Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks a six-pack of races at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Fair Grounds and Santa Anita
A Freud of Mama, winning the 2020 Franklin Square Stakes at Aqueduct. In the 2021 race, today, Garrity likes Rossa Veloce.NYRA / Joe Labozzetta

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks a six-pack of races at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Fair Grounds and Santa Anita

Garrity's first post is 3:15 pm EST.

This is an ideal day to revel in the joys of simulcasting: with big winter programs in Maryland, Florida, Louisiana, and California, there are, by our count, 25 stakes races on the docket. This will allow us to do what we like to do best, which is look at all of them, and cherry-pick the ones that offer the best wagering opportunities. We have plays in six of them, from Aqueduct, the Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, and Santa Anita, a six-pack to pass the time on a mid-winter Saturday. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, so let’s go.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 3:15 pm ET

$75,000 Sunshine Filly & Mare Turf, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Florida-bred Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Nine older females go eight and a half furlongs in this turf stakes. The pick is 4-Sun Summers, a Mike Maker-trained 5-year-old mare who is in good form, having won an Aqueduct turf allowance on Nov. 20 in her last start, and who has the right pace-pressing style for the current configuration of the Gulfstream Park turf course, which favors horses on or near the early lead. Look for Sun Summers to sit just behind the first flight of horses early, move to the front around the far turn, and to hold off the closers late. We will bet her to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Rce 8, $25 to win on 4-Sun Summers.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:50 pm ET

$100,000 Franklin Square Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, New York-bred 3-Year-Old Fillies

With rain having fallen in New York overnight, we’re expecting a wet track for the Franklin Square, which drew a field of five after scratches. We like that, because we think it gives 5-Rossa Veloce a chance to spring an upset. While she has never run on an off track before, she has two things that we like: speed and a pedigree that suggests she will like the going. We think Rossa Veloce goes right to the front, and the rest of the field may be spinning their wheels trying to catch her. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $30 to win on 5-Rossa Veloce.

Fair Grounds, Race 10, 5:23 pm ET

Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up

Nine older horses line up for the Louisiana. We like 4-Blackberry Wine, and we like him quite a bit: he showed promise last year as a 3-year-old, then went on the bench through summer and fall. He has run twice since the layoff, a speed-and-fade at Keeneland in October, which we are willing to excuse; and a very good win in an allowance at the Fair Grounds on Dec. 13. We like his last race a lot, as he pressed a fast pace and still drew off to win by over five lengths, earning a very good 98 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. This is a powerful sign that he’s a good horse who is rounding into top form, and the only thing to do with that opinion is to go to the windows. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 10, $40 to win on 4-Blackberry Wine.

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 6:37 pm ET

$200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic, 1 1/8 miles, Turf, California-breds 4 & Up

A good field of eleven state-breds goes in the Turf Classic. 2-Ward ‘n Jerry is the play: he’s been facing much tougher, running in graded stakes in each of his last three races, and he has a strong finishing kick in a race whose pace figures to demand just that from the winner. Ward ‘n Jerry is 8 years old now, a grizzled vet, and it’s fair to wonder if he’s lost a step, but we think he can pull one more effort of those old legs, and at 4-1, that makes him the play here. We will bet him to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $35 to win on 2-Ward ‘n Jerry.

Fair Grounds, Race 13, 6:49 pm ET

Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The Lecomte is the first step on the road to the Kentucky Derby, at least for horses stabled in New Orleans, and the 2020 edition drew eleven sophomore colts. We like 10-Mandaloun, who won both his starts, a maiden race at Keeneland and an allowance at Churchill Downs, quite impressively. Those races were around one turn, and he stretches out to two here, but both his running style and his pedigree (by top stallion Into Mischief, by an Empire Maker mare) suggest he will take to the added distance like a duck takes to water. A win by Mandaloun would also be timely, as he’s a Juddmonte Farms homebred, and Khalid bin Abdullah, the founder of Juddmonte and arguably the world’s most influential breeder over the past 30 years, died just a few days ago. Gamblers are not the most sentimental breed, but even hard-hearted punters like us will find a win by Mandaloun, which would stamp him a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender, deeply satisfying, and for reasons much deeper than the return on a two-dollar wager. We will bet Mandaloun to win at 3-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 13, $40 to win on 10-Mandaloun.

Santa Anita Park, Race 9, 7:09 pm

$150,000 Don Valpredo California Cup Sprint, 6 furlongs, Dirt, California-breds 4 & Up

Eleven older horses will go to the starting gate to run six furlongs on dirt in the Cal Cup Sprint. The pick is 3-Fashionably Fast, and it’s a strong one: he last ran in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar on Aug. 1, and while he finished up the track that day, in sixth place, seven lengths behind the winner, he contested a ridiculously fast pace, and did so against far, far better horses than he will be facing today. We hope his superficially poor effort in the Crosby puts a lot of bettors off him, because we think he’s going to demolish this field, and that makes him a terrific play, hopefully at something close to his 5/2 morning line price. Look for him to press the pace from his inside post position, and win with a strong move around the far turn and at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win, and we will do so with gusto. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 9, $50 to win on 3-Fashionably Fast.

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

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