Garrity's New Year's Day Stakes picks 4 Friday races at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita
Racing at Santa Anita.Ashley Landis | Associated Press

Garrity's New Year's Day Stakes picks 4 Friday races at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita

Garrity's first post is at 3:50 pm EST.

We have four plays today, all of them in stakes races, in New York, Florida, and California. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:50 pm ET

$150,000 Jerome Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

One thing to remember, when looking at the condition of a race like the Jerome, is that all Thoroughbreds have a birthday today. By tradition, and by the rules of the sport codified by the Jockey Club, all horses get a year older on January 1. This race would have been for 2-year-olds yesterday, but is for 3-year-olds today. It is worth remembering that these newly-minted 3-year-olds are still very young.

The field in the Jerome came up short, with just five runners, but they’re all pretty evenly matched, and that makes it a playable race.

We are going for a mild upset, in the form of 3-Hold the Salsa. The other four runners are speed horses, who have run either on or just off the lead, but none of the quartet has enough natural early zip to establish early superiority over the other three. We see this race being run with four colts across the track during the first four furlongs, going quite fast, with Hold the Salsa sitting comfortably behind them, in the garden spot, waiting for the leading group to start slowing down. We think he passes them all, in deep stretch, and will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $30 to win on 3-Hold the Salsa.

Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:11 pm ET

$75,000 Janus Stakes, 5 furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up

Seven older horses are entered to dash five furlongs on the turf in the Janus Stakes. We like 3-Sayyaaf, who is coming off a very poor effort, running last in a turf sprint at Aqueduct in November, but that is an effort we are willing to excuse, as the grass that day was good, and this 5-year-old has never run well on soft turf. He will get the firm going that he prefers this afternoon, and that will allow him to use his best asset, which is blazing early speed. Look for Sayyaaf to pop out of his inside post, sprint to the front, and stay there all the way around the track. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 3-Sayyaaf.

Gulfstream Park, Race 10, 4:42 pm ET

$75,000 Cash Run Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A field of nine sophomore fillies line up for the Cash Run. We like 2-Gulf Coast. She has run twice, winning a maiden race at Indiana Grand in November, and finishing second in a minor stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in December. Those races were both at 6 furlongs, but we think that stretching out to a mile here improves her chances significantly, as both her running style and her pedigree (by Union Rags, out of a Candy Ride mare) suggest she will be best at longer distances. With a couple of fillies in this field appearing to have early speed but distance limitations, we think that Gulf Coast can win the Cash Run with a strong late move. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 10, $35 to win on 2-Gulf Coast.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 6:32 pm ET

Grade 2 Joe Hernandez Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up

The day’s lone graded stakes race is the Joe Hernandez, which will be run over the new 6½ furlong configuration on Santa Anita’s turf course. While we will miss races at this distance being run down Santa Anita’s unique and iconic hillside turf course, the results at Santa Anita’s young meeting so far seem to indicate that the new layout is safer than the old, and that makes the change a good one.

This is the day’s best betting race, with a deep field of eleven. We like an East Coast shipper, 5-True Valour, a 7-year-old Irish bred from the Graham Motion barn. He had a peripatetic fall campaign, running at Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Woodbine, and Aqueduct, but today he returns to Southern California, where he was based earlier in his career. He will get the truly firm going that he prefers, and we think this 6 ½ furlong distance suits him to a tee. We think he’s in with a big chance, and at 6-1, he’s an excellent play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 5-True Valour.

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

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