Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks 5 Belmont races – the Runhappy, Peter Pan, Man 'o War, more – 1 at Santa Anita
Chateau, in front at the Tom Fool in March at Aqueduct. Garrity expects the same today at Belmont.NYRA / Chelsea Durand

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks 5 Belmont races – the Runhappy, Peter Pan, Man 'o War, more – 1 at Santa Anita

Garrity's first post is at 2:31 pm EDT.

Belmont Park takes center stage, with a sensationally good card featuring five graded stakes. We’ll play all five of them, plus one race out West, the Santa Barbara from Santa Anita, for a six pack of Saturday stakes action. We expect fast dirt and good turf at Belmont, and firm turf at Santa Anita. Let’s go.

Belmont Park, Race 4, 2:31 pm ET

Grade 3 Runhappy Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

This is something one does not see all that often: a graded stakes dirt sprint with an absence of speed. The only real horse with early zip is 3-Chateau, who has plenty of it, so much more than the other four runners that he should be able to get the early lead in what will amount to a canter. There are few rigid axioms in this game, but one is this: A good horse on an easy lead is about as good a bet as there is, and that is doubly true for a race at this distance. 4/5 favorite 4-Firenze Fire may be more accomplished, but he is not going to be able to catch Chateau today. We will bet him to win at 8/5. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 4, $40 to win on 3-Chateau.

Belmont Park, Race 6, 3:34 pm ET

Grade 3 Beaugay Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Rain fell overnight at beautiful Belmont Park, leaving the turf course good for the Grade 3 Beaugay. We think that will make 2-Lemista, a 4-year-old filly, very tough to beat. She makes her U.S. debut today, after four wins in seven starts the last two years in her native Ireland, and a couple of them were stakes wins, which shows that she’s good. Because she starts for trainer Chad Brown and will be ridden by jockey Irad Ortiz, she will probably be overbet, but we’ll grudgingly accept that, because she looks overwhelmingly the best runner here. We will bet her to win at 5-2, with the understanding that her post-time odds will be shorter. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 6, $40 to win on 2-Lemista.

Belmont Park, Race 7, 4:06 pm ET

Grade 3 Vagrancy Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Older female sprinters take the stage in the Vagrancy, which drew a field of seven. We like 3-Victim of Love, who won this race last year, then ran a very good third in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga in August. She was given the fall and winter off after that, returning to the races in an allowance at Laurel on Feb. 26. While she did not win that race, finishing second at short odds, we can’t see that as anything but a prep for this spot. Look for her to press the early pace, and to win with a big move around the turn, and as the field straightens out for home. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 3-Victim of Love.

Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:12 pm ET

Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

At least one of the six 3-year-old colts who line up for the Peter Pan will probably run in the Belmont Stakes in four weeks, so this is a race that is worth paying attention to for that reason alone. The hot favorite is 6-Risk Taking, the beaten favorite in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct a month ago, and while he may win, we think his 7/5 morning line price is a big underlay, as he ran dismally, with no excuse, in the Wood. Maybe he’ll rebound here, but betting on that is a poor proposition, especially at short odds.

We like 3-Nova Rags. His last two starts were in the Florida and Tampa Bay Derbies, in which he finished second and fourth, respectively, and while he was a cut below the best 3-year-olds who spent the winter in Florida, the way he ran those two suggests to us that he’s ready to make a move forward, to run a new career best race, here. And that makes him the one to beat. The early pace looks a bit on the slow side here, so look for Nova Rags to be right up front, and to win with a strong finish down the long Belmont stretch. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 3-Nova Rags.

Belmont Park, Race 10, 5:44 pm ET

Grade 1 Man ‘o War Stakes 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 4 & Up

The Man o’ War stacks up as a cracking good race, and one in which pace figures to be the biggest factor in who ends up in the winner’s circle. That is because the group has the least amount of early speed that we’ve seen in a grass race at any level in quite some time, which should lead to glacially slow fractions that will favor the horses in front and compromise the chances of the horses trying to catch them.

This makes the pick 7-Field Pass, who we think will get the lead, and who has shown an affinity in the past for grass with a bit of cut to it. We think he can handle the distance, we think he will like the going, and we think that the race shape will favor him: add that up, and we are going to the windows. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 7-Field Pass.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 7:19 pm ET

Grade 3 Santa Barbara Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

The Santa Barbara drew an interesting field of eight older females. They have a total of one career start at this distance -- that’s for all of them -- so there’s some guesswork involved in assessing who will get the distance, but we have determined that it will be 2-Rideforthecause. She has four wins in ten career turf starts, has done well in races up to a mile and an eighth, and both her pedigree and her running style suggest that she will take to the 12 furlongs distance the way a duck takes to water. Look for her to be mid-pack early, but to grind her way to the front late. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 2-Rideforthecause.

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

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