Garrity picks Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour races at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Gulfstream
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Garrity picks Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour races at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Gulfstream

First post is 4:24 pm EST. Last post is 4:55. Let it rye-d.

It’s Friday, which means that not only is the weekend nigh, but it’s time for another edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping.

While Friday is a day of anticipation, of looking forward, this particular Friday is even more so, because we are only a bit more than a week away from moving the clocks forward. There are many reasons to embrace the time change, but one that we particularly like is that it allows track to run races later. Most tracks do not have artificial lighting, and are forced to go by the sun, so the extra hour of daylight after next Sunday will allow at least a couple of races to be run after most people finish work for the day. That is as much a harbinger of spring as the robin and the crocus.

On this penultimate Friday in Standard Time, we have six plays in six races at five tracks, all in a short span of just over 30 minutes. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, so pour yourself a tumbler of one of the fine hand-made libations in the Dad’s Hat lineup, and let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:24 pm

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Seven older females go in this tough second-level allowance at a mile on the Aqueduct main track. We see a perfect setup for 5-Stand for the Flag, a stretch-running 5-year-old mare who just missed in her last, finishing second in a race with virtually identical conditions to this one. She was running against the grain of the track then, going wide on a day when the rail was good, which means that she ran even better than the race looks on paper. We expect a fair track today, and a quick pace which will favor her running style, which means she’s going to get her picture taken. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $30 to win on 5-Stand for the Flag.

Fair Grounds, Race 6, 4:25 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, Louisiana-bred Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

A field of eight goes here; with two of them coupled in the wagering due to common ownership, there are seven betting interests. We see a pace somewhere between fast and very fast, which will set the table for 6-Fame Feather, who should be able to sit just behind the first flight of horses, the speedsters up front, and move to the front down the long Fair Grounds stretch. She just missed in her last race, losing by a neck in a very similar spot on Jan. 15; she won’t miss today. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 6, $30 to win on 6-Fame Feather.

Santa Anita Park, Race 3, 4:35 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

We look at a lot of maiden races where the horses all look slow, but that is decidedly not the case here, as there are a couple of very promising looking 3-year-olds in this group of eight. Expect to see one or more of them in stakes races down the road.

There’s a ton of early speed in the field, including a stretch-out sprinter who drew the outside post, and who will have to use his speed to avoid going very wide around the first turn. That means an unsustainably fast early pace, and a winner coming from behind. That has us liking a price here, 2-Lone Scout, who comes from the Bob Hess barn and who should be rolling late, and doing so at juicy 15-1 odds. We will bet him primarily to win, with a small saver place bet thrown in, as insanity insurance, in case he just misses. The bets: Santa Anita Park, Race 3, $30 to win/$5 to place on 2-Lone Scout.

Oaklawn Park, Race 6, 4:38 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

SIx sophomore colts line up for this dirt allowance. The pick is 2-Riptide Rock, and the reasons are very simple: his speed and pace figures mark him as faster than the rest. He may get the lead, or he may sit just off it; either way, he will be close to the front throughout, and either way, he is going to the winner’s circle. We will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 6, $35 to win on 2-Riptide Rock.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET

Allowance, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Florida-bred 3-Year-Olds

A short field of six goes in this first-level allowance for state-breds, and we like it as a betting race because we dislike the favorite, 3-Sir Ollie. While there’s nothing wrong with his form, as he has earned good speed figures in his two career starts, he has little early speed, and speed has been good on the dirt at Gulfstream. He’s 7/5 on the morning line, will almost certainly be odds-on by post time, and at that miserly price, he’s a play-against.

We like 5-Gatsby. He has been running in tougher races, including a bunch of stakes races, and while he didn’t win any of them, the fact that he was even entered in them shows that trainer Juan Alvarado thinks highly of him. But more important, at least today, is his running style: He’s a speed horse with an outside post, who should get an absolute dream of a trip today, stalking a no-hope speedball who drew to his inside, moving to the front at the top of the stretch, and holding off the closers late. We will bet Gatsby to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 5-Gatsby.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:55 pm ET

$25,000 Maiden Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, New York-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

We end where we began, at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, New York, where eleven state-bred maiden females go to the gate for the nightcap. Those who have run before have been slow, many of them painfully so, which has us going with a first-time starter, 3-Competion Queen. She comes from the barn of Brad Cox, who has a good 14% win rate with firsters, she has a good morning workout pattern, and she gets the services of Manny Franco, one of the top riders in New York. And perhaps most importantly, she has not shown that she is as slow of the rest of this group. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $30 to win on 3-Competion Queen.

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

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