Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Kentucky Derby undercard: Pat Day Mile, American Turf, Old Forester, more
Gamine, in front at the Acorn Stakes, last June at Belmont Park, runs today at Churchill Downs. Note: She's usually in front.NYRA / Robert Mauhar

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Kentucky Derby undercard: Pat Day Mile, American Turf, Old Forester, more

Garrity's first post is at 1:44 pm EDT. Gamine runs at 1:56 pm. Don't blink.

The Kentucky Derby may be the main event, but the races leading up to it this afternoon are worth paying attention to: there are six graded stakes on the undercard, and we will take a look at each of them.

The weather in Louisville will be absolutely perfect today, sunny and breezy with highs in the mid-70s, and conditions will be good as well, with a fast main track, and a firm turf course. Let’s go.

Churchill Downs, Race 6, 1:44 pm ET
Grade 2 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Seven older females line up for this terrific turf race. We like a runner at a price, 3-New York Girl, a 4-year-old filly who was bred in Ireland, where she started her career before being brought to the United States, and Bill Mott’s barn, last fall. She has made three starts since then, all in Florida, winning an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Eve, then finishing second and third in a couple of stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. We think she is better than those results would suggest, as the pace in both those races in Tampa made it difficult for her to make up ground late. With a stronger pace in front of her, which we expect here, we think she is going to run big, and at 8-1, that makes her a fantastic play. We will bet her to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 6, $40 to win on 3-New York Girl.

Churchill Downs, Race 7, 1:56 pm ET

Grade 1 Derby City Distaff Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

This race looks like a walkover for 1/5 favorite 5-Gamine, who has turned into the best female dirt sprinter in a long time. She has made seven starts in her career, and won six of them, with her only loss in last year’s Kentucky Oaks, when she finished second. The Oaks is a mile and an eighth, which is too far for Gamine, but in races run around just one turn, like this one, she is deadly. Unless something goes badly wrong with her today, she will win, probably with the same condescending ease she showed winning the Las Flores Stakes at Santa Anita in her last start, when she won by five emphatic lengths despite being geared down late. This is a race to watch, not bet, but since we are supposed to put a play here, we’ll place a small win bet on Gamine, and save the bet slip as a souvenir to hang on the wall. It looks like she will have to fall down to lose. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 7, $2 to win on 5-Gamine.

Churchill Downs, Race 8, 2:48 pm ET

Grade 2 Pat Day Mile, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The best betting race on the Derby undercard is the Pat Day Mile, in which a dozen sophomore colts will go to the starting gate. The connections of most of them were almost certainly hoping to be starting in the Derby, not in this spot, but they were thrown off the Triple Crown trail either by an inability to compete with the best members of their 3-year-old class, or by difficulties remaining effective as the distances of the key Derby prep races grew longer.

We like a horse who fits into both categories: it’s 8-Dream Shake, who in February broke his maiden at first asking for trainer Peter Eurton, earning a gaudy 96 Beyer Speed Figure that surely caused his owners to have Derby dreams. But he faltered in his next two starts, running third in both the San Felipe in March, and the Santa Anita Derby in April. There is no shame in either of these results, as the winner of the San Felipe was Life is Good, who was the Derby favorite before an injury sidelined him; and the winner of the Santa Anita Derby was Rock Your World, who is the 5-1 second choice in early Derby wagering. That is pretty heady company, and we think that gives him an edge over the rest of this not-ready-for-prime-time field. We also like the cutback in distance, as he goes from the nine furlongs in his last to a one-turn mile here. He’s a pace presser, so look for him to be just behind the pacesetters early, and to move to the front with a big move as the field turns for home. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $50 to win on 8-Dream Shake.

Churchill Downs, Race 9, 3:40 pm ET
Grade 2 American Turf Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The American Turf is another terrific betting race, with a full field of fourteen and no overwhelming favorite. We are expecting an early pace somewhere between fast and very fast, and that has us reaching for a strong finisher, and we think we’ve found one in the form of 11-Hidden Enemy. He has only one career win to his credit, and it was just a maiden win, but it was also his last start, so he is trending in the right direction. An Irish-bred with a sensational turf pedigree, he appears to us to be a late-blooming colt, and these types can improve significantly this time of year. He will need to do that today, but we think he can, especially since the race should favor his come-from-behind running style. And the best part? He’s 30-1. We will bet him to win and to place. The bets: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $30 to win and $20 to place on 11-Hidden Enemy.

Churchill Downs, Race 10, 4:31 pm ET
Grade 1 Churchill Downs Sprint, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

This is another wide-open affair, with thirteen sprinters lining up to run seven furlongs on the main track. It’s the kind of race to look for a winner at a price, and we are doing just that with 12-Endorsed, who had mixed results last year, running mostly in route races. But he seems to have found his niche as a sprinter, has had two good efforts in allowance races in Florida earlier this year, and trainer Bill Mott seems to have conditioned him to deliver a peak effort here. We also like his running style, as he is a pace-presser, and we don’t expect the pace to be overly fast, and being forwardly placed during the race’s early stages should give him an edge over the horses trying to come from farther back. We will bet him to win at 12-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 10, $35 to win on 12-Endorsed.

Churchill Downs, Race 11, 5:27 pm ET

Grace 1 Old Forester Turf Classic, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 4 & Up

A field of nine lines up for this nine furlong Grade 1 turf race. The pick is 6-Digital Age, who won this race last year, when it was run in September, which set him up for a run in the Breeders Cup Mile, where a disastrously wide trip caused him to falter, and finish far up the track. He has not run since then, so he comes into this spot off a layoff of nearly six months, and while that is a concern, trainer Chad Brown is an ace at getting horses to fire off the bench. And Digital Age has the best closing kick in the field, which is always an important factor on the sod. Look for him to be flying late; we will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 11, $40 to win on 6-Digital Age.

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

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