Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks Penn National, Monmouth Park, Santa Anita
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Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks Penn National, Monmouth Park, Santa Anita

It's a lengthy cocktail hour, which starts at 6:27 pm EDT

We’re hard on the heels of a holiday weekend. And while Memorial Day is always big in the horse racing world, it seems that this year, with the world seeming to emerge from the grips of the pandemic, is going to be bigger than ever.

To celebrate that, we’ll do another installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping, and it will be a special edition, as the races are at a later, even more cocktail-friendly time than usual, and it is also opening day at Monmouth Park at the Jersey shore. We’re playing for fast dirt and firm turf everywhere, so pour yourself three or four fingers of one of the fine libations from the good folks at Dad’s Hat Rye, and let’s go.

Penn National, Race 2, 6:27 pm ET

$100,000 With Anticipation Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Pennsylvania-breds 3 & Up

A full field of twelve goes to the post in the With Anticipation. We like 4-Missin the Big Dog, who ships to Penn National off a sharp allowance win at Pimlico on May 14. Look for him to sit just behind the pacesetters early, to move to the front at the top of the stretch, and to hold off the closers late. We will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Penn National, Race 2, $30 to win on 4-Missin the Big Dog.

Monmouth Park, Race 4, 6:30 pm ET

$5,000 Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Seven hard-knocking older claimers go in the 4th at Monmouth. At the risk of sounding like Johnny Obvious, we will note that we like 3-Johnny Obvious, who makes his first start since trainer Steve Asmussen claimed him out of a race at Oaklawn Park on April 29. He was running against tougher competition in Arkansas, but what we really like about him in this spot is speed: He has much, much more early zip than any other horse in the field, and that should allow Johnny Obvious to go right to the front, and set comfortable fractions while setting the pace, leaving him with plenty of energy to finish strongly. We think he wires this group, and will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 4, $40 to win on 3-Johnny Obvious.

Monmouth Park, Race 5, 7:00 pm ET

$100,000 Jersey Derby, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The Jersey Derby drew a good field of eight sophomore colts. We like 6-Sifting Sands, who runs for trainer Chad Brown. He’s got one of the best turf pedigrees we’ve seen in a while -- he’s by Dubawi, one of the top turf sires in the world, out of a Montjeu mare -- and we think he’s got a lot more ability than the results of his three career races have shown. He has a strong late kick, and we think the race sets up for that, so we’ll wager that Sifting Sands can take the Jersey Derby with a powerful stretch run. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 5, $35 to win on 6-Sifting Sands.

Penn National, Race 3, 7:02 pm ET
$100,000 Penn Oaks, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Seven go in the Penn Oaks, but we are all in on favored 4-Honey Pants. She is a Christophe Clement trainee who spent the winter in Florida, where she did pretty well, considering that she was facing tougher horses than she will face here, and was doing so over a speed-favoring turf course that played against her stalking/closing running style. On fair going, which she should get in this spot, we think she blows this field away, and looks so superior to the rest of the field that we’re fine playing her at the relatively short price of 7/5. We will bet her to win. The bet: Penn National, Race 3, $40 to win on 4-Honey Pants.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 7:24 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

A motley group of eight lines up for the featured race at Santa Anita. We like 1-Railsplitter, a Doug O’Neill trainee who just missed in his last, leading all the way in a race at this allowance/optional claiming level, only to get caught very late and finish second, a length and a quarter behind the winner. That race was at a mile and an eighth, and here he shortens up to mile, and we think a combination of the shorter distance and facing a weaker group here will be the difference: we think he wins this race on the front end. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $30 to win on 1-Railsplitter.

Penn National, Race 4, 7:46 pm ET

Grade 2 Penn Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

Grade 2 races, even when they are in Grantville, Pennsylvania, tend to bring out the heavy hitters, and that is the case with the Penn Mile, as big-league trainers Bill Mott, Mike Maker, and Wesley Ward have runners. We like Mott’s entrant, 3-Annex, and we like him quite a bit: He won the first three starts of his career, all on grass, and then finished 8th in his last start, the American Turf at Churchill Downs on May 1. Despite the seemingly bad finish, we saw a lot to like in that effort, as he made a move on the far turn, and turning for home, before he faltered after getting squeezed between horses twice in deep stretch. He probably wasn’t winning that Annex rebounds here, and does so in a big way; we will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Penn National, Race 4, $50 to win on 3-Annex.

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

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