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

First post is 4:40 pm EDT, last post is 5:53 pm. Let it rye-d.

We’re in mid-August now, which is hard to believe, and though the days of summer are rapidly waning, like sands through the hourglass, as it were, it’s still Friday, and that means it’s time for a steamy edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. We have five plays in about an hour’s time, and conditions will be fast and firm, and hot, for all of them. Let’s go.

Ellis Park, Race 7, 4:40 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Nine go in this allowance/optional claimer in Kentucky. We like 7-Russian Mafia, who won her last race at this level, in January at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and then ran in three straight stakes. She fared poorly in those races, but those fields were pretty tough, and she looks ready to rebound here against this much lesser group. Look for her to be toward the rear early, and flying late. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Ellis Park, Race 7, $30 to win on 7-Russian Mafia.

Saratoga, Race 8, 5:05 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

The turf course at Saratoga this week has been favoring speed and inside post positions, which makes this pick a relatively straightforward one: 1-Shekky Shabaz has the most natural speed in the field, and drew the rail, which should result in a gate-to-wire score. He’ll need a good break, and he’ll need a good ride from jockey Irad Ortiz, who has not had the best week of his life at the Spa, but Shekky Shabaz is a good horse in good form, and his running style will be aided by the way the track is playing. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 1-Shekky Shabaz.

Woodbine, Race 2, 5:19 pm ET

$10,000 Maiden Claiming, 5 furlongs, synthetic, 3 & Up

Eight line up in this maiden claimer north of the border. The pick is 5-Last Sensation, who comes into this spot off a long layoff, having last run in July of 2020, and while the layoff is a bit of a concern, he ran, and ran pretty well, against much tougher company last year, and this group is pretty weak. We think the 5-year-old’s back class will be the difference here, and will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Woodbine, Race 8, $35 to win on 5-Last Sensation.

Saratoga, Race 9, 5:39 pm ET

$120,000 Tale of the Cat Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

If the turf course at Saratoga has slightly favored horses with speed and inside trips, the main track has been approaching a real track bias, with horses either on or just off the early lead having an insuperable advantage over horses trying to make up ground from farther back. The speed-favoring nature of the track makes handicapping a rather straightforward affair: find the speed.

The trick is that finding the speed is not always easy, as a parade of wire-to-wire winners at big prices this week has shown. In today’s 9th at the Spa, we think it will be 5-Wondrwherecraigis, who has the most natural early foot, and who has a rider, Luis Saez, who should be more than willing to use it. Look for him to scoot right to the front, and ride the speed-favoring dirt all the way to the wire. We will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 5-Wondrwherecraigis.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 5:53 pm ET

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

Six go in this allowance in South Florida. The pick is 4-Front Loaded, who starts for trainer Bob Hess, Jr., and who comes off a good runner-up finish in a similar spot at Gulfstream on July 18. A repeat of that effort will probably be good enough to win here, and we think the pace will favor his stalking running style. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 4-Front Loaded.

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

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