Garrity picks a Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour of races at Tampa Bay Downs, Gulfstream, Oaklawn and Fair Grounds
Horse Racing at Tampa Bay Downs.Tampa Bay Downs

Garrity picks a Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour of races at Tampa Bay Downs, Gulfstream, Oaklawn and Fair Grounds

First post is at 4:22 pm EST, last post is at 5:40 pm.

It’s winter, it’s cold, and we here in the Northeast U.S. are girding our loins for a possible blizzard early next week. In other words, it’s a perfect time for another Friday installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. We have five plays in five races at five tracks, all in a cocktail-friendly window of just over an hour. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races -- and make ours an Old Fashioned. Let’s go.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, 4:22 pm ET

$16,000 Maiden Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Eight maiden sophomore fillies line up for this dirt sprint. The ones who have run before fall into three categories, slow, very slow, and painfully slow, so we’re going with a first-time starter, 2-Cattaleya Ronith. She’s by Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, whose first crop of runners is just starting to hit the track, and in a field like this, that pedigree makes her look like Zsa Zsa Gabor on the set of Deliverance. She has also shown just enough zip in her morning workouts to convince us that she can run at least a little bit. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, $35 to win on 2-Cattaleya Ronith.

Gulfstream, Race 9, 4:42 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

This first-level allowance turf sprint drew a field of seven. We like 7-La Libertee. She broke her maiden smartly in her career debut, a turf sprint in August at Ellis Park. Trainer Mark Casse was impressed enough by that effort that he ran her next in a stakes race at Kentucky Downs, where the only luck she had was bad: she stumbled at the and threw her rider.

That was her last race, and it was in September, so she’s coming off a bit of a layoff, but we think this daughter of top sire Constitution still has the ability she showed in her first start, and the outside post is a tactical advantage for rider Luis Saez. Look for her to stalk the pace, and to win this with a move at the top of the stretch. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $30 to win on 7-La Libertee.

Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 5:09 pm ET

Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up

A full field of nine goes to the gate for this allowance race for older horses. It’s a very, very tough group, but we think that 3-Totally Jimbo is sitting on a big race. He finished second last out, in a similar spot at the Fair Grounds, and we think his effort that day was better than it looks, as he contested a fast pace, and still held on for a piece. With a more advantageous pace setup, which we think he will get today, he should earn a trip to the winner’s circle. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 3-Totally Jimbo.

Fair Grounds, Race 8, 5:23 pm ET

$25,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up

After scratches, nine go in this mid-level claiming turf race. We think the pace will favor a closer, which makes the pick 7-Space Mountain, an 8-year-old gelding and Mike Maker trainee with the best late-pace number, and therefore the best closing kick, in the field. He also fits on class, dropping into claiming company out of a couple of allowance races. Look for him to be toward the rear early, and flying late. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Space Mountain.

Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:40 pm ET

Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up

The nightcap of our Friday five-pack is a third-level allowance at a mile and a sixteenth that drew a field of nine. A horse typically has to be good enough to win a stakes race to win at this advanced level, and that is why we are going with 6-The Sound, who has only three career starts for trainer Brad Cox, but who has already earned stakes-caliber speed figures in a couple of them. This 4-year-old colt has a terrific pedigree, by Hard Spun out of an Unbridled mare, and we expect to see him start next in a stakes race -- but after he dispatches this group. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-The Sound.

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

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