Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks races at Keeneland, Aqueduct, Laurel Park & Oaklawn
If it’s Friday, it’s time for another installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. And today’s lineup is better than usual, primarily due to stakes races from Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, where the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile appears to be a gem.
We have six plays in six races, all of them going off in rapid succession, and all of them with cocktail-friendly, late afternoon post times. We expect fast dirt in the main track races, firm turf at Aqueduct, and good turf at Keeneland. So pour yourself a tumbler of your favorite libation from the good folks at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.
Keeneland, Race 7, 4:24 pm ET
$100,000 TVG Limestone Turf Sprint, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies
We begin the day with the Limestone, a turf sprint that drew 13 entrants. The first thing that any handicapper must do in assessing the race is deal with favored 8-Campanelle, a Wesley Ward trainee, who last year won a pair of prestigious stakes races in Europe, the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in June, and the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville in France in August. This is very, very heady stuff, and quite frankly, the other dozen runners appear to be several notches below her in ability.
There are a couple of reasons for concern with Campanelle. One is that she is coming off a layoff, having last run in the Breeders Cup in November; another is that she runs without blinkers for the first time. But a bigger issue to us is price: she’s 8/5 on the morning line, and will likely be shorter at post time. If the field were smaller, we’d probably pass the race, but we will play her here, with the expectation, or maybe the hope, that with 13 runners, her post-time odds will be somewhere around even money. Because at that price, she’s an overlay, as she looks overwhelmingly superior to the rest of the group. We will bet her to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 7, $50 to win on 8-Campanelle.
Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:34 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3 & Up
Turf racing has returned to Aqueduct, and that is both a reason to celebrate and a sure sign that spring has arrived.
This is a very good group of eight older horses, and while a couple of Chad Brown runners are very logical contenders, we are going for a slightly better price, 5-Bodecream, a Mike Maker trainee who finished fourth in a similar spot at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 27. He was only a length and a half behind the winner that day, but what we like even more than that was that he made up ground in the race’s latter stages, which is something that few horses did on Gulfstream’s speed-favoring turf course. We think he’s going to have a much better result today on the fairer Aqueduct sod, and will be able to spring an upset on the favorites at very appealing odds of 5-1. We will bet Bodecream to win. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $30 to win on 5-Bodecream.
Laurel Park, Race 8, 4:45 pm ET
Starter Allowance/Optional Claiming, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up
Eight go in this starter allowance. The pick is 6-Even Thunder, who was claimed for $16,000 last out by trainer Michael Gorham. We like Even Thunder’s form, as he’s run well in each of his last two races; we like that Gorham has a 31% win rate first off the claim; and we also like that Gorham entered him in this race, where he is not for sale, rather than wheeling him back in another claiming race. His post time odds will almost certainly be lower than his 6-1 morning line, but we will bet him anyway. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 8, $30 to win on 6-Even Thunder.
Keeneland, Race 8, 4:57 pm ET
Allowance, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
We rely heavily on speed and pace figures when handicapping, and there is one entrant among the seven here whose numbers we like: it’s 5-Answer In, a 4-year-old colt from the Brad Cox barn. He has competitive speed figures, and his pace figures show that he has earned them with a potent combination of early speed and a strong finishing kick. Even better, he’s cutting back from a mile to this 6 ½ furlong distance; we love the cutback, and we see him sitting mid-pack early, behind a quick early pace, and moving to the front with a powerful run around the far turn and as the field turns for home. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 8, $35 to win on 5-Answer In.
Oaklawn, Race 7, 5:09 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Eight maidens go in the 7th at Oaklawn, where the Arkansas Derby will be run tomorrow, and we like a first-time starter in the group: it’s 3-Bayshore Foxes, a 3-year-old filly with a nice pedigree (by Mineshaft, out of a Kawfain mare); a series of strong morning workouts leading up to this spot; and a trainer, Phil Bauer, who wins at an exceptionally good 27% clip with firsters. And perhaps more important than all of that is that the rest of the field looks weak. We will bet Bayshore Foxes to win at 3-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 3-Bayshore Foxes.
Keeneland, Race 9, 5:30 pm ET
Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up
We don’t see many Grade 1 races on Fridays, but this one is a doozy, with a sensationally good field. It’s a terrific way to kick off what should be a terrific weekend of racing. There are nine older horses entered, and any one of them could win.
We like another Brad Cox trainee, 5-Darain, an English-bred 4-year-old with a world-class turf pedigree, by Dubawi out of a Singspiel mare. Even better than his breeding, however, is his race record: he raced passably well against some very stiff competition in England last year, and has had two good starts, finishing second and first, in two allowance races at the Fair Grounds over the winter. He’ll have to improve off those efforts to win this, but a step forward is likely, we think, as this is his third start off the layoff, and his third start in North America, and that is the kind of spot where horses typically run the best races they can. At juicy 8-1 odds, we’ll take as much of that action as we can get. We will bet Darain to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $40 to win on 5-Darain.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.