Sunday at the track, not field: Garrity picks horses at Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita Park, and Fair Grounds
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Sunday at the track, not field: Garrity picks horses at Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita Park, and Fair Grounds

Looking for something other than the "Big Game" to bet on? First picked race, the 7th at Oaklawn Park, has a post time of 4:30 pm ET

Kickoff for the big tackle football game is slated for 6:30 pm this evening, and while some casual sports fans might figure that nobody will pay any attention to the Sport of Kings today, we flip the other way: because the lead-in to the biggest gambling event of the year is interminable, there surely will be some sports fans eager to have a flutter while waiting for the game to start.

Well, we’re here to help! We have four plays today, at three different tracks, and we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Let’s go.

Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 4:30 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Eight line up for this very tough maiden race in Arkansas. We’re all in on morning line favoriote 6-Established, who last May ran about as fast as you’ll ever see a maiden run without winning, finishing second in a Churchill Downs maiden race, earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. That’s fast enough to win a lot of stakes races, so it was buzzard’s luck that he ran into a horse who ran even faster in the same race.

His connections thought enough of the effort that they started him in the Ohio Derby next, where he did a speed-and-fade, finishing far back; it was probably a case of asking the colt to do too much too soon. He’s been given a vacation since that race, with today being his first start since June, so he should be well-rested. And he races today for the first time as a gelding, which should benefit both him and those who enjoy hoary racetrack jokes about the “ultimate equipment change.” We think he’s sitting on a big effort today for trainer Michael Stidham and will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Established.

Santa Anita Park, Race 6, 4:34 pm ET
Starter Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

A field of ten older females lines up for this turf sprint. The composition of the field practically screams pace meltdown, as quite a few of them have ample early speed, but little finishing kick. That means the race shape should favor a closer, and we think we’ve found one at a good price: it’s 5-Prance, a 5-year-old mare trained by Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale. She should get a good midpack stalking trip, behind what should be very fast early fractions, and be moving forward when the speed horses are moving backward. We will bet her to win at 12-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 6, $30 to win on 5-Prance.

Fair Grounds, Race 7, 4:54 pm ET

$30,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A big field of twelve goes in this maiden claimer on the turf. We like a filly who has already burned a lot of money in two ways: it’s 7-Hot as Blue Blazes, a Brad Cox trainee who has lost at short prices in three of her four starts, burning bettors; and who sold for $240,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2019. She has earned back only $11,000 of that in purses, and today is available to be claimed (i.e. purchased) for $30,000 by anyone with a license in the state of Louisiana.

While it is a concern that her connections, by running her in a cheap maiden claimer, are giving up on a young horse with a promising pedigree (she’s by Nyquist, out of an Unusual Heat mare), we think it’s more a case of putting her at the appropriate level, and that seems to be here, against a pretty weak group. She did run a decent race on the turf in the first race of her career, and her speed and pace figures mark her as the winner. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 7, $35 to win on 7-Hot as Blue Blazes.

Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:00 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 4 & Up

Seven older horses line up for this tough mile allowance. We like a shipper from Southern California, 5-Combatant, who won the Santa Anita Handicap for trainer John Sadler last year, and who has been running in very tough stakes races since. We think he’ll like the class drop, and we’ll also think he’ll like the cutback in distance: all his starts since 2019 have been in longer races, but he’s finished first or second in all four of his lifetime starts at today’s mile distance. He’s the class of the field; look out. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Combatant.

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

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