Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour picks: Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, and Turf Paradise
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Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour picks: Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, and Turf Paradise

First picked race, the 3rd at Santa Anita Park, has a post time of 4:35 pm ET

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. We’ve had a taste of spring here on the East Coast this week, which makes us look forward to many things, including horse racing, which over the next 30 days will come out of winter mode and fully embrace this glorious change of seasons. We will try to celebrate this excellent time of year with six plays in six races at five tracks over a span of about an hour, all with cocktail-friendly, late afternoon post times. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so pour yourself a glass of one of the fine, hand-crafted concoctions from Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.

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

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

This is a second-level allowance for older females, and it drew a pretty salty field of nine. We are going with a price, 3-Neige Blanche, a French-bred 4-year-old filly who comes into this heat having run in three consecutive Grade 1 races. We think she will appreciate the drop-in class, but what we like even more is the distance: all of her recent races were longer, and we think she’ll thrive at this mile distance. At 6-1, we are betting on it. We will play her to win at 6-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 3, $35 to win on 3-Neige Blanche.

Oaklawn Park, Race 6, 4:38 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Arkansas-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Eight state-bred females line up for the 6th at Oaklawn. We like the favorite, 4-Miss Antioch, who has earned pace and speed figures that mark her as the likeliest winner. She just missed in a state-bred stakes race last out but won’t miss here; look for her to stalk the pace from her inside post, squirt clear turning for home, and hold off the closers late. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 6, $35 to win on 4-Miss Antioch.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET

Starter Allowance, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

Eight go in this starter allowance for older horses. The runners are pretty evenly matched, making it a terrific betting race.

We like a horse at a price, 2-Tonalism, who broke his maiden in January at Gulfstream Park, and then regressed very slightly in his next, finishing third in an allowance race in February. That last race was run in the slop, so we are willing to excuse his effort, and his recent morning works suggest that he will be ready to fire today. We also think the pace will favor him, as there’s a lot of speed, which should play right into his stalking running style. We will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $30 to win on 2-Tonalism.

Fair Grounds, Race 7, 4:54 pm ET

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

Six fillies line up for this first-level allowance, but we have eyes for only one: 2-Cantata, who makes the fourth start of her young career for trainer Steve Asmussen. She broke her maiden in her first try last August, which was nice, but that she did it at Saratoga, and won by over ten lengths, gives a hint at her potential. She was thrown in the deep end of the pool off that win, running in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park in October; that was probably too much too soon, as she finished a well-beaten fifth. This daughter of top sire Medaglia d’Oro appears to outclass this field and looks to be sitting on a big race. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 7, $35 to win on 2-Cantata.

Santa Anita Park, Race 4, 5:08 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

This maiden race is one where paying attention to the tote board is going to be important, as Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella sends out 7-Missy P, a sharp-looking first-time starter by white-hot sire Into Mischief. Missy P has been absolutely sizzling in her recent morning workouts, and while she may win, there are two things that make her a play-against to us: the first is that she’s a 3-year-old running against six older horses; and the second is that she’s going to be a short price. It’s tough under any circumstance for a 3-year-old this time of year to beat elders, but at 3/5, forget about it, at least as a gambling proposition.

We like another first-time starter, 4-Mongolian Panther, who comes from the barn of Enebish Ganbat. Ganbat flies a bit under the radar in Southern California, as his stable is small, but he is a skilled, patient horseman, and Mongolian Panther looks pretty good, being by top sire Curlin, and having run very fast in her recent morning drills. She’s a 5-year-old, and we have no idea why it took her so long to get to the races, but she looks ready now, and at 5-1, she’s a much better wager than the underlaid favorite. We will bet her to win. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 4, $35 to win on 4-Mongolian Panther.

Turf Paradise, Race 6, 5:33 pm ET

$50,000 Arizona Oaks, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

It’s a big day at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, where there are four sakes on the card. In this one, Arizona Oaks, eight 3-year-old fillies line up to run a mile on the dirt. The pick is 3-Empire Gal, who ships to the desert from Southern California, and does so with a glittering pedigree, being by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and a Mineshaft mare. We like that breeding, but what we like even more is that she has speed and should appreciate the mile distance. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Turf Paradise, Race 6, $30 to win on 3-Empire Gal.

That’s all for today. Until tomorrow -- and make sure to come back, as tomorrow is a biggie, with the Rebel Stakes, a key Kentucky Derby prep, highlighting an excellent afternoon of stakes action -- enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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