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Sunday at the track with Garrity: Picks from Laurel Park, Churchill Downs, Mountaineer Park, and the Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita

We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races — first post is 4:40 pm EDT.

Chris Garrity

The biggest race this afternoon is the day’s lone stakes, the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita Park. We’ll take a look at that, and a few other races, for five total plays, at four tracks, including Laurel Park in Maryland, which reopened yesterday, and Mountaineer Park in West Virginia, which reopens today. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races; let’s go.

Laurel Park, Race 9, 4:40 pm EDT

Allowance, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Laurel Park is stacked today, with 10 races, all with big fields. The 9th is a good one, a one-turn mile and first-level allowance for 3-year-olds that drew twelve entrants.

1-Dreams Untold last ran in the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel on February 15, where he had one of the most memorable trips in a recent race that we can remember. He stumbled at the break, which left him in last place, 20 lengths behind the leaders, and looked like he had been left for dead. But then he made what track announcer Dave Rodman called a “massive” move to get within a length or so of the lead, and looked like he might actually win, but that eye-popping move evidently took too much out of him, and he faded down the stretch to finish fifth. Trip handicappers are going to be all over this colt.

These kinds of efforts can have an effect on horses for a long time, and if he were coming back sooner, we’d be inclined to play against him, but trainer John Servis has given Dreams Untold enough of a rest, we think, three and a half months, to recover, and we think he’ll be ready to fire again. The kind of move he unleashed in the Miracle Wood is something we don’t see very often, and he looks like a very special horse. We think Dreams Untold rebounds today and wins this race comfortably. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 1-Dreams Untold.

Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:40 pm EDT

Allowance, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 3-Year-old Fillies

The 8th at Churchill today is a nine-furlong turf route and first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies. It drew a full field of twelve. 3-Ella Brilla is a strong play: she has run four times, all on turf, breaking her maiden in her second career start, at Keeneland in October. Her last two races were in allowance races at Gulfstream Park, where the turf has been favoring speed for most of the meeting. She ran well in both of those races but was spinning her wheels trying to come from behind -- horses were just not able to make up ground on that racing surface.

Today, however, Ella Brilla will be running on the turf at Churchill Downs, which is much fairer, much kinder to come-from-behinders, than Gulfstream. We think she is going to improve, probably in a big way, today, and that means a trip to the winner’s circle. Look for her to sit mid-pack early and blow away the field with a strong late move. We will bet her to win at 7/2 and will play her in the Double covering Races 8 and 9. The bets: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $40 to win on 3-Ella Brilla; $30 double, 3 (Ella Brilla) with 2 (Royal Flag).

Churchill Downs, Race 9, 5:12 pm EDT

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Nine go in this second-level allowance for females. We’re all-in on the favorite, 2-Royal Flag, who starts for Chad Brown. She’s a 4-year-old daughter of Candy Ride who has simply run them off her feet in her last two races, which she won by 17 total lengths. She has a devastating stalking style, with enough early speed to stay close to the leaders, and then a strong finishing kick to put them away.

We think Royal Flag wins again today, and we think that the speedy 4-More Roses finishes second. We will bet them in the exacta, in that order. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $20 exacta, 2 (Royal Flag) with 4-More Roses.

Santa Anita, Race 7, 6:42 pm EDT

Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

The field of the Santa Maria came up short, with only five entrants, but two of them are among the best horses in training on the West Coast: 1-Hard Not to Love and 2-Ce Ce. Both are Grade 1 winners, and both will be very short prices, with Ce Ce the 3/5 morning line favorite, and Hard Not to Love the 9/5 second choice.

We think the pace of the Santa Maria will be very, very fast, and we are consequently going with the longest shot in the field, 5-Kaydetre. The two favorites are both speed horses, but they’re not the fastest in the field: that would be 3-Fighting Mad, a blazingly fast sprinter, and we think the three of them will go so fast early that they’ll all be gasping for air down the stretch. Kaydetre has done her best running coming from off the pace, and we think she will be able to pick up the pieces, and pass the tiring pacesetters, when they slow down late. We will bet Kaydetre, who’s 20-1, to win and to place. The bets: Santa Anita, Race 7, $15 to win/$10 to place on 5-Kaydetre.

Mountaineer Park, Race 3, 7:50 pm EDT

Allowance, 7 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Ten females go in this first-level allowance on the grass. We like the filly on the rail, 1-MIla’s Dream, who starts for trainer Bill Morey. She’s a lightly race 3-year-old who has run well in both her career starts, and while she’s never run on grass, her breeding (she’s an Irish-bred) suggests that she will thrive on the sod. Look for her to save ground from her rail post, sitting mid-pack early, and to win this with a strong move around the far turn. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Mountaineer Park, Race 3, $30 to win on 1-Mila’s Dream.

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

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