Bet the horses: Garrity picks 'em at Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park, and the Gander Stakes at Aqueduct
Nicky the Vest, shown here running at Aqueduct in December 2020, is Garrity's pick to win the $100,000 Gander Stakes todayNYRA

Bet the horses: Garrity picks 'em at Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park, and the Gander Stakes at Aqueduct

First picked race, the $100,000 Gander Stakes at Aqueduct, has a post time of 4:25 pm ET

The absence of Oaklawn, which was forced to cancel racing through Monday due to an unusually brutal winter weather pattern across the middle of the country, leaves a void in the national simulcasting schedule. That’s too bad, as some major stakes, including the Southwest, a key Kentucky Derby prep, were scheduled to be run this weekend.

But horseplayers are a resilient lot, so we will make do by playing four races, one from frigid Aqueduct, and three from the warmer climes of Florida and California. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, so let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:25 pm ET

$100,000 Gander Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, New York-bred 3-Year-Olds

Seven go in the Gander. The pick is 9/5 morning line choice, 5-Nicky the Vest, and he’s a strong one: the speed and pace figures he earned in his career debut on December 18 mark him as faster than the other six. He’s got good early zip, should get an easy early lead, and from there, win the Gander on the front end. And any doubts about his fitness for this race should be eliminated by his recent morning works, which have been sensational. We will bet him to win at 9/5, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $50 to win on 5-Nicky the Vest.

Santa Anita Park, Race 3, 4:36 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up

This maiden turf race for older horses drew a field of ten. In an evenly matched field, the pick is 10-Cosmo, a 4-year-old who is still winless after eight career starts, which is not great, but he has hit the board in half of them, including in a graded stakes, and it looks like he may have caught a field he can handle. He has a good combination of good cruising speed and a strong finishing kick; we will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 3, $35 to win on 10-Cosmo.

Gulfstream Park, Race 10, 5:16 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

A full field of twelve goes in this turf allowance for older females. In a terrific betting race, we’re going with a runner who let us down last time: it’s 2-Nope, an Irish-bred 4-year-old filly who finished a well-beaten fourth in her last start, an allowance at Gulfstream last April. She finished almost eight lengths behind the winner that day and is seemingly difficult to support on that effort.

But we see a couple of reasons to give her a pass for that superficially dull run. One is that it was her North American debut, but another, and more important, factor is that the pace of that race was slow, which worked against her late-running style. And the fact that she has not raced since would seem to indicate that something went wrong with her physically that day. Add it all up and we are drawing a line through that race.

She still has a sensational turf pedigree (by world-class grass stallion No Nay Never, out of a Galileo mare), her recent morning workouts look very good, and there should be enough pace in this race to set up her late charge. If we liked her last time at 6-1, then there is no reason not to like her even more today at double that price. We will bet her to win at 12-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 2-Nope.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 6:46 pm ET

Grade 3 Sweet Life Stakes, 6 furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The day’s lone graded stakes is the Sweet Life, and it’s a good one, with a full field of twelve 3-year-old fillies. The pick is 9-Majestic Steps, an Irish-bred who made her U.S. debut a winning one, beating a pretty good field of maidens at Santa Anita on January 2. She earned good figures for that win, and the filly who finished second has already come back to win, validating the legitimacy of the race. A step forward off that race makes Majestic Steps strictly the one to beat in the Sweet Life. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 9-Majestic Steps.

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

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