Garrity's Saturday Stakes Picks: Noble Damsel at Belmont, Ack Ack at Churchill & Rodeo Drive, American Pharoah and John Henry at Santa Anita
Viadera wins the de la Rose at Saratoga in July.NYRA / Chelsea Durand
Garrity's Saturday Stakes Picks: Noble Damsel at Belmont, Ack Ack at Churchill & Rodeo Drive, American Pharoah and John Henry at Santa Anita
Garrity's first post is at 4:42 pm EDT.

It’s a mammoth day in the horse racing world, with 31 stakes races, by our count, from coast to coast. But the biggest and best card of them all is out West, at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, where there is an 11-race card that includes three Grade 1 races.

We can’t cover them all, of course, but we can take a look at those that we think offer the best wagering value. That adds up to five plays on this fine early-fall Saturday, and we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Let’s go.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:42 pm ET

Grade 3 Noble Damsel Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Nine fillies and mares line up for the Noble Damsel. In a terrific field, we like 1-Viadera, a Juddmonte Farms homebred who starts for trainer Chad Brown. She’s an English-bred 4-year-old filly who began her career in Ireland, and made her first start in the U.S. in June. Her effort in her American debut was poor, a well-beaten fourth-place finish, but she rebounded in her next start, winning the De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga on July 17. We like the way she won that race, but what makes us fancy her in this spot is the going: she looks to us like she will be better on firm grass, which she’s not seen yet, as her two U.S. starts were on yielding and good turf. On the firm footing she should get today, we think she moves forward in a big way, and that makes her a very serious threat, and a very good play at 9/2 odds. We will bet her to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 1-Viadera.

Churchill Downs, Race 9, 4:53 pm ET

Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

A big field of 13 lines up for the Ack Ack, but we have eyes for only one: 1-Warrior’s Charge, who we think stands out from the rest. The 4-year-old Brad Cox trainee has been running in excellent form, with several top efforts in a row, including a very good fourth in the Met Mile at Belmont on July 4, which had probably the best field we’ve seen in any stakes race all year. He finished second last out in the Iselin at Monmouth, but that effort was flattered when the horse he finished behind, Pirate’s Punch, came back to win a graded stakes last weekend. We think Warrior’s Charge is the class of the race, and will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 1-Warrior’s Charge.

Santa Anita, Race 7, 6:41 pm ET

Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Seven go in the Rodeo Drive. Most of them appear to have little interest in staying the 10 furlong distance, which makes 6-Lady Prancealot the pick. It’s been a while since she won a race, with her last victory in December, but that race was the American Oaks, which was run at this 1¼ mile distance. Look for her to sit in the middle of the pack early, galloping comfortably behind what should be a slow pace, and to take the prize with a strong kick turning for home. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Lady Prancealot.

Santa Anita, Race 8, 7:12 pm ET

Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, 2-Year-Olds

A good field of eight juvenile colts lines up for the American Pharoah, a major stakes race for juveniles. The winner of this will likely go to the Breeders Cup Juvenile, possibly even as the favorite. This race is a big deal.

We like a colt shipping from the East: it’s 4-Notable Exception, who starts for trainer Jack Sisterson. He won his career debut, a maiden race at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago, on September 4, and he did so very impressively, fighting a contested pace battle early before drawing off to win by over five lengths. We like the fact that Sisterson is placing him aggressively, going from a maiden race to a Grade 1 stakes, and we also think that Notable Exception’s pedigree gives him a very good chance to handle the two new things that will be thrown at him today, which are running on dirt (the Arlington race was on a synthetic surface) and going around two turns. We think he’s sitting on a big effort, and we think that at 7/2 he’s an excellent play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 4-Notable Exception.

Santa Anita, Race 9, 7:43 pm ET

Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

The John Henry drew a field of eight veteran turf runners. 3-United is the morning line favorite, and we can find no issue with his form: He’s run consistently and well since February, with three wins and a second in four starts, all of them in graded stakes. He is trained by Richard Mandella, and will be ridden by Flavien Prat, which is as good as it gets in terms of trainer-jockey combination. We tried to find a way to play against the chalk, but we cannot: United just looks too good. We firmly believe that there is value in every winner, so we will bet United to win at 6/5. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 3-United.

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

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