Friday Happy Hour Handicapping: Garrity picks 4 races at 4 tracks over 45 minutes – grab a beer or a cocktail
The Twin Spires loom over the grandstand at Churchill DownsChurchill Downs

Friday Happy Hour Handicapping: Garrity picks 4 races at 4 tracks over 45 minutes – grab a beer or a cocktail

The tracks are Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Churchill Downs and Del Mar and post times are 3:47 to 4:30 pm EST.

We’re going to do what we call Happy Hour Handicapping today: we have plays in four races, at four different tracks, all in a cocktail-friendly 45-minute window, from 3:47 pm to 4:33 pm (all times are Eastern). If you want to blow off some steam, and perhaps blow the froth off a couple, while trying to make a few shekels on a late fall Friday, pull up a chair. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 9, 3:47 pm ET

Allowance, 1 mile, Turf, FIllies & Mares 3 & Up

A full field of ten females will go to the gate in this excellent first-level turf allowance. There’s little speed in the group, which has us seeing a slow early pace, and a wire-to-wire winner in the form of 10-Apurate. She’s a 3-year-old from the Todd Pletcher barn who just broke her maiden with a front-running victory at Belmont Park on Oct. 22, and we see a similar result today, as she has the most natural early speed in the field, and with her outside post, jockey Jose Ortiz is going to have to use it to avoid going wide around the first turn. Once she gets in front, we see her galloping very comfortably through moderate early fractions, and that will leave her with plenty of energy down the stretch to fend off the closers. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 9, $30 to win on 10-Apurate.

Gulfstream Park West, Race 8, 4:08 pm ET

$6,250 Claiming, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

This claiming dirt sprint drew a field of eight. Going by figures, 5-Meade should be favored, but we wouldn’t bet him with counterfeit money, as he’s coming out of a race where he took a bad step, then didn’t run a lick, and now makes a massive class drop, from allowance company to this bottom-level $6,250 claimer.

We like 2-Frank First. He’s dropping in class as well, but his drop makes more sense: he was claimed for $10k last out by new trainer Robert Dibona, and the winner’s share of the purse here would make back his claiming price. He’s proven at the distance, with a win and a second in two career starts at seven furlongs, and we like that Dibona has good stats (23% win percentage) with horses making their first start after being claimed. We will bet Frank First to win at 9/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park West, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Frank First.

Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:27 pm ET

Allowance, 5 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Seven go in this first-level allowance dirt sprint. The hot 9/5 favorite is on the outside, 7-American Mandate, and while we can understand why he’s the favorite -- his figs are good -- his tendency for minor placings (8 seconds and 5 thirds in 19 career starts) gives us pause at taking him at a short price. We are going elsewhere.

We like a pure speed play here, and it’s 4-Twilight Fantasy. He’s a lightly-raced 3-year-old from the Joe Sharp barn, and he returns from a layoff after an abbreviated three-race campaign last winter. We suspect that this colt has some potential, but the reason he’s the pick is speed: He’s got a ton of it, enough that we think he can quite easily outrun the rest of this field early, and from there win this heat in front-running fashion. He needs to break well, as all speed horses do, but if he can manage that, we think he handles this group. At 5-1, he’s a terrific play; we will bet him to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $30 to win on 4-Twilight Fantasy.

Del Mar, Race 3, 4:30 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

A field of five lines up for this nine-furlong allowance. We like 3-Potantico. He ran an absolutely abysmal race in his last, finishing over 40 lengths behind the winner of the Tokyo City Handicap, but that was a stakes race, and it was at a mile and a half distance, which is farther than he probably wants to go. He drops back into an allowance here, and shortens from 12 to 9 furlongs, and we think those two will lead to a different result for Potantico. Look for him either to get the early lead or to sit just off it, to squirt clear at the top of the stretch, and hold off the stretch runners late. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 3, $30 to win on 3-Potantico.

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

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