Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Diana, the Haskell and other races at Saratoga, Monmouth and Del Mar
Althiqa poses after winning the Just a Game. Garrity thinks she'll have her picture taken again after the Diana.NYRA

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Diana, the Haskell and other races at Saratoga, Monmouth and Del Mar

Garrity's first post is 3:29 pm EDT.

These are the kinds of days we wait for all year. The deck is stacked at both Saratoga and Del Mar, and it’s also the biggest day of the year for the Sport of Kings in New Jersey, where the Haskell headlines a terrific card at Monmouth Park. It’s a great Saturday to be a fan, and a great Saturday to be a horseplayer.

We need to take a moment to talk about weather: it will be perfect in Southern California, of course, but in both Upstate New York and New Jersey there is a chance for thunderstorms, perhaps severe. The forecast as of Saturday morning is for whatever rain falls to occur after the races have been run, and we are playing for fast and firm, but check conditions in advance of the races themselves, as a summer downpour may change them significantly, and in a short amount of time. With that out of the way, let’s go.

Monmouth Park, Race 8, 3:29 pm ET

Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

A very good group of seven older horses lines up for the Monmouth Cup. The pick is 5-Dr Post, who is coming off a poor effort in the Met Mile, but who should rebound here by getting a dream trip, sitting just behind what should be a rapid early pace. We expect the Todd Pletcher trainee to move to the front at the top of the stretch, and hold off the closers late. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 5-Dr Post.

Monmouth Park, Race 11, 5:12 pm ET

Grade 1 United Nations Stakes, 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

The United Nations drew ten entrants, and the composition of the group makes a slow pace likely, slow enough that it will compromise the chances of the closers. That makes the pick 10-Tribhuvan, a Chad Brown runner who can either win on the lead, if nobody else wants it, or win by sitting just off the pacesetters. Either way, he should be forwardly placed, which will be a huge advantage if the early fractions are as slow as we expect. We also like that Tribhuvan will be piloted by Flavien Prat. He rode at Del Mar yesterday, and while he flew to the East Coast primarily to ride Hot Rod Charlie in the Haskell, we think his presence on Tribhuvan will be a plus. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 11, $40 to win on 10-Tribhuvan.

Saratoga, Race 9, 5:40 pm ET
Grade 3 Sanford Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds

The Sanford, a major stakes race for juveniles, drew a full field of twelve. The top contenders have the same fast early/slow late running style, and that, plus the fact that the Sanford’s 6 furlongs are a longer distance than any of them have run to date, has us looking for a strong finisher, and that makes the pick 7-Ottoman Empire. He’s a Tom Amoss trainee who broke his maiden quite smartly, at Churchill Downs on June 20, showing the ability to close strongly behind a fast pace. That is exactly the setup we see for him today, which makes his 10-1 morning line price look positively juicy. We will bet him to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $35 to win on 7-Ottoman Empire.

Monmouth Park, Race 12, 5:47 pm ET

Grade 1 Haskell Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Seven go in the Haskell. The headliners are colts who had runner-up finishes in the three Triple Crown races: 3-Mandaloun, 6-Midnight Bourbon, and 4-Hot Rod Charlie finished second in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, respectively. Hot Rod Charlie will win today if he repeats his Belmont effort, but we think a regression is just as likely as a repeat, as his effort at Belmont was off-the-charts good, and it may leave him a little bit short today. He could win, but at a short price, we think he’s a play-against.

We like 3-Mandaloun. Many bettors were put off by his last race, when he was all out to beat an overmatched field in a minor stakes at Monmouth Park on June 13, but we think that trainer Brad Cox ran him that day as a prep for this spot, and therefore did not have him fully cranked. He will be ready today, and that means that the rest of this field is running for second money. We will bet Mandaloun to win at 2-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 12, $40 to win on 3-Mandaloun.

Saratoga, Race 10, 6:16 pm ET
Grade 1 Diana Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

A terrific field of eight lines up for the Grade 1 Diana. The pick is 8-Althiqa, who was last seen winning the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont Park in June, and while that was a good effort, we think she may be even better today, as the turf at Belmont that day was good, and today at Saratoga it will be firm, which is how Althiqa likes it. She is a Godolphin homebred trained by Charlie Appleby, who is based in England, and we are going to go out on a limb and guess that Appleby did not elect to stay in New York, rather than going back to Europe, because he thinks she is going to lose. This is a world-class filly who appears to be sitting on a monster race, so we will bet Althiqa to win at 3-1, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Saratoga, Race 10, $75 to win on 8-Althiqa.

Del Mar, Race 10, 9:30 pm ET
Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

Nine go in the San Diego, but we have eyes for only one: favored 4-Royal Ship, who is coming off two razor-sharp efforts at Santa Anita. The speed figures he earned in those races mark him as clearly the one to beat, and his morning workouts in recent weeks suggest that trainer Richard Mandella has him ready to deliver a top effort in this spot. We will bet Royal Ship to win at 9/5. The bet: Del Mar, Race 10, $40 to win on 4-Royal Ship.

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

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