Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks The Preakness, 5 more races at Pimlico – Will Medina Spirit best Concert Tour?
Garrity's first post is the 6th race at 1:28 pm EDT.
The Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the Triple Crown of American horse racing, is the headliner today, but there are plenty of other races that are worth watching, and betting, at Pimlico this afternoon. There are nine stakes races on a mammoth 14-race card in Baltimore, and while we can’t play them all, we will take a stab at six of them. The weather will once again be perfect at Old Hilltop, and we are expecting fast dirt, firm turf, and a thoroughly enjoyable day, whether you are at the track or playing from home. Let’s go.
Pimlico Race Course, Race 6, 1:28 pm ET
Grade 3 Gallorette Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
One of our pet angles in recent weeks has been in turf races, playing closers who spent the past winter in Florida, trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to make up ground in races on the Gulfstream Park grass course, which favored speed throughout the meeting. We mention that because 6-Feel Glorious, one of the six entrants in the Gallorette, fits that description: she ran some good races in New York last summer and fall, but was winless in two starts at Gulfstream Park in February and March. She finished second and third in those tries, but she did make up ground in both of them, and the fact that she did it running against the grain of the track means her efforts were better than they look on paper. On a more normal grass course, which she should get in the Gallorette, her late charge will be much more effective, and because of her superficially bad form, we get a decent price of 7/2. Look for her to be in the rear early, but first where it matters; we will bet her to win. The bet: Pimlico, Race 6, $30 to win on 6-Feel Glorious.
Pimlico Race Course, Race 8, 2:45 pm ET
$100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds
Eight go in the Murphy, and most of them have the same fast early/slow late running style. With this much speed in the field, including a couple of stretch-out sprinters, we want a closer, and the best in the group is 8-T D Dance, a Brad Cox trainee who has run three times on turf, winning two of them, including a smart score in an allowance race at the Fair Grounds in his last start. He sat in the middle of the pack that day, and won with a strong late move; he will probably be farther back this time, but we see the same kind of strong finishing kick putting him in the winner’s circle. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Pimlico, Race 8, $30 to win on 8-T D Dance.
Pimlico Race Course, Race 9, 3:25 pm ET
$100,000 Runhappy Skipat Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Eight older females line up for the Skipat, and it is both a good betting opportunity and an instructive lesson in the importance of pace as a handicapping factor. That is because of the presence of 8/5 morning line favorite 5-Chub Wagon, a 4-year-old filly who has won all five of her career starts by virtue of her sheer early speed: She has led at every call in every one of her races, dominating each of them from start to finish.
But we don’t think she’s going to be able to do that here. One entrant, 4-Never Enough Time, possesses just as much early speed as Chub Wagon does, and another, 6-Dontletsweetfoolya, is even faster. We see all three of them vying for the early lead, through very fast early fractions, and that will leave them all gasping for air in the race’s latter stages.
All of this makes 2-Casual a strong play. She spent the winter at Oaklawn Park, where she earned good speed figures running against very tough stakes company, but what we like about her most is her running style: she’s a stalker/closer in a race that figures to favor that running style in a big way. We see her sitting mid-pack, behind the suicidal speed duel unfolding in front of her, challenging the leaders around the far turn, and winning, going away, with a strong move down the stretch. At 9/2, we think she is a terrific play, and we will bet her to win. The bet: Pimlico, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Casual.
Pimlico Race Course, Race 11
Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Match Series, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up
The Grade 3 Maryland Sprint drew a field of eleven; it’s a deep, evenly matched group, and a terrific race to handicap. We are going with a big price, in the form of 3-Mucho, who should get a good trip sitting well back of what should be a fast pace, allowing him to make a strong late run. Things will have to break just right for this 5-year-old to win this -- he’ll need to avoid traffic from his inside post position -- but we think that is very possible, especially with top jockey Jose Ortiz riding, and at 15-1, his price is more than enticing. We will bet Mucho to win and to place. The bets: Pimlico, Race 11, $30 to win/$10 to place on 3-Mucho.
Pimlico Race Course, Race 12
Grade 2 Dinner Party Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3 & Up
A good group of eight older horses goes to the gate for the Grade 2 Dinner Party Stakes. We can’t get past favored 5-Sacred Life, who we liked in his last start, when he finished third in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 9. He did not win that day, but he did close strongly, despite traffic trouble that saw him running wide throughout, and that was against a much, much tougher group of horses than he faces here. With a cleaner trip, which we are expecting, we think he’s going to blow away this field. At 7/5, he’s not going to make anyone rich, but there is value in every winner, and Sacred Life looks overwhelmingly the best. We will bet him to win. The bet: Pimilco, Race 12, $50 to win on 5-Sacred Life.
Pimlico Race Course, Race 13
Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, 1 3/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
Kentucky Derby winners have done quite well in the Preakness, both historically and in more recent years, and we expect that trend to continue today, as 3-Medina Spirit looks like a winner to us. If one looks past all the news about him the past week, if one focuses solely on what he’s done on the track, it becomes clear that he is in the best form in the field of eight, and it also becomes apparent that he has a pace edge over his rivals, as there is only one other entrant, 10-Concert Tour, who has enough natural early speed to keep up with him. We might normally expect a pace duel from these two, but the fact that both are trained by Bob Baffert makes that unlikely; we do not see either John Velazquez or Mike Smith, who ride Medina Spirit and Concert Tour, respectively, to compromise the chances of the other by pressing the early pace too much. That should put the two of them in front early, running moderate early fractions, and that is going to make them impossible to catch, especially considering that the horses trying to make a run from behind appear to be a cut below, or in several cases several cuts below, these two in ability. We see a 1-2 finish for Baffert’s pair, and while this gives us a little trepidation about what will happen at Belmont Park in three weeks, that is a problem for another time, because we think that Medina Spirit will win the Preakness. We will bet Medina Spirit to win at 3-1, and we will also play the two of them in the exacta. The bets: Pimlico, Race 13, $40 to win on 3-Medina Spirit; $15 exacta box, 3 (Medina Spirit) with 10 (Concert Tour).
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.