Hog Creek Hustle, winning the Woody Stephens last June at Belmont, runs today at Churchill Downs.
Hog Creek Hustle, winning the Woody Stephens last June at Belmont, runs today at Churchill Downs.|NYRA / Derbe Glass
Thoroughbreds

Garrity picks Friday horse races at Churchill Downs, Tampa Bay Downs, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita

His first post time is at 3:43 pm EDT.

Chris Garrity

It’s a Friday in late spring, one of the best times of the year, and we are going to embrace it by playing six races, at four tracks, all in the span of about 90 minutes. We have races from coast to coast, at different distances and on different surfaces, and if you need an excuse to blow off work early this afternoon, pour a libation, and have a flutter, we’re happy to serve.

The forecast is iffy today across the Eastern U.S, with scattered showers and a possible brief heavy downpour possible at both Churchill and at the Florida tracks. We’re going to hope they all can dodge the raindrops, but that’s not a guarantee, and we will note that all plays are for fast dirt and firm turf: in the event the track comes up wet, on either surface, these plays get scrapped. Let’s go.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 7, 3:43 pm ET

Handicap, 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

This race in Tampa drew a field of ten, and it’s the easiest race we’ve handicapped in a month. 2-Proposition, a 4-year-old Michael Stidham trainee, has a massive edge in early speed, and an inside post position that will force Antonio Gallardo to use it. Seven furlongs can be a tricky distance for a horse to win on the front end, but in this case, Proposition’s pace edge is so pronounced that do not think the distance will matter. Look for her to go right to the lead, and once in front, to gallop in front all the way around the track. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 7, $40 to win on 2-Proposition.

Churchill Downs, Race 7, 4:08 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

The 7th today at Churchill is a dirt sprint, and a very tough third-level allowance, and it drew a full field of twelve. There’s a lot of speed among them, which makes us think the early pace is going to be very hot, unsustainably fast, and that the winner will be able to sit behind it and make a strong stretch rally.

The pick is 8-Hog Creek Hustle, a 4-year-old from the Vickie Foley barn. He spent last year running against some of the best sprinters in the country, including the Breeders Cup Sprint, and he more than held his own, running well in a string of graded stakes, and even taking the Woody Stephens, a Grade 1 at Belmont Park, in June. That race was at 7 furlongs, as is today’s, and we think that it is the distance at which he is best, as in three career starts at 7 panels, he has two wins and one second. He should be able to sit just behind the speed, and blow away the field turning for home. We will bet him to win at 4-1, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 7, $50 to win on 8-Hog Creek Hustle.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4;21 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Florida-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Seven state-breds go to the post in this first-level allowance dirt sprint. The hot favorite is on the outside, 7-Flora Fantasy, and while her form is good, she’s 7/5 on the morning line, will likely be shorter at post time, and we are going to take a shot against her.

The pick is 5-Merseyside. We think she’s the quickest horse in the field, and that should put her in front after a half mile, and we think from there, she just may get brave and wire this group. At 10-1, we’ll bet on it. We will bet her to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $25 to win on 5-Merseyside.

Santa Anita Park, Race 3, 4:33 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, California-bred Fillies & Mares, 3 & Up

Eight line up for this state-bred maiden race. 1-Lets Get Wild has already run well enough to win at this level, and has done so twice, but had the misfortune both times of finishing second to very good horses, fillies who are much better than the typical winner of this sort of Cal-bred maiden race. One of them, Lofty, has already won multiple times since the two met on January 25.

Lets Get Wild will not miss today. She’s razor-sharp, has much more early speed than her rivals, and gets the rail, which is an advantage at the 5 ½ furlong distance on the Santa Anita turf course. Look for her to pop out of the gate, go right to the front, and leave the other seven runners in her dust. We’ll take 2-1 that she can wire this field, and will bet her to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 3, $40 to win on 1-Lets Get Wild.

Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:40 pm ET

Allowance, 5 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

This allowance turf dash drew a field of ten. It’s a very, very salty group. We like 9-Leinster, who last raced in the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in October. He was outfinished that day, finishing seventh, but this is a much, much lesser group, one we think he can beat. He should get a good trip from his outside post position, stalking what we think will be a moderate pace, and from that spot, he should get first jump turning for home, passing the pacesetters and holding off the stretch runners. At 4-1, we like his chances, and will bet him to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $35 to win on 9-Leinster.

Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:52 pm ET

Starter Optional Claiming, 5 furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Twelve go in this turf dash, and a goodly number of them are speedsters who only know how to run one way: Go as fast as they can for as long as they can. This figures to result in a very fast early pace, and would normally have us looking for a closer.

But we don’t think there is a closer in this field, and because of that, we’re going to pull an old Southern California trick out of our handicapping bag, which is when confronted with this kind of pace scenario, to take the speed of the speed: with no strong finisher in the race, take the runner who will outrun the other speed, as they should be able to have the lead at the top of the stretch, and from there hold on through the wire.

That makes the pick 11-Swirling Candy. She has blazing early speed, and also gets the tactical advantage of an outside post. We think she wires this group, and will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $30 to win on 11-Swirling Candy.

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

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