Friday Horse Racing: It's opening day at Oaklawn Park and Garrity has 4 race picks, including the Smarty Jones
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Friday Horse Racing: It's opening day at Oaklawn Park and Garrity has 4 race picks, including the Smarty Jones

Garrity's first post is at 1:30 pm EST.

It’s a big day today, and one that is sorely needed: it may be the dead of winter, and the world may be flattened by a once-a-century pandemic, but this afternoon, all will be right with the world, at least for a few hours, as it’s opening day at Oaklawn Park.

There’s a good nine-race card in Arkansas today, highlighted by the Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds, and we have four plays on it. The weather forecast looks good for January, mid-50s and sunny, and we expect a fast main track (Oaklawn has no turf course). Let’s go.

Oaklawn Park, Race 1, 1:30 pm ET
Starter Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

Nine older horses to go to the gate in the Oaklawn opener. The pick is 6-Lovethatcause, who has been admirably consistent, in races at Delta Downs, Remington Park, and Prairie Meadows, since last summer. Here the 6-year-old Karl Broberg trainee gets an advantageous outside post, and there is enough speed among the other runners to favor his stalking running style. We will try to start out the meeting the right way, by cashing a ticket, and will do so by betting Lovethatcause to win at 3-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 1, $20 to win on 6-Lovethatcause.

Oaklawn Park, Race 6, 4:07 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Big fields are the norm at Oaklawn, which is what makes it a superior wagering product, and this race is a good example, as eleven maiden 3-year-olds will go to the post. The favorite is a colt who has actually won before: 7-Saffa’s Day finished first in a maiden race at Keeneland in October, but that victory was later voided as the result of a positive drug test. He could win here, but he figures to be a short price, and we are looking elsewhere for a play.

We like 9-He’smyhoneybadger. He’s a Brad Cox trainee who overcame some trouble in his lone career start, a maiden race at Churchill Downs in November, when he broke slowly after hitting the gate at the start, and then rallied from far back to finish second. He’s been given time to recover from that effort, and we think he will run better today. We particularly like this colt’s looks: he showed a long, fluid stride down the stretch in his last race, and we expect to see that again today, but with a better result. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 6, $40 to win on 9-He’smyhoneybadger.

Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 4:38 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

Nine go in this tough third-level allowance. We’re against 9/5 favorite 4-Engage, who figures to get plenty of betting support based on his 4th-place finish in last year’s Breeders Cup Sprint, but he’s run two bad races in a row since then, and while those races were stakes, and it’s possible that he wakes up dropping back into allowance company, at a short price, we think he’s a play-against.

We like 2-Mojo Man. He’s a 6-year-old gelding who is admirably consistent, with his only poor efforts since last year both being run on off tracks, which he does not like. We think he can work out a good trip from his inside post, sitting just behind the pacesetters, and grind his way to the front in deep stretch. We like his chances, and we like his 8-1 morning line price even more. We will bet him to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 2-Mojo Man.

Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:11 pm ET

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

Kentucky Derby points are on the line in the Smarty Jones, and we think the colt who is going to pick up the ten that go to the winner is 7-Caddo River. It took him three times to break his maiden, which he did last out, but he progressed in each of those starts, and most important, he improved significantly when he stretched out to a mile. His morning workouts leading up to this race have been very swift, suggesting he is sitting on a top effort, and while the outside post is no bargain, he has enough natural early speed to be able to work out a good trip. We have questions about whether he can stay the Derby’s mile and a quarter distance, but this two-turn mile should be right up his alley. Look for him to be forwardly placed throughout; we will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Caddo River.

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

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