Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks races from Pimlico, Belmont, Oaklawn, Santa Anita
Therapist, pulling ahead in the Artie Schiller in November, is Garrity's pick in the Elusive Quality Stakes. NYRA / Joe Labozzetta

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks races from Pimlico, Belmont, Oaklawn, Santa Anita

Garrity's first post is 3:25 pm EDT.

We are getting into the heart of the spring racing season, which is evidenced by the stakes schedule today, as by our count there are 19 stakes at North American tracks. Winter, that time of frozen ground and a dearth of stakes racing, seems a long, long time ago. And that is a good thing.

We cannot cover all of them, of course, so we’ve selected five that are the most interesting to us, from both a sporting and wagering standpoint. That makes an even half-dozen plays for this fine spring Saturday afternoon, and we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races. Let’s go.

Pimlico Race Course, Race 6, 3:25 pm ET

$100,000 Dahlia Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Nine go in the Dahlia. We’re all in on favored 6-Crystal Cliffs, a French-bred 4-year-old filly who comes into this off a long layoff, having last raced at Churchill Downs in June, but who has never run a bad race in her four career starts, and seems to outclass the rest of the field. She has enough natural early speed to stay reasonably close to the early leaders, a good finishing kick, and trainer Graham Motion is excellent with horses off the bench, winning at a very good 19% clip with horses coming off layoffs six months or longer. She just appears better than the rest, and that makes her the pick. We will bet her to win at 6/5, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Pimlico, Race 6, $50 to win on 6-Crystal Cliffs.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:47 pm ET
$100,000 Elusive Quality Stakes, 7 furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up

The Elusive Quality shapes up as a terrific race this year, with a deep field of eight. One of the things that makes it a good betting affair is the 7 furlong distance, as it attracts both stretch-out sprinters and cutback milers, and one of the keys to success at the windows is figuring out which kind of runner the race shape will favor.

We think it’s going to favor 4-Therapist, a Christope Clement starter, who has come up short in races both shorter and longer, but who has thrived at the distance. He has a devastating late kick, and we think the pace in here will be fast enough to set it up. Look for him to be flying late; we will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 tow in on 4-Therapist.

Pimlico Race Course, Race 10, 5:37 pm ET

$125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

A field of ten 3-year-old colts lines up for the Tesio, and with most of them stretching out to a mile and an eighth for the first time, and with many of them possessing high early speed, we’re expecting a fast early pace, and a winner coming from behind. We think that will be 4-The Reds, who comes into this race off a fifth-place finish in the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 6. He broke his maiden two starts back at this nine furlong distance, and did so by coming from the back of the pack; we see a similar result today. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Pimlico, Race 10, $40 to win on 4-The Reds.

Oaklawn Park, Race 10, 6:50 pm ET

$200,000 Bachelor Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

A field of six sophomore colts lines up for the Bachelor. We like 2-Bob’s Edge, who has progressed nicely for trainer Larry Jones since making his debut at Keeneland last October. His last race was very fast, a win in an Oaklawn allowance race in which he contested a fast pace and won going away, earning an 87 Beyer Speed Figure that was the best of his career, and the fastest speed figure earned by any horse in this field. While a repeat may be good enough to win, we think he will actually run faster, as 3-year-olds can improve dramatically this time of year, and his two swift workouts since that race suggest he is maturing rapidly. We like his chances, and at 6-1, we love his price. We will bet him to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 10, $35 to win on 2-Bob’s Edge.

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 7:46 pm ET

Grade 2 Santa Margarita Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Short fields and winners at miserly odds have plagued California racing in recent years, and at first glance, the Santa Margarita would seem to fit that category, with just five entrants, and 2-As Time Goes By, who starts for Bob Baffert, installed as the morning line favorite at miserly 3/5 odds. It’s the kind of race that we typically would pass on.

But we think it’s playable, and it is so because of the presence of 1-Pharoah’s Heart, who has good speed figures and ample early speed, which gives her a tactical advantage over the favorite. Because she is trained by Mark Glatt, not Baffert, we expect to get a much better price on this daughter of American Pharoah: She’s 4-1 on the morning line, and though she will likely be a bit shorter by post time, she is still a solid play. We will bet her to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $35 to win on 1-Pharoah’s Heart.

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

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