Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks take bettors to Aqueduct, Del Mar, Woodbine and Churchill Downs
There’s a surprising amount of stakes action across the continent today, with a four-stakes card at Woodbine and Grade 3 races in New York, Kentucky, and California. We have plays in four of them, and expect fast dirt and firm turf for all of them. Let’s go.
Aqueduct, Race 9, 3:45 pm ET
Grade 3 Red Smith Stakes, 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 3 & Up
The weather in New York this week was quite good, especially by November standards, which should have the turf at the Big A firm, and in good shape, for the 11 furlongs of the Red Smith. Among the eleven entrants, we like one on toward the outside, 10-Red Knight, who starts for trainer Bill Mott. He was away from the races from January to September, but since then he’s run two good ones, a second in the Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 12, and a win in the Grade 3 Sycamore at Keeneland on Oct. 15. We think he’ll make it three in a row today, which means a trip to the winner’s circle. Look for him to sit just off a very slow pace, to begin running with about three furlongs to go, and to outrun the other ten entrants down the stretch. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 9, $40 to win on 10-Red Knight.
Del Mar, Race 2, 4:00 pm ET
Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
The Native Diver drew a short field of just five, and a heavy favorite, 4-Midcourt, who is coming off third-place finishes in Grade 1 races in his last two, the Awesome Again at Santa Anita on Sept. 26, and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22. He’s 4/5 on the morning line, and will likely be shorter at post time.
A small field and a likely winner at miserly odds would normally be enough for us to pass on this race, but we are going to try to beat the chalk here, and we will be doing so with 3-Royal Ship. He’s a Brazilian import who runs for trainer Richard Mandella, and while he has been somewhat of a disappointment since being brought to the U.S. this summer, both of his starts on this side of the equator were on grass, and today he switches to dirt. He’s been running against good horses on the turf, certainly tougher company than he will face today, and his speed figures show that he’s in excellent form. We think he has a very good shot at upsetting Midcourt today, and as he’s 4-1, pretty generous odds in a five-horse race, we think that merits a play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Del Mar, Race 2, $40 to win on 3-Royal Ship.
Woodbine, Race 8, 4:58 pm ET
Grade 3 Ontario Derby, 1 ⅛ miles, Synthetic, 3-Year-Olds
The Ontario Derby is a good race, with eight sophomore colts going to the post. A couple of them look good, especially 6-Mighty Heart, who is the pick. He won the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Fort Erie, both in September, before he faltered in the third leg, the Breeders Stakes at Woodbine on Oct. 24. He didn’t run much in that last race, but we are willing to draw a line through that race, as it was on grass, and both his pedigree and his race record (the worst race of his life was in a maiden turf race at the Fair Grounds last March) suggest that turf is not his preferred surface.
We think if Mighty Heart can run back to his prior form, especially how he ran winning the Queen’s Plate, that he will be very, very tough to beat here. And we think that is likely, which makes his 7/2 morning line odds look like a gift. He’ll likely be shorter by post time – that looks like a bad line to us – but we will bet him to win anyway. The bet: Woodbine, Race 8, $35 to win on 6-MIghty Heart.
Churchill Downs, Race 9, 5:06 pm ET
Grade 3 Chiukki Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
The Chilukki is a terrific race, a heat where just about all the nine runners appear to have a chance. The top contenders appear to be pretty even in terms of ability, which means that in order to separate them, we’re going to have to try to figure out how the race will be run, to determine which filly the race shape will favor.
We think the pace here will be fast, not ridiculously so, but quick enough to compromise the chances of pacesetters. We think it will favor a stalker, a filly sitting just behind the early leaders, and we think that will be morning line favorite 2-Finite. Trainer Steve Asmussen has tried some different things with her, running her at different distances at different tracks, and even trying her on the turf in a sprint at Kentucky Downs. But sorting through the running lines in her past performances, she looks to be very good at middle distances on the dirt: Her last four wins were on the main track, at distances from 7 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. Therefore the one-turn mile on the Churchill dirt should be right up her alley, and she should get a perfect stalking trip from her inside post. We think she’s sitting on a big race today, and we will take that to the window, and bet her to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Finite.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.