Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks races at Belmont, Santa Anita, Woodbine and Laurel
With the Breeders Cup now less than two weeks away, the top horses are on the sidelines, waiting for the biggest and best two days of racing of the year. But that does not mean there’s a shortage of playable races today -- in fact, it’s the opposite, as the Empire Showcase card at Belmont Park and the Maryland Million card at Laurel Park have a total of 16 stakes races. Throw in good stakes at Woodbine and Santa Anita, and there’s enough to keep any horseplayer busy.
We’ve gone through all the races, and we have four plays, all stakes races, at four different tracks from coast to coast. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Let’s go.
Laurel Park, Race 11, 4:53 pm ET
$150,000 Maryland Million Classic Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
The Maryland Million Classic drew a field of seven. We like the favorite, 5-Harpers First RIde. He has won his last two starts, both in stakes races, including a terrific victory last out in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on October 2. A repeat of that performance will put him back in the winner’s circle today -- and we think that is exactly what is going to happen. We will bet him to win at 8/5. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 11, $40 to win on 5-Harpers First Ride.
Belmont Park, Race 10, 5:05 pm ET
$175,000 Empire Classic Handicap, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, New York-breds 3 & Up
Eight go in the Empire Classic, a terrific feature race on a terrific card at Belmont. In a tough field, we like 3-Funny Guy, a 4-year-old from the John Terranova barn. We’re expecting a fast pace here, primarily because of the composition of the field -- 2-Mr. Buff and 7-Sea Foam are both need-the-lead speedballs -- but also because races at this nine furlong distance at Belmont Park are run around one turn, rather than two, and that means that the early portion of the race will be run in a straight line, rather than around a turn. We think Funny Guy should get an ideal trip just behind the speed, and from that stalking position be ready to pounce when the pacesetters begin to tire, and shorten stride. We will bet Funny Guy to win at 2-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 3-Funny Guy.
Woodbine, Race 10, 5:43 pm ET
$400,000 Breeders Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, Canadian-bred 3-Year-Olds
Twelve Ontario-bred 3-year-olds line up for the Breeders Stakes, which is perhaps the best race of the day to handicap. The key to doing so, we think, is the distance: none of the twelve has ever run a mile and a half on grass before, so it’s a bit of a guessing game at which ones will thrive, and which ones will find it a bit too far.
A colt we think will thrive is one at a big price, 12-Muskoka Giant, who starts for trainer Mark Casse. He’s run on turf, synthetic, and conventional dirt, but his best races have been on grass, and while he’s never run this far before, his pedigree (by Curlin, out of a Giant’s Causeway mare) suggests that he will like the distance. And he’s trending the right way, having shown steady improvement in all of his races this year, going back to his seasonal debut in July. We think he’s a live longshot, and at 20-1, he merits a play. We will bet him to win and to place. The bet: Woodbine, Race 10, $25 to win/$15 to place on 12-Muskoka Giant.
Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 7:37 pm ET
Grade 3 Senator Ken Maddy Stakes, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
A field of seven females lines up for the day’s lone graded stakes race, the Ken Maddy. We’re going with speed, and with chalk, in the form of 5-Magic at Midnight. She’s a Mark Glatt-trained 4-year-old filly who is undefeated in four career starts, and while only one of them was on turf, it was the best race she’s run so far, a wire-to-wire score in an allowance race at Del Mar on August 14. We would normally try to find a way to beat her, but she has an enormous pace edge over the rest of the field: She is going to get the early lead, and she is not going to work especially hard to do so. And in a race this short, the rest of the field is not going to be able to catch her. We think she wires this group, and will bet her to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $50 to win on 5-Magic at Midnight.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.