Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Laurel, Fair Grounds & Santa Anita
Racing at Fair Grounds race course in New Orleans. Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography, Fair Grounds Race Course via Associated Press

Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Laurel, Fair Grounds & Santa Anita

6 races go off between 3:50 pm and 4:54 pm EST. Please drink and gamble responsibly.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and while this is not a public holiday we are particularly fond of, it is a fantastic excuse for an edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. Pour yourself a Dad’s Hat -- we like the rye, and we like it neat -- and settle in for six races from five tracks in about an hour’s time. We expect fast dirt and firm turf, except as noted below. Lets go.

Aqueduct, Race 7, 3:50 pm Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

This dirt sprint drew six female runners. With the afternoon in New York looking rainy, we’re expecting a sloppy track, and that makes 4-Letmetakethiscall the pick: she’s a wet-track specialist who should go right to the front and splash home on top in wire-to-wire fashion. We will bet her to win at 9/5. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $25 to win 4-Letmetakethiscall.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:11 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Ten go in this first-level turf allowance, and the one thing that most of them have in common is a lack of early speed. That, plus the configuration of the course (rails are way out, at 72 feet, which favors front-runners) has us picking 2-Osaka Girl, who should get the early lead, and do so quite comfortably, and from there go on to win this race on the front end. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $25 to win on 2-Osaka Girl.

Laurel Park, Race 9, 4:23 pm ET

Starter Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

The nightcap at Laurel is a conditioned claimer for horses who have run for a $5,000 tag. The two favorites, 2-Belfour and 7-Invest, look plenty good at first glance, with speed figures that mark them as superior to the rest of the field, but they have identical front-running styles, and an equal amount of early speed. That is going to result in a pace duel, where the two of them wear each other out trying to establish early superiority, and the winner will be coming from behind. We think that will be 3-King Mauro, a Charles Town shipper whose recent form is not as bad as it looks. We think he’s in here with a real shot, and at 20-1, he is worth a wager. We will bet him to win and to place, and will be looking for him to be flying late. The bets: Laurel Park, Race 9, $15 to win/$10 to place on 3-King Mauro.

Santa Anita Park, Race 3, 4:30 pm ET

Starter Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

This mile turf allowance drew a field of seven. We’re all in on 1-I’m Leaving You, who starts for trainer Vann Belvoir, and who is making a pretty big drop in class: he ran in allowance and stakes races over the summer, but is in for a $50,000 tag here.

While at first glance this kind of class drop might be a negative sign, we think it makes sense here, as I’m Leaving You was thoroughly uncompetitive in those tougher races, but looks like much more of a fit here. He has a pretty good late kick, and while it hasn’t been good enough for him of late, we think it will work quite well against the horses he will face today. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 3, $25 to win on 1-I’m Leaving You.

Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:42 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

This second-level allowance at a mile on dirt drew a field of seven. We like 6-Soldado, who starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, and who should get an ideal stalking trip from his outside post position. Look for him to win with a move at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $25 to win on 6-Soldado.

Fair Grounds, Race 7, 4:54 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 2-Year-Old Fillies

We’re expecting this race to stay on grass, and for the turf to be yielding, but the forecast in New Orleans today is iffy, so check conditions before the race.

We’d probably like 8-Earth Strike on a firm course, but we move her up quite a bit on grass with some give in it, as she ran pretty well in her native Ireland over softer courses. The outside post is no bargain, as she’ll need some luck to avoid getting hung wide around the first turn, but if jockey Declan Caroll can work out a good trip for her, we think she can win this race, which is her North American debut. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 7, $25 to win on 8-Earth Strike.

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

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