Garrity's Sunday Stakes handicaps 2-year-old turf sprints at Belmont, plus races at Woodbine and Santa Anita
There are four stakes today, and they comprise our four plays. There are two at Belmont Park, and one each at Woodbine and Santa Anita.
We have handicapped all races for fast and firm conditions, but check the weather before each of them, especially at Belmont Park, where the two stakes races are both on grass, and where the Sunday forecast is wet. As of press time on Sunday morning, both Belmont turf courses were firm, and we are expecting the rain to hold off until the races have been run, but the forecast is iffy enough to justify a check later this afternoon. With that out of the way, let’s go.
Belmont Park, Race 7, 4:12 pm ET
Grade 3 Futurity Stakes, 6 furlongs, Turf, 2-Year-Olds
A very good field of nine juveniles lines up for the Futurity Stakes. We’ve seen something a few times in recent weeks that used to be exceedingly rare, and that is a maiden winning a graded stakes race. It used to be an automatic handicapping axiom that a maiden, a horse of either sex who had yet to win any race, was an automatic throwout when running against winners in a stakes race. But that is decidedly no longer the case.
We mention that because our pick here, 2-After Five, is a maiden, having finished second, a nose behind the winner, in his lone career start, a maiden race at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 10. But other than the fact that he did not win, we like everything else about his effort that day: We like the figures he earned, we like how he was able to finish strongly down the idiosyncratic Kentucky Downs stretch, and most of all, we like the fact that trainer Wesley Ward, whose barn has suddenly gotten hot, liked what he saw from After Five enough that he entered him here, rather than in another maiden race, where he’d likely be odds-on. We’ll take 3-1 on the colt who looks to us to be the best of the group now, and will bet After Five to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 2-After Five.
Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:20 pm ET
Grade 3 Matron Stakes, 6 furlongs, Turf, 2-Year-Old Fillies
The female counterpart to the Futurity, the Matron Stakes, also run at 6 furlongs on the sod, drew a field of eight juvenile fillies. We like the one all the way on the outside, 8-Magisterium, who makes her U.S. debut today for trainer Christophe Clement, after running four times between June and August at tracks in England. She ran well in all four of those starts, three of which were on turf, and we think she is going to remind bettors of something that we believe to be true: When it comes to grass racing, European horses are generally superior to their American counterparts. Look for her to sit mid-pack early, and to win with a strong late kick; we will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 8-Magisterium.
Woodbine, Race 9, 5:42 pm ET
Grade 3 Durham Cup, 1 1/16 miles, Synthetic (Tapeta), 3 & Up
Seven go in this Grade 3 race on the synthetic track at Wooobine. 1-Skywire is a strong play: The top three choices in the betting appear to be relatively equal in ability, but what gives this 4-year-old gelding and Mark Casse trainee the edge is running style: He’s a late runner in a race that looks on paper to have a very fast pace. That, plus the natural tendency of the synthetic surface to favor off-the-pace runners, is going to make him very, very tough, and we think that his 5/2 morning line number is a square price. We will bet him to win. The bet: Woodbine, Race 9, $30 to win on 1-Skywire.
Santa Anita, Race 7, 7:13 pm ET
$100,000 California Flag Handicap, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, California-breds 3 & Up
With the direction racing in California seems to be heading, we are tempted to make a joke that this race should probably be called the White Flag Handicap, but we learned this game in Southern California, and care too much about the sport there to be flippant about its seemingly grim future.
We like the favorite here, 6-Galilean. His last two races were very good, in grass races longer than this one, and we think the cutback to this shorter 5 ½ furlong distance will suit him very well. He has enough speed to stay reasonably close early, and from a mid-pack/stalking position, he should be able to close strongly to take the prize. We will bet him to win at 8/5. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $35 to win on 6-Galilean.
That’s all for today. Until next time, enjoy the races, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.