Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks stakes races at Belmont and Santa Anita, opening day
Final workouts on the Santa Anita downhill turf course, due to reopen for racing today.@santaanitapark on Twitter

Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks stakes races at Belmont and Santa Anita, opening day

It's a long Happy Hour with first post at 4:44pm EDT and last post at 7:29 pm. Let it rye-d.

The big news in the racing world is that today is opening day of the fall meeting at Santa Anita Park. The good folks in California have marked the occasion with a corker of a card: nine races and four stakes, including a Grade 1 and a pair of Grade 2s.

To celebrate the occasion, we have another Friday edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping, with plays in five races, all stakes, at Belmont and Santa Anita Parks, all with cocktail-friendly late afternoon or early evening post times. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, so pour yourself one of the delicious, hand-crafted concoctions from our friends at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET
$125,000 John Hettinger Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, New York-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A field of seven state-bred females lines up to run nine turf furlongs in the Hettinger. We are all over favored 8-Myhartblongstodady, who just missed in her last, finishing second in a similar state-bred stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27, and here catches a significantly weaker field than she faced Upstate. We think she goes to the lead today, and wins this on the front end, but she has tactical versatility, and can stalk if another runner goes fast early. We will bet her to win at 8/5. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 8-Myhartblongstodady.

Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 6:00 pm ET
$100,000 Speakeasy Stakes, 5 furlongs, Turf, 2-Year-Olds

The Speakeasy came up a very strong race, with a deep field of seven juvenile colts lining up to spring 5 furlongs on the sod. We like 4-Forbidden Kingdom, who has blazing speed, which he showed winning a maiden race in pretty fast time at Del Mar on Aug. 27, and that will serve him well here, we think, as a couple of the other entrants have quite a bit of zip as well. He’s trying turf for the first time -- his maiden win was on dirt -- but he is by American Pharoah, whose progeny have shown an affinity for grass, and he is trained by Richard Mandella, who is an ace with turf horses in general, and horses switching to it after running on dirt. He’s been working brilliantly in the mornings; add it up, and we are going to the windows: we will bet Forbidden Kingdom to win at 2-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 5, $40 to win on 4-Forbidden Kingdom.

Santa Anita Park, Race 6, 6:30 pm ET

Grade 2 Chandelier Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Old FIllies

This is the time of the year when many wondrous things happen, and among the turning leaves and the golden October sunlight are 2-year-olds stretching out in distance. That is what we have here, as most of the seven fillies entered in the Chandelier have competed in sprints. As a group, they’ve been quite impressive in shorter races, but the trick is figuring out which one is going to carry that form to this longer distance, and we think it just might be 5-Desert Dawn, who is one of the two in the field who has already run around two turns: she broke her maiden in a mile race at Del Mar on Aug. 26, and did so with a strong late rally. We see a similar result here, a fast pace that will play right into her late-running style, and at 15-1, that makes her a very tempting play. We will bet her to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 6, $30 to win on 5-Desert Dawn.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 7:00 pm ET

Grade 2 Eddie D. Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

The Eddie D. is a terrific betting race, and it is one that is noteworthy for more than just pari-mutuel reasons: it marks the return of racing on Santa Anita’s unique and iconic downhill turf course, which was closed in 2019 due to concerns about horse breakdowns, but which has been deemed sufficiently safe for races to resume on it. Seeing a field, like the nine who will line up here, sprinting down the hill is a sight to warm the cockles of the heart of even the most hardened horseplayer. Its return is something to savor.

The pick is East Coast invader 9-Snapper Sinclair. The Steve Asmussen trainee comes off a sharp win in a stakes race at Kentucky Downs, and while he will not get the same kind of trip in this spot -- he got the lead in Kentucky, but will have to stalk here -- he is in good form, and has shown the ability to win from off the pace in the past. Snapper Sinclair looks poised to run a big race; we will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 9-Snapper Sinclair.

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 7:29 pm ET
Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds

Seven juvenile colts go in the American Pharoah. The favorite is 1-Corniche, a Bob Baffert trainee who broke his maiden in eye-popping fashion at Del Mar on Sept. 4; he earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure for that race, which is off the charts for 2-year-olds, especially in a career debut.

But that race was at 5 ½ furlongs, this is at a mile and a sixteenth, and it is no guarantee that he will be able to carry that form to this longer distance. At a short price -- he’s 6/5 on the morning line, but will likely be something like 2/5 at post time -- we think he’s a play-against.

We like 4-Oviatt Class. Unlike the favorite, he has already shown that he can handle the distance, as he broke his maiden in his last start in a mile race at Del Mar last month. He will need to improve off that effort to win this, but we think a step forward is very likely, as this will be his fourth career start, and each of his previous races has been better than the one before. Look for him to be mid-pack early, and rolling late. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $40 to win on 4-Oviatt Class.

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

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