Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks 3 at Santa Anita, 2 at Belmont, including the Champagne and Woodward
Medina Spirit, still listed as the winner of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, runs today at Santa Anita. Garrity is picking against him.@KentuckyDerby on Twitter

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks 3 at Santa Anita, 2 at Belmont, including the Champagne and Woodward

The Champagne is up first, at 4:40 pm EDT.

We are moving into the heart of the fall racing season, the best time of the year in the sport, as is shown by the good stakes races on both coasts today. We have plays today, all in graded stakes, two at Belmont Park in the East, and three at Santa Anita out West. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, so let’s go.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:40 pm ET
Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds

Just six juvenile colts were entered in the Champagne, but it’s a good race, despite the small field, as five of them look very promising (the lone outsider, 4-Kavod, is 50-1, and has no chance). We think this race will be a useful reminder of the importance of trips: two of the favorites, 2-My Prankster and 3-Jack Christopher, are coming off debut maiden wins that were fast and impressive, but both of them had absolutely perfect trips in them. On the other hand, 1-Wit seemed to take a step backward in his last, when he finished second at 3-5 in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 6, earning a significantly lower Beyer Speed Figure (72) than he had winning the Sanford in July (90).

We think Wit is still the real deal, and his seemingly bad performance in the Hopeful can be explained by his trip: he blew the break, rushed to be close to the leaders, and then faltered late, when the energy he expended catching during the first quarter mile caught up to him. We think that run will do him a world of good, from both an experience and fitness standpoint, and we think he is the one to beat here. And because of that superficially bad race on his running line, he’s 2-1, which is a pretty generous price. We will bet him to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 1-Wit.

Belmont Park, Race 10, 5:45 pm ET

Grade 1 Woodward Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

The Woodward drew a field of six older horses. We like 3-Art Collector, who seems to have regained his form since moving to Bill Mott’s barn over the summer, winning stakes races at Saratoga and Mountaineer last month. We think he’s probably a cut below some of the other entrants in terms of overall ability, especially 7/5 morning line favorite 2-Maxfield, who’s excellent, but Art Collector has a pace advantage here, as he has speed, and the rest of the field does not. We see him in the lead, running very comfortable early fractions, and he has shown in the past that when he can set the pace while running comfortably, he is very difficult to catch. We think Art Collector wins the Woodward in wire-to-wire fashion, and will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 3-Art Collector.

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 7:00 pm ET

Grade 2 Santa Anita Spring Championship, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Six go in the Santa Anita Sprint. Partly because we like speed, and partly because speed played very well in Arcadia yesterday, the pick is 2-Vertical Threat, who appears to have a big edge in early zip over the rest of the field. We think he goes right to the front end, and stays there all the way around the track. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Vertical Threat.

Santa Anita Park, Race 9, 7:30 pm ET

Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A field of nine older turf females lines up to run a mile and an eighth in the Rodeo Drive. We like a filly at a price, 2-Fast Jet Court, a 4-year-old whose first nine career starts were in her native Brazil, where she won multiple Group 1 races. She made her U.S. debut in the John C. Mabee at Del Mar last month, and while she did not win that race, she did OK, overcoming a slow start and rallying into a slow pace to finish fourth. We think she will improve for trainer Mike McCarthy in her second North American start, and will show that her late kick can be quite effective north of the equator. Look for her to be toward the rear early, and flying late. We will bet her to win at 10-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 9, $30 to win on 2-Fast Jet Court.

Santa Anita Park, Race 10, 8:00 pm ET

Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

The headliner in the Awesome Again, among the eight who line up for it, is 5-Medina Spirit, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby, a victory that may or may not be voided after he failed a post-race drug test. We like the fact that he’s in the field, not because we think he will win, but because he’s sure to attract a lot of attention at the betting windows, which will inflate the prices on the rest of the horses in the field.

The pick is 7-Tripoli, who has found new life since trainer John Sadler moved him from turf to dirt in the spring. Since then, he’s won two of his three dirt starts, including the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, and finished second in the other. He has the looks of a good horse who at 4 years old is just hitting his stride, and he showed in June, when he won an allowance race on the Santa Anita dirt course, that he loves this racing surface. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 10, $40 to win on 7-Tripoli.

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

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