Nine sophomore colts line up to go a mile on the Tampa Bay turf course in the Tampa Bay Downs nightcap. This is a race we found pretty easy to handicap, as the recent races of 4-Matty’s Express look pretty clearly superior to those run by his rivals. He’s won two in a row for trainer Mike Dini, against pretty stiff allowance company, and we think that he’ll handle this group with relative easy. We think we’ll get a decent price on him, maybe not his 4-1 morning line odds, but close, we hope, as other horses that we dislike figure to catch the attention of the betting public. We will bet him to win and will do so aggressively. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, $50 to win on 4-Matty’s Express.

Will Rogers Downs, Race 8, 5:45 pm EDT

Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A field of eight drew into this second-level allowance sprint.

The sloppy track at Will Rogers changes the complexion of this race enormously. Whereas on fast dirt we’d expect a speed duel, and a winner coming from off the pace, in the slop, we’re going with speed, speed, and more speed. That makes the pick 2-Shesomajestic, who is the fastest runner by a significant margin. Even better, she has terrific off-track breeding, and better still is that she has two career starts in the slop and did well in both of them. She last ran in the Southwest, at Turf Paradise in Phoenix and Zia Park in New Mexico, and while horses shipping to Will Rogers from that circuit have not done well of late, we think the track condition trumps that trend. Look for Shesomajestic to go right to the front and win the race on the front end. We’ll bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Will Rogers Downs, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Shesomajestic.

Fonner Park, Race 3, 5:54 pm EDT

Maiden Special Weight, 6 Furlongs, Dirt, Nebraska-bred 3 & Up

Nine state-bred maidens go six furlongs on the Fonner Park dirt in the 3rd at Fonner. We like the favorite, 8-J Train. He’s a 3-year-old gelding who is winless in five career starts, but he’s run well enough to win a couple of times already, and his connections thought enough of him to enter him in a minor stakes last out, where he finished a decent 4th. He looks like he should be good enough to take this race, especially since -- and this is probably the biggest factor here -- this might be the slowest group of maidens we’ve ever seen. We’ll take the chalk, and bet J Train to win at 5/2. The bet: Fonner Park, Race 3, $35 to win on 8-J Train.

Will Rogers Downs, Race 9, 6:15 pm EDT

Handicap, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

A full field of twelve goes to the post in the 9th at Will Rogers. It’s a good race to handicap, and a good race to bet. We’re going with a huge longshot in here, and it’s based solely on the wet track conditions: 4-Coco Tiger is a very, very fast horse, and should get the early lead ,he’s another runner with very good off-track bloodlines, and some past success in the slop. His recent form is less than stellar, but he starts for a good trainer (Greg Tracy, who’s winning at a 24% clip on the year), and he’s coming off a brief freshening, which could result in an improvement in performance. We think he’ll get the early lead we think he’ll love the going -- at 30-1, he is the play. We’ll try to blow up the tote board by betting Coco Tiger to win. The bet: Will Rogers Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 4-Coco Tiger.

That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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