Garrity's 6 Saturday Stakes picks are all at Fair Grounds – the Benson,  Muniz, Oaks, Louisiana Derby, more
In this image provided by Benoit Photo, Roadster (1), wins the Grade I, $1,000,000 Santa Anita Derby way back on April 6, 2019. After time off, the horse returns today to the Fair Grounds.Benoit Photo via Associated Press

Garrity's 6 Saturday Stakes picks are all at Fair Grounds – the Benson, Muniz, Oaks, Louisiana Derby, more

Garrity's first Fair Grounds post time is at 4:12 pm EDT.

The eyes of the racing world turn to New Orleans today, to the Fair Grounds, one of the oldest tracks in the country, where the Louisiana Derby heads a stakes-studded, 14-race card that will get any railbird’s blood flowing. It’s the biggest day of the year for racing in the Pelican State, and we cannot wait to dive in beak-first.

All our plays are in the Big Easy, and the weather looks good, with sunny skies and highs in the 60s. The main track will be fast, but they were off the turf yesterday after rain on Thursday, and the grass course has been posted as good. Let’s go.

Fair Grounds, Race 9, 4:12 pm ET

$100,000 Crescent City Derby, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Louisiana-bred 3-Year-Olds

The Crescent City Derby drew a field of thirteen state-breds, but one appears to tower over the rest: it’s the delightfully named 2-Who Took the Money, a son of Street Boss who is undefeated after two career starts. We like the fact that he’s won both his races, but what we like more is that he improved significantly in the second one, when he earned a very good 85 Beyer Speed Figure winning a state-bred allowance at a mile and 70 yards. He looks overwhelmingly the likeliest winner, and if we thought we could get his 5/2 morning line price, we’d probably empty our pockets at the window; but because he will be shorter by post time, we will be more prudent. We will bet him to win. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 9, $35 to win on 2-Who Took the Money.

Fair Grounds, Race 10, 4:42 pm ET

$150,000 Tom Benson Memorial Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

An even dozen older females, after scratches, go in the Benson. We’d probably have liked 3-Dalika on a firm course, but we like her a lot more on one with some give in it, as she’s a German-bred who has thrived on softer going before. She’s in the best form, she’s running over a surface she should love, and the rest of the field is weak -- add it up, and Dalika is going to win the Benson. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 10, $40 to win on 3-Dalika.

Fair Grounds, Race 11, 5:12 pm ET

Grade 2 New Orleans Classic, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 4 & Up

An interesting group of eight lines up for the New Orleans Classic. Most of them are closers with little speed, and as a result, we think the race can be stolen on the front end, by a horse who can set the lead running dawdling fractions, reserving enough energy to squirt away in the final quarter mile.

We think that horse will be 1-Roadster, who has been away for a long time, over a year, but who has some natural speed, and who should be pretty eager to show it in his first start off the bench. Roadster was trained by Bob Baffert (he's now in the Michael Stidham barn) and if there is one thing we know about Baffert, it’s that he appreciates the value of speed, so look for jockey John Velazquez to take advantage of the lack of early zip in this race, go right to the front, and stay there all the way around the track. We will bet on Roadster to wire the field, and to win, at 3-1 odds. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 11, $40 to win on 1-Roadster.

Fair Grounds, Race 12, 5:43 pm ET

Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 4 & Up

Twelve were entered in the Muniz, but two of them scratched this morning, leaving a field of ten. We’re going with a big price, 9-Conviction Trade, who is the pick for a couple of reasons: he comes into this race in good form; he will like the distance; he thrives on the soft grass; and most important, he is trained by Mike Maker, who is a wizard at winning with horses who don’t figure all that much on form. We think Conviction Trade is sitting on a big one, and will bet him to win at 15-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 12, $30 to win on 9-Conviction Trade.

Fair Grounds, Race 13, 6:14 pm ET
Grade 1 Fair Grounds Oaks, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old FIllies

3-year-old horses this year, whether colt or filly, are young animals, equivalent to teenage humans, still growing and developing. This is one of the reasons why handicapping them can be maddening, because they can change so much, in any direction, very quickly. Trying to dope out a horse who is going to improve significantly in her next start can be like reading tea leaves, but the rewards, both cosmic and financial, can be significant.

We think we’ve found, among the eight fillies lined up for the Fair Grounds Oaks, one who is going to take a big step forward: it’s 8-Travel Column, who finished second in her last, a neck behind 6-Clairere, another entrant here, in the Rachel Alexandra on Feb. 13. Travel Column had loads of trouble in that race, going wide all the way around the track, but was still good enough to take the lead into deep stretch before getting caught in the shadow of the wire. Another positive sign is that she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 82 for the effort, which was just a couple of points off her previous race. When young horses pair figures this way, it can be a strong signal that they will run even faster in their next; when they pair up figures while overcoming a bad trip, it’s an even more powerful sign that they are ready to move forward. We think that’s the case with Travel Column, which makes her the pick, and at 5/2, an outstanding wager. We will bet her to win, and will play her in the Double (see below) covering the Oaks and the Louisiana Derby. The bets: Fair Grounds, Race 13, $50 to win on 8-Travel Column; $40 double, 8 (Travel Column) with 6 (Mandaloun).

Fair Grounds, Race 14, 6:44 pm ET
Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, 1 3/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Forty minutes after the fillies get their turn, eight 3-year-old colts line up for the Louisiana Derby. Six of them are coming out of the Risen Star Stakes, which was run at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 13 and won by 6-Mandaloun, who’s favored here. It’s hard to make a case that any of the five who finished behind Mandaloun are going to be able to turn the tables on him here, so the question is whether one of the other two, 3-Run Classic or 5-Hot Rod Charlie, is good enough to win.

We think the answer is no: Run Classic has just a maiden win to his credit, and he earned it with a marshmallow-soft trip, at least from a pace standpoint; and Hot Rod Charlie seems to be just a cut below in ability. So that leaves us taking the favorite: we don’t like Mandaloun’s price, which is 8/5 on the morning line and likely to be shorter at post time, but he just looks too good. The progression Mandaloun shown in his four career races to this point is just about perfect, running faster in each start than he did the start before, and improving as the distances get longer, and we think he stamps himself a Kentucky Derby favorite by winning the Louisiana Derby this afternoon. We will bet him to win. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 14, $50 to win on 6-Mandaloun.

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

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