Garrity's Sunday Stakes picks Single races at Belmont, Keeneland and Santa Anita and three at Woodbine – all are on turf
The horses turn for home in the 2019 edition of the Prince Hill Stakes at Belmont Park. In the 2020 edition, Garrity likes a longshot.NYRA / Derbe Glass

Garrity's Sunday Stakes picks Single races at Belmont, Keeneland and Santa Anita and three at Woodbine – all are on turf

Garrity's first post is at 3:29 pm EDT.

Most of the time, there are far fewer stakes on Sunday than there are on Saturday. In the Sport of Kings, Saturday is the big day, just like it is for college football. This week, however, the tables are turned, as the stakes lineup is much more robust today than it was yesterday.

The headliner is Woodbine in Toronto, which cards a Grade 2 and a pair of Grade 1s, but there are also excellent races at Keeneland, and Belmont and Santa Anita Parks. We have plays in a total of six races today, all graded stakes, and they are all on turf -- which we like, as we enjoy handicapping grass races. Except as noted below, we expect firm turf in all of them.

Woodbine, Race 5, 3:29 pm ET
Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

The first of Woodbine’s two Grade 1 races this afternoon is the Northern Dancer, named after arguably the most influential Thoroughbred stallion of the 20th Century, at least in North America. While it might not be the strongest field ever assembled in this race, primarily because the Canadian federal government, due to the pandemic, is not allowing European horses to ship to Woodbine, it’s still a good race that drew a nice field of eight.

These 12-furlong turf races usually have early paces that are slow, sometimes glacially so, but we think that will not be the case here, as 7-Admiralty Pier is a frontrunner, and should ensure at least moderate early fractions. That makes us fancy 5-Nakamura, a Graham Motion trainee who has been knocking on the door of late, finishing third or fourth in all three of his 2020 starts, but who seems primed for a top effort today. We think that he is rounding into form, and we think that the race shape will favor his late-running style, so we are taking his 3-1 odds to the windows. Key stat: he has five career starts at this mile and a half turf distance, and hit the board in all of them; they were all minor placings, two seconds and three thirds, but today we think he finishes on top. We will bet him to win. The bet: Woodbine, Race 5, $40 to win on 5-Nakamura.

Woodbine, Race 7, 4:37 pm ET

Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares, 3 & Up

The E.P. Taylor drew a field of seven. It’s an obvious pick, but we like 9/5 morning line favorite 3-Etoile. She comes from the Chad Brown barn, and while her North American career so far has been a disappointment -- she has two starts, and she lost both as the betting favorite -- we think that she is going to turn things around today.

The race will also be a useful illustration of the importance of pace as a handicapping factor, especially in grass races. Etoile’s last start was in the Dance Smartly stakes at Woodbine on August 15, a race in which she finished second to 4-Theodora B., who lines up next to her this afternoon. Theodora B. won that race in wire-to-wire fashion, setting very slow fractions on the lead, but we think she will not get such an easy trip today, as the pace figures to be faster, which favors Etoile’s stretch-running style. We think that Etoile is overwhelmingly the likeliest winner of this race, and will bet her to win -- and will do so with enthusiasm. The bet: Woodbine, Race 7, $50 to win on 3-Etoile.

Belmont Park, Race 9, 4:47 pm ET

Grace 2 Hill Prince Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The turf course at Belmont, after 24 hours of rain Friday into Saturday, is listed as yielding for the Hill Prince. Partly because of the soft turf, and partly because of the pace, which we expect to be somewhere between solid and robust, we’re looking to a winner coming from off the pace, and we think we’ve found one in the form of long shot 3-Glynn County. He has the looks to us of a rapidly-improving 3-year-old -- these are always very dangerous this time of year -- and we also like the fact that he should be able to handle the soft turf very well. He’s trained by Mike Maker, who’s hot, and he’ll be ridden by top rider Irad Ortiz -- add it all up, and we think Glynn County is live at a big number. We will bet him to win at 15-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 3-Glynn County.

Keeneland, Race 8, 4:57 pm ET

Grade 3 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, FIllies & Mares 3 & Up

The Dowager drew just a field of six, but as they’re pretty evenly matched, it’s a pretty good betting race, especially if one thinks, as we do, that 2-1 morning line favorite 2-Blame Debbie has little chance to win. She’s coming off two races, a win and a race in which she finished first, but was disqualified to third, but her pedigree and running style suggest, at least to us, that she is going to struggle mightily with staying the marathon 12 furlong distance of this race.

We like 5-Siberian Iris. The Irish-bred 6-year-old mare starts for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, and while she has not exactly been a win machine in her career, with only three victories in 23 career starts, she has been competing in some pretty tough races, against some pretty salty company, and has been doing OK. We like her in this spot partly because this is softer company than she has been facing, but mostly because her recent races have been shorter, and both her pedigree and her grinding running style suggest that she will thrive at this distance. Look for her to be toward the back of the pack early, and to move steadily if unspectacularly to the front in the final three furlongs. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 8, $35 to win on 5-Siberian Iris.

Woodbine, Race 9, 5:45 pm ET
Grade 2 Neartic Stakes, 6 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

Eight older horses and one 3-year-old line up to run three-quarters of a mile on Woodbine’s turf course in the Neartic. We like one of the veterans, 7-Vanbrugh. He’s a 5-year-old who came to the U.S. after a 15-race career in England and France, and has run twice on this side of the pond, a very good second in a strong allowance race at Churchill Downs in June, and a dull last-place finish in a minor stakes race at Ellis Park on August 2. We think he looks poised for a rebound today, partly because his trainer, Brad Cox, is an ace at placing horses, and brought him to Woodbine, even though he doesn’t run much there. The presumption is that Cox entered him into the Neartic with intent. But the main reason we think he will run better today is pace: We do not expect the pace in the Neartic to be all that fast, and we think that Vanbrugh should get an ideal trip just behind the early pacesetters, get first jump turning for home, and be able to hold off the deep closers with a strong run down the long stretch of the sweeping Woodbine turf course. At 12-1, we will bet on it: we will play Vanbrugh to win. The bet: Woodbine, Race 9, $35 to win on 7-Vanbrugh.

Santa Anita, Race 9, 8:15 pm ET

Grade 2 Twilight Derby, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 3-year-Olds

Santa Anita has been plagued by short fields of late, so it’s good to see that the Twilight Derby drew a good and deep field of nine. We think the grass horses in Southern California are, as a group, pretty weak, which means that this race is ripe for an East Coast invader, in the form of 9-Field Pass, to come in and take the prize. He’s been very competitive this year in a string of five pretty tough turf stakes in Kentucky and New York, and while he won only one of them, we think this is going to be the equivalent of a JV basketball player who suits up for a CYO game and scores 35 points. His pace and speed figures fit, we think he’s sitting on a big race, and we think that trainer Mike Maker, who’s been winning everything lately, will continue his hot streak. If Field Pass is his 3-1 odds at post time, it will be the bet of the day; we think he will be lower, but he still merits an aggressive play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 9, $50 to win on 9-Field Pass.

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

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