Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks Saratoga, Ellis Park, Gulfstream Park, Woodbine
First Captain, winning the Dwyer, July 5 at Belmont. He's running today in the Curlin at Saratoga and Garrity is betting against him.NYRA / Chelsea Durand

Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks Saratoga, Ellis Park, Gulfstream Park, Woodbine

First post is 5:05 pm EDT. Last post is the Curlin at 5:39 pm. Let it rye-d.

We’re at the end of the month, and while the change from July to August augurs powerful seasonal changes in the not-too-distant future, we are not there quite yet: it is still high summer in our horsey little corner of the world.
We quite like summer, especially Fridays in summer, and this one calls for another edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. For this installment, we have five plays from four tracks in about forty minutes’ time. We are expecting fast dirt and firm turf in all races, except as noted below, so pour yourself a glass of one of the fine, hand-crafted concoctions from our friends at Dad’s Hat Rye, and let’s go.

Saratoga, Race 8, 5:05 pm ET

Allowance 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

Thursday was a rainy day in Upstate New York, with a powerful cold front turning the day’s racing into a sloppy mess. That will be gone this afternoon, however, and since the air behind it is crisp, clear, and very dry, we are expecting this race to stay on the grass, which should be yielding.

We like a horse at a big price: 5-Actuary, an English-bred 4-year-old who began his career at minor tracks in Ireland, where he showed an affinity for softer going. His North American debut, which came in a similar spot at Churchill Downs last month, looks inauspicious on the surface, as he ran a seemingly dull sixth, but we think it was better than it looks on paper, as he made up ground after completely blowing the break. He should like the softer turf, he will like the distance, and he should improve in his second start off the layoff. We will bet him to win at 20-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $30 to win on 5-Actuary.

Ellis Park, Race 8, 5:10 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A good field of nine lines up for the 8th from Ellis Park. We like 3-Pentagon, a Reeve McGaughey-trained 3-year-old filly with a sensational pedigree, by Constitution out of an Empire Maker mare. She just missed in her career debut, when she finished a neck behind the winner in a race that was rained off the grass and onto the main track; she will not miss today. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Ellis Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 3-Pentagon.

Gulfstream Park, Race 7, 5:12 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Six go in this tough third-level allowance dirt sprint in South Florida. The pick is 3-R Mercedes Boy, who comes off a speed-and-fade effort in his last start. That was on grass, but his prior races on the main track, his high early speed, and trainer Georgina Baxter’s skill at horses moving from turf to dirt (24% win rate) all point to a trip to the winner’s circle for him here. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 3-R Mercedes Boy.

Woodbine, Race 2, 5:19 pm ET

$7,500 Claiming 1 1/16 miles, Synthetic, 3 & Up

Nine hard-knocking claimers line up to go a mile and a sixteenth on the synthetic surface at Woodbine. The pick is 9-Miriam’s Sky, who jumps in class after winning for $5,000 in his last start. That shows that he’s fit, and he should be poised to deliver a top effort here, as it’s his third start off a long winter layoff. Look for him to be toward the rear early, and to close strongly down the long Woodbine stretch. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Woodbine, Race 2, $35 to win on 9-Miriam’s Sky.

Saratoga, Race 9, 5:39 pm ET

$120,000 Curlin Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Seven go in the Curlin, and it’s kind of neat that two of them are offspring of Curlin himself, including morning line choice 4-First Captain, who is undefeated in three career starts for trainer Shug McGaughey (father of Reeve). While he could win, we think he’s a big underlay, as he stretches out to a mile and an eighth after running in mile races in his last two starts, and his race record hints that he may not be as good in a race this long as he was at shorter distances. We are throwing him out.

If we don’t like one son of the horse for whom the race was named, we might as well play the other: the pick is 1-Miles D. The way the Chad Brown-trained 3-year-old broke his maiden in his last start suggests that he will thrive at the distance, and we think the shape of the race will favor him, as he’s a mid-pack/stalking type, and there appears to be enough speed in the field for the early pace to be swift. At 10-1, he is a much better play; we will bet him to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $35 to win on 1-Miles D.

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

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