Altea, on the grass at Aqueduct in November, races today at Churchill Downs.
Altea, on the grass at Aqueduct in November, races today at Churchill Downs.|NYRA
Thoroughbreds

Garrity's Saturday Stakes: Racing picks at Churchill Downs, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields

Garrity's first post is at 4:08 pm EDT.

Chris Garrity

There are four stakes across the country today, three of them graded. We’ll look at all four, plus one other race, an allowance from Churchill Downs. That adds up to five total plays, with three of them at Churchill, which is appropriate, as the card in Kentucky is the best in the land today.

We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races. Let’s go.

Churchill Downs, Race 7, 4:08 pm ET

Grade 3 Winning Colors Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

The Winning Colors drew a field of nine. The two morning line favorites stand out: 8-Mia Mischief, who’s 8/5, has won three in a row, earning the best speed figures in the field; while 2-Break Even, at 9/5, who is also coming off a win, has copious early speed, and has shown in the past that she is capable of winning big races, and earning big figures, when she can use it to get loose on an easy lead.

We think that Break Even will get the lead today, but we do not think it will be easy: She’s going to have to work for it. And that will soften her up enough just enough late for Mia Mischief to pass her and win the Winning Colors. Look for Mia Mischief, who has pretty good speed of her own, and who gets the tactical advantage of breaking outside Break Even, to sit just off the flank of the pacesetters, and to take over when the field turns for home. We think Mia Mischief takes this race, and will bet her to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 7, $40 to win on 8-Mia Mischief.

Churchill Downs, Race 10, 5:44 pm ET

Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

This is a pretty classy non-winners of two allowance race, and it drew a deep field of eleven runners. One even ran in last year’s Kentucky Derby: 4-Plus Que Parfait, who finished 9th in the Run For the Roses. We wouldn’t bet him with counterfeit money, but he figures to get some backing just from name recognition.

We like 7-Fearless, who runs for trainer Todd Pletcher. He’s a lightly raced 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper who has four career starts, all since December, and he has run pretty fast in all of them. His connections thought enough of him that they entered him in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds in March, where he finished sixth as the 9/5 favorite, and he burned more money last out, finishing second as the odds-on favorite in a similar spot at Oaklawn Park earlier this month. We don’t like that he’s coming off two consecutive losses, but we think he’s a good horse, and a late bloomer, and we think he simply outclasses this field. Look for him to sit mid-pack early, and to be rolling late. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 10, $35 to win on 7-Fearless.

Churchill Downs, Race 11, 6:16 pm ET

Grade 3 Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

This is a terrific stakes race for older female turf runners, with 14 entrants going to the starting gate. We’re going with a mare whose form is hidden, we think, whose recent races have been better than they appear to be on paper, and that is 8-Altea, a 5-year-old who starts for Chad Brown. She has only two wins in 18 career starts, which is not good, but she’s finished either second or third eleven times, and that shows that she has ability. We think she’s been largely unlucky, with a good example being her last start, the Tom Benson Stakes at the Fair Grounds in March, when she played bumper cars with a couple of other horses down the stretch, still managed to get past them, and finished second by an excruciating nose to a horse who saved ground skimming the rail. With a cleaner trip, Altea would have won that race.

We also like Altea from a pace standpoint. We see a legitimate early pace in this race, and the winner will need a strong finishing kick, and Altea has the best late kick in the field. She’s sharp, she’s fit, her abilities and style fit the way we expect the race to run -- she makes a lot of sense, but because of her superficially poor recent form, she’s 12-1 on the morning line. We’ll take that all day long, and will play Altea to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 11, $50 to win on 8-Altea.

Santa Anita, Race 7, 6:37 pm ET

Grade 3 Honeymoon Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

The field of the Honeymoon came up deep, with nine pretty evenly matched sophomore fillies going to the gate to run nine furlongs on the Santa Anita turf course. We like the favorite, 9-Stela Star, an Irish-bred filly who starts for John Sadler. We think that the race will set up for the runner with the best ability to close, and she has shown an affinity for finishing strongly in her races, especially in her last, when she rallied from far back, went very, very wide around the far turn, losing a good bit of momentum in the process, and still managed to finish second. That race was at a mile, and we think the additional distance will help her today; it was also her first North American start, and we expect that she will improve with that race under her belt. We think she’s sitting on a big one, and will bet her to win at 2-1. We really like Stela Star’s chances in this one. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $50 to win on 9-Stela Star.

Golden Gate, Race 8, 7:23 pm ET

$75,000 Camilla Urso Stakes, 5 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

The Camilla Urso drew a field of ten. We like a horse shipping up from Southern California, 7-Storming Lady. She thrives at this distance, having hit the board in eight of nine career starts at 5 furlongs, and she should also thrive against the competition, as she’s been butting heads with some very tough allowance horses at Santa Anita. She comes from the high-percentage Alfredo Marquez barn, who ships here with intent, we think; look for her to sit just behind the pace, and to take over turning for home. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Golden Gate, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Storming Lady.

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

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