Vekoma,  winning the Nashua at Aqueduct in November, 2019.
Vekoma, winning the Nashua at Aqueduct in November, 2019. |NYRA
Thoroughbreds

Garrity's Saturday Stakes! It's the Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park plus the Poker, Metropolitan, Manhattan and Suburban at Belmont

Garrity's first post is 4:45 pm EDT

Chris Garrity

Happy Independence Day. There’s an abundance of riches on the simulcasting calendar, with over two dozen stakes races across the nation. We wish we could cover them all, but we can’t, so we’ll cover five, including all races in the superb late Pick 4 at Belmont Park. There, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, we’ll try to create some July 4 fireworks -- of the parimutuel variety. We’ll also look at stakes at the Delaware Oaks from Delaware Park.

Rain fell on Long Island overnight, evidently a good bit of it, as the main track at Belmont early Saturday morning was sloppy. We expect it to dry out quickly in today’s heat, and to be fast by this afternoon’s races. The turf course is another issue: we think that it will be a bit less than firm this afternoon, something on the order of good. We also expect fast dirt in Delaware. Let’s go.

Delaware Park, Race 8, 4:45 pm ET

Grade 3 Delaware Oaks, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

It’s good to see racing back at Delaware Park, and it’s good to see that the Delaware Oaks, which is one of the track’s signature races, drew a strong field: eight sophomore fillies will go to the gate.

This year’s winter/spring meet at Oaklawn Park was very strong, perhaps their strongest ever, and horses who spent the winter there have done very well at other tracks since the meet ended. We mention that because we’re all over a filly here who last ran in Arkansas: it’s 2-Piece of My Heart, who won her last two starts, both at Oaklawn, and whose prospects here are good enough that jockey Joe Talamo has come from Kentucky to ride her. We expect her to stalk the speed from her inside post, and to win this by moving to the front at the top of the stretch. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Delaware Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 2-Piece of My Heart.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 5:13 pm ET

Grade 3 Poker Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up

Nine line up for the Poker. We liked 9-Value Proposition on firm going, but we like him even more if there’s some cut in the ground: he showed at Saratoga last year that he can handle turf that is less than firm. He’s a lightly-raced 4-year-old with a ton of upside, and we especially like the way he won his last start, an allowance at Belmont Park on June 3, when he galloped in the middle of the pack early, and won with a strong stretch move. We think a similar trip today puts him in the winner’s circle. He won’t be his 5/2 morning line price -- he’ll be shorter -- but we will bet him to win anyway. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Value Proposition.

Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:47 pm ET

Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

The Met Mile is a great race, a highlight on the racing calendar each year, and this year’s field is a doozy, with eight entrants, all of them good. We like 5/2 second choice 2-Vekoma here: he’s a 4-year-old who seems to be coming into the best form of his career, as both of his races this year were excellent. He won the Grade 1 Carter in eye-popping fashion last out, and he did it with the kind of trip we expect him to get today, sitting just off the speed, and seizing command of the race with a powerful move around the far turn, and then drawing away down the stretch. He faces a tougher field today than he faced in the Carter, and he is stretching out from the Carter’s 7 furlongs to a mile, but we think he can handle both. This is a top-flight horse who seems ready to do something special this afternoon, so we will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 2-Vekoma.

Belmont Park, Race 10, 6:20 pm ET

Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, 4 & Up

Trainer Chad Brown has three of the eight runners in the Manhattan, and we like one of them, 2-Rockemperor. He’s an Irsh-bred 4-year-old who is not exactly a win machine, with only two wins in eleven career starts, but we think he’s sitting on a big one today, as it’s his second start off a long layoff, and while he didn’t win his last start -- he lost the Grade 1 Whittingham at Santa Anita by a nose -- he did run quite well. We think he moves forward off that effort this afternoon, and we also think that he will like running over turf with a little bit of give to it. He also fits on pace: he’s a stretch-runner with little early speed, but we think the early pace will be quick enough to set up his late charge. Look for him to be last early, and flying late; we will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 2-Rockemperor.

Belmont Park, Race 11, 6:51 pm ET

Grade 2 Suburban Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 4 & Up

Eight line up for the Suburban. It’s a fascinating race to handicap, primarily because of the presence of 4-Mr. Buff, a New York-bred who has had amazing success by going to the front and staying there for as long as he can. We think that he will get the lead here, but he will stay there for something less than the mile and a quarter: we think he’s going to set up the race for a horse coming from behind.

That horse is 9/5 morning line favorite 1-Tacitus. He’s a horse that we have not particularly loved since he was on the Triple Crown trail last year, but we think that from a pace standpoint, he’s going to get the best setup of his life in this race, and that will translate to a trip to the winner’s circle. Look for him grind his way to the front down the stretch; we will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 11, $40 to win on 1-Tacitus.

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

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