Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks races at Belmont Park, Mahoning Valley and opening day at Del Mar
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Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks races at Belmont Park, Mahoning Valley and opening day at Del Mar

Garrity's first post is at 3:22 pm EDT.

With the Breeders Cup next weekend, the stakes racing on the national simulcasting schedule is a mixed bag, with only one graded stakes, the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Belmont Park, and a bunch of overnight stakes mixed in. We’ve handicapped all of them, and have picked the five we think offer the most pari-mutuel opportunity.

We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, except for the grass races at Belmont Park, which will be run over a yielding turf course. Let’s go.

Belmont Park, Race 6, 3:22 pm ET
$80,000 Zagora Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, FIllies & Mares 3 & Up

Nine go in the Zagora. After a lot of rain the past few days, the turf course at Belmont Park should be quite soft, and that has us looking for a runner who can both take to the yielding going and stay twelve furlongs. We think that will be the filly all the way on the outside, 9-Hungry Kitten. We’re expecting the pace to be slow, probably glacially so -- the six furlong and mile splits may be the slowest of the current Belmont meeting -- but in a race like this, we don’t think that will matter much, as the winner will be determined less by pace and more by the going and the distance. Hungry Kitten has the breeding and the running style to handle both, and we expect her to take the prize here with a strong late run. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 6, $40 to win on 9-Hungry Kitten.

Mahoning Valley, Race 9, 3:58 pm ET

$100,000 Best of Ohio Distaff, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, Ohio-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

It’s Best of Ohio day at Mahoning Valley, which features a 10-race card and five stakes races, all for horses bred in the Buckeye State. In the Distaff, which goes as Race 9, we think that 3-Moonlight Mission is a standout: Her speed and pace figures give her an insuperable advantage over the other eight females in the field. Look for her to be mid-pack, or even a bit farther back, during the race’s opening six furlongs, and to win going away with a strong move around the far turn and down the stretch. We will bet Moonlight Mission to win at 9/5, and we will do so with enthusiasm, as we think she’s the likeliest winner on the day. The bet: Mahoning Valley, Race 9, $50 to win on 3-Moonlight Mission.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:27 pm ET
$80,000 Awad Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 2-Year-Olds

A full field of twelve juveniles lines up for the Awad, and it’s a good group and a good race. We like the colt all the way on the outside, 12-Wootton Asset, who starts for trainer Graham Motion. He started his career in his native France, where he won two of four races, before coming to the U.S. in early fall, finishing second in the Laurel Futurity on the Preakness undercard on October 3. That race, like this one, was run over yielding turf; it was won by 2-Catman, who’s in the field here, but we think that Wootton Asset, with that race under his belt, will be able to turn the tables this afternoon. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 12-Wootton Asset.

Belmont Park, Race 9, 4:57 pm ET
Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Only six go in the Bold Ruler, but it’s a fascinating race to handicap nonetheless, primarily because of pace: The handicapper who accurately predicts the pace will receive both intellectual and monetary rewards.

The 2-1 favorite is stretch-running 6-Phat Man, who has superior speed figures, but who must overcome a lengthy layoff, as those figs were earned in races at Gulfstream Park in January and February. There are two questions: The first is whether he will be fit enough off the bench to win here; the second is if there will be enough early pace to set up his late run.

We think the answer to both is yes: his recent morning workouts have been sensational, suggesting he is ready to fire off the layoff; and the presence of the speedy 2-Share the Ride should ensure that the early fractions are robust enough to set the table for Phat Man’s late charge. Look for Phat Man to mow ‘em all down late; we will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 6-Phat Man.

Del Mar, Race 7, 6:30 pm ET

$75,000 Kathryn Crosby Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, FIllies & Mares 3 & Up

This mile stakes race for fillies and mares is the featured race on opening day at Del Mar, and it drew a field of eight. The pace looks to us like it will be somewhere between fast and very fast, which has us looking for a closer, and the best one of those in the group is 2-Never Be Enough, who ships in from Northern California for trainer Manuel Badilla. She’s been running on the synthetic track at Golden Gate Fields in her last few starts, but she’s been in good form over it, winning her last two starts, and she’s an English-bred with turf breeding on both the top and bottom of her pedigree, so the should be able to handle running on grass. We think she sits last early, and moves to the front with a strong stretch move. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $35 to win on 2-Never Be Enough.

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

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