Thursday at the track: Garrity picks the horses at Churchill Downs, Woodbine, and Belmont
Crystalle, shown here running the P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga in 2019, is Garrity's pick to win the 9th at Belmont todayElsa Lorieul | NYRA

Thursday at the track: Garrity picks the horses at Churchill Downs, Woodbine, and Belmont

First picked race, the 7th at Churchill Downs, has a post time of 3:48 pm

For this fine Thursday afternoon in September, we have plays in four races at three tracks, all in a span of about 90 minutes. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, except at Churchill, which was listed as good late this morning. Let’s go.

Churchill Downs, Race 7, 3:48 pm ET

Allowance, 7 furlongs, Dirt, FIllies & Mares 3 & Up

Eight females line up to sprint 7 furlongs in this first-level allowance underneath the Twin Spires. We’re eschewing the more obvious contenders, and going with 8-Enjoyitwhilewecan, who starts for trainer Brendan Walsh. She’s a well-bred 4-year-old filly, and while she only has one win in nine career starts, she’s been generally competitive, and we like the fact that she is trying something different here: she’s been running longer, on both grass and dirt, and today cuts back to a race around one turn. She has decent speed, enough to stay reasonably close early, we think, and she should be able to finish very strongly behind what we see as a hot early pace. We think she’s sitting on a very big race, so we will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 7, $40 to win on 8-Enjoyitwhilewecan.

Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:21 pm

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

This mile turf affair, a second-level allowance, drew a field of nine. Two of them are coupled due to common ownership, leaving eight betting interests. The entry, 1-On a Spree and 1A-Morocco, are both trained by Mike Maker and will get plenty of attention at the windows, likely going off at shorter odds than their 7/5 morning line price.

We are going to take a shot at beating both of them, and we are doing so with a big price, 6-Intraday. She’s a Brazilian-bred 4-year-old who makes his North American debut here, after four races in Argentina. Her results there seem to be ordinary, but the reason we like him here is his trainer, Paulo Lobo, who is a very, very skilled horseman who generally flies under the radar of the betting public. He is an absolute ace with South American imports -- he just missed with a similar horse yesterday, Imperador, who finished second at 12-1 -- and we think Lobo just might be ready to spring an upset here. At 12-1, we will be betting on it. We will play Intraday to win and to place. The bets: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $15 to win/$25 to place on 6-Intraday.

Woodbine, Race 6, 5:00 pm ET

Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Ten fillies line up for this allowance, but we have eyes for only one of them, 6-Sansa’s Vow. She’s a lightly raced 3-year-old who appears to us to have a ton of upside: she finished third in her first career start, at the Fair Grounds in March; and then won her second in a maiden race at Woodbine on June 21. That race was at today’s distance, and on today’s surface, and we think she is poised to make a forward move here, which means the rest of the field is running for second money. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Woodbine, Race 6, $30 to win on 6-Sansa’s Vow.

Belmont, Race 9, 5:14 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Only six sophomore fillies go in this first-level turf allowance, but it’s a fascinating race to handicap nonetheless, as one could go in several different directions here. The direction we are going is the double-reverse: we’re going to break one of our pretty inflexible handicapping axioms.

We’ve long made a habit of betting against horses running in their first start coming out of the Breeders Cup. Those races are taxing, and horses routinely get absurdly overbet in their next starts, even if their Breeders Cup effort was not all that great. We can’t count the number of times we’ve seen horses go off at 3/5 based on a sixth-placed finish in a big Breeders Cup race. These kinds of horses are mammoth underlays, and automatic play-against types.

There’s an entrant here, 3-Crystalle, who last ran in a Breeders Cup race, the Juvenile Filly Turf last November at Santa Anita. She finished eleventh that day, but is second choice in the wagering here because she’s coming out of a Breeders Cup race.

Just about every rule in our handicapping playbook says we should empty our pockets betting against Crystalle — so naturally, we love her. We think she’s a special filly who had an absolutely brutal trip at the Breeders Cup, one that was so bad that she had virtually no chance. We think she is much, much better than the result of the Breeders Cup race makes her appear.

That makes her the polar opposite of morning line favorite 4-Capital Structure, who figures to get pounded at the windows, partly because she’s trained by Chad Brown, and partly because she’s coming off what appears to be a smart win in a maiden race at Monmouth Park. But we were not impressed with that effort, as she beat an awful field, and didn’t earn especially good figures doing it. We think it’s a case where the better horse is a better price, and there’s only one thing to do with that, and that is bet. We will play Crystalle to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $50 to in on 3-Crystalle.

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

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