Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks 3 stakes races at Saratoga, an allowance at Ellis Park
Realm, winning the 2018 Alydar Stakes. The 2021 edition runs today.NYRA / Chelsea Durand

Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing: Garrity picks 3 stakes races at Saratoga, an allowance at Ellis Park

First post is 4:29 pm EDT. last post is 5:39 pm. Let it rye-d.

It’s time for another Friday edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. Today we have four plays, three of them stakes races at Saratoga, which has a terrific Friday card. They will be run in just over an hour’s time, and we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. So pour yourself a tumbler of one of the delicious libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.

Saratoga, Race 7, 4:29 pm ET

Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The Hall of Fame drew a field of eight, and one thing that caught our eye about the group is that so many of them have similar running styles: There are a lot of fast/early slow late types, and that should lead to a swift early pace, horses in front decelerating down the stretch, and a winner who comes from behind and passes the tired speedsters.

We think that just may be long shot 5-In Effect, who broke his maiden with a run from the back of the pack, and then finished third in his last start, when there were two things going against him: One was that the early pace was slow, which muted his closing charge; the other is that the turf that day was good, which is softer than he prefers. He will get very firm turf today, and the early fractions should favor his running style very much. At 20-1, that’s enough for us; we will bet him to win and to place. The bets: Saratoga, Race 7, $25 to win/$15 to place on 5-In Effect.

Ellis Park, Race 7, 4:40 pm ET

Allowance, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Nine fillies and mares line up for this non-winners-of-two allowance at Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky. We are taking a shot with 4-Tonapita, a 4-year-old filly with a nice pedigree, especially for grass, but who has been mostly a disappointment in her seven career starts, with a maiden race at Tampa Bay Downs in December of 2019 her only victory. She looks poised for an improvement today, however, partly for having been giving a vacation -- her last race was nearly nine months ago -- and partly because she is making her first start for trainer Mike Maker, who is skilled both at improving horses and getting horses to fire off a layoff. Tonapita’s recent workouts indicate that she will be ready, so we will bet her to win at 15-1. The bet: Ellis Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 4-Tonapita.

Saratoga, Race 8, 5:05 pm ET
$120,000 Alydar Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 4 & Up

Eight go in the Alydar. The form of the horses comprising it is all over the place: some are coming off good races, some are coming off mediocre races, and some, like 4-Art Collector, who was a Kentucky Derby contender for a hot minute this spring, coming off a string of truly dreadful starts.

We think the key to unlocking this handicapping puzzle is pace. There isn’t much early speed in the group, save for the aforementioned Art Collector, and we think that, coupled with the natural speed-favoring nature of the Saratoga dirt course, is going to play against the stretch-runners, who make up a majority of the field, and in favor of 7-Jesus’ Team, a 4-year-old colt who possesses both the ability and the running style to win the race. He has a high cruising speed, which should get him a good stalking trip, just behind the early leader, which should be Art Collector, and from that tactically advantageous spot, he should be able to move to the front on the far turn, squirt clear at the top of the stretch, and hold off the closers late. This is a horse who was good enough last year to run second in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, and we think he is going to be good enough to take the prize here. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Jesus’ Team.

Saratoga, Race 9, 5:39 pm ET

Grade 3 Troy Stakes, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up

A cracking good field of twelve lines up for the Troy. The pick is 10-Lazuli, a Godolphin homebred, and 4-year-old gelding, who makes his North American debut after winning five of his eleven career starts in Europe. He likes the distance, he will like the firm going, and trainer Charlie Appleby has been successful of late with these kinds of Euro imports, as he won two Group 1 races in New York, the Diana and the Just a Game, with Godolpin stablemate Althiqa. We think Appleby is going to add a third graded stakes win here, and while we very much doubt that Lazuli will be his 8-1 morning price when the gates open, we think he’s a fantastic play even at a lower number. We will bet him to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 10-Lazuli.

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

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