Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks races at Belmont Park, Woodbine, Churchill Downs, likes Godolphin turf runners
Summer gets most of the attention when it comes to horse racing, but the best season, for our money, anyway, is fall. Today is a good example of that, as the deck is stacked with top-shelf stakes action: Belmont Park and Woodbine each have a pair of superb turf races, and Churchill Downs runs two juvenile stakes under the lights tonight. It’s a sensational lineup of excellent racing; we have plays in all six races, and expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Let’s go.
Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:14 pm ET
$700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational, 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies
A terrific field of seven lines up for the Jockey Club Oaks. We like 7-Harajuku, an Irish-bred filly who has raced nine times, all in France. She has not exactly been a win machine, with two wins from those nine starts, but she has been running in some very tough races, against some very, very salty competition. There are two things we like about here in this spot: One is that she has run better on firmer going, like when she won the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre at Saint-Cloud in May, and should therefore relish the very firm turf she will get at Belmont Park today; the other is that she is conditioned by Frenchman Andre Fabre, one of the top trainers in the world, who is incredibly shrewd at bringing runners to North America. Harujuki is 4-1 on the morning line, but will probably be a bit shorter by post time; we will bet her to win anyway, and will do so with gusto. We will also play her in the Double (see below) comprising Race 9 and 10. The bets: Belmont Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 7-Harajuku; $25 Double, 7 (Harajuku) with 2 (Yibir).
Woodbine, Race 9, 5:35 pm ET
Group 1 Canadian International, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 3 & Up
The Canadian International is one of the biggest races of the year in the Great White North, and one in which European runners have historically done very well. We are expecting that trend to continue today, as 2-Walton Street looks to be much the best of this field of eight. He comes into this race after last running in a Group 1 stakes in Germany, and while he did not win that day -- he finished third -- he did run well, and as it was his first race off a layoff, we can’t think that it was anything other than a prep for this spot. He is a Godolphin homebred who starts for trainer Charlie Appleby, and we think a sign of intent here is the fact that all-world rider Frankie Dettori makes the trip from England to ride. We think it will be a big day for both Godolphin and Appleby; we will bet Walton Street to win at 8/5. The bet: Woodbine, Race 9, $50 to win on 2-Walton Street.
Belmont Park, Race 10, 5:45 pm ET
$1,000,000 Jockey Club Derby Invitational, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds
The eight runners of the Jockey Club Derby are an illustration that this is a terrific race, but they also signify the increasing importance of turf racing in the United States. This is a very, very good group of 3-year-olds colts that will line up to run a mile and a half on the Widener Turf Course at Belmont Park.
We like 2-Yibir, another Godolphin colt from the Charlie Appleby barn. He comes into this race out of a win in a Group 2 race at York in England, and we like both that his win was at this 12 furlong distance, and that the final time of the race came up fast. He is another European horse who has done better on firmer, rather than softer ground, so he should thrive at Belmont today; and Appleby showed this summer, when he took a pair of stakes races at Saratoga with another Godolphin horse, Althiqa, that he knows how to crack the code of American stakes racing. This is a very, very tough field, about as good as we’ve seen in an American turf race this year, but Yibir looks to be the best. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 2-Yibir.
Woodbine, Race 10, 6:12 pm ET
Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up
The Woodbine Mile came up a strong race this year, with a deep and talented field of ten going to the gate. The favorite is 7-Raging Bull, who at 6 is an old warrior, and one who seemingly turned back the clock earlier this year, when he won the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland in April.
But Raging Bull will be a short price, if only because he starts for trainer Chad Brown, whose horses always get bet, and as a result, we think he is a play-against, as his last two races have been dull, especially the last, when he finished a flat, no-excuses sixth in the Fourstadave at Saratoga. Raging Bull could win today, but if he does so, it will be without our money backing him.
We like 10-Space Traveller. He is a 5-year-old who has spent most of his career in his native England, but whose last start was in the Mr D., the race that used to be known as the Arlington Million, in Chicago. He had some traffic trouble that day, the turf was softer than he likes, and the mile and a quarter was probably a bit longer than his best distance, but he still managed to run pretty well, making up ground late to finish a close fourth. With that race under his belt, he looks primed for a top effort today, and with his late kick, which is the best in the field, we think he can take the Woodbine Mile. At 12-1, we are betting on it: we will play him to win. The bet: Woodbine, Race 10, $35 to win on 10-Space Traveller.
Churchill Downs, Race 8, 9:39 pm ET
Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Old Fillies
A deep field of eleven juvenile fillies goes in the Pocahontas. The pick is 4-Ontheonesandtwos, who ran quite well in her first two starts, breaking her maiden in May and running second in a stakes in June, before she ran sixth in the Adirondack at Saratoga on August 8. We think a return to Churchill Downs, where she ran so well in her first two races, and stretching out to a mile and a sixteenth, are going to lead to a much improved result for this Norm Casse trainee. She’s had three brilliantly fast works since her last start, and appears to be sitting on a big one. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $35 to win on 4-Ontheonesandtwos.
Churchill Downs, Race 9, 10:11 pm ET
Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The Iroquois, like its filly counterpart, the Pocahontas, drew a field of eleven. The pick is 6-Stellar Tap, who broke his maiden very impressively in his career debut, at Saratoga on August 7, stalking a quick pace and drawing off to win by over five lengths. That race was a sprint, but he has both the running style and the pedigree (by Tapit, out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare) to handle going around two turns, and it doesn’t hurt that the 78 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in his maiden win is as good a figure as any other colt in the race has run. Stellar Tap looks the best; we will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $35 to win on 6-Stellar Tap.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.