Garrity's Thanksgiving Stakes Picks: Horse Racing at Churchill Downs, Del Mar and Fair Grounds Opening Day
Racing at Fair Grounds.fairgroundsracing.com

Garrity's Thanksgiving Stakes Picks: Horse Racing at Churchill Downs, Del Mar and Fair Grounds Opening Day

Take a 40-minute break from food and football. First post 4:12 pm EST, last post 4:44 pm.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Another major track kicks off their season today: it is opening day at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. If the turkeys splayed on tables across the country are not enough of a reminder that winter is nigh, then horses running in circles at another winter circuit certainly will be. With Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Tampa Bay, and now the Fair Grounds all open for business, Santa Anita, whose traditional day-after-Christmas opener is a bit more than four weeks away, is the only major track yet to join the horsy party that will carry us through the year’s darkest months, and into spring.

There are four stakes today, and they comprise our plays: one at Churchill Downs, two at the Fair Grounds, and one at Del Mar. They all go off in about a half hour’s time, so if you’re looking for a diversion, an excuse to get away from your obnoxious brother-in-law, for a few minutes, hop on board -- we expect fast dirt and firm turf for all four, so let’s go.

Fair Grounds, Race 7, 4:12 pm ET

$150,000 Thanksgiving Classic Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

The race that leads us off today, appropriately enough, is the Thanksgiving Classic at the Fairgrounds. It drew a field of seven, and the pick is 4-Greeley and Ben, a 7-year-old gelding, and win machine, who has finished first in 16 of 26 career starts, including his last nine. These have mostly been at lesser ovals -- he spent the summer and fall at Prairie Meadows in Iowa and Remington Park in Oklahoma -- but speed figures do not lie, and he has consistently earned figs that mark him as a major contender here (as do his three wins last winter at Oaklawn Park). He has speed, and while his most effective style is to stalk, he can win on the front end if the riders on the other horses take back. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Greeley and Ben.

Churchill Downs, Race 11, 4:22 pm ET

Grade 2 Falls City Handicap, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Seven females go in the Falls City. The 9/5 morning line favorite, 6-Bonny South, has been running very well, earning good figures in a pair of Grade 1 races in her most recent starts, but she is a stretch-runner who needs a solid early pace to set up her late run. If the early fractions are slow, then her late charge will probably be ineffective, and that begs the question: will the shape of the race, from a pace standpoint, set up in favor of Bonny South?

We think the answer is yes. We see legitimate early fractions, which will set the table for Bonny South’s stretch run; that makes her strictly the one to beat. We will bet her to win at 9/5. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 11, $40 to win on 6-Bonny South.

Del Mar, Race 6, 4:33 pm ET

Grade 3 Red Carpet Handicap, 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A field of five lines up for the Red Carpet. 2-Luck is the 4/5 morning line favorite, and deservedly so, as she comes off a very good effort, when she finished just a head behind the winner, in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 2. But she is a bit too obvious for our tastes, especially at such a short price, and we think we have found a viable alternative in the form of 5-Nicest, who has a turf we like -- she’s by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, out of a Montjeu mare -- and who ran in some very tough races in Europe, including the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in Ireland, before being brought to the U.S. this summer. She disappointed in her lone American start, when she finished a well-beaten ninth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Cup at Keeneland last month, but we are willing to write that off because of condition of the turf course that day, which was yielding; we think she looks poised to run much better on the very firm turf she will get here. Nicest looks very live to us, and at 8-1, that makes her a very attractive play. Look for her to be rolling late; we will bet her to win. The bet: Del Mar, Race 6, $40 to win on 5-Nicest.

Fair Grounds, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET

$75,000 Joseph R. Peluso Memorial Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

The Peluso drew eleven entrants, and the big field makes it a terrific betting race. The pick is 5-Curly Ruth, who we see getting a very similar trip to her last two races, both of which she won: sitting mid-pack early, saving ground around the turns, and earning a trip to the winner’s circle with a strong run down the long Fair Grounds stretch. We will bet Curly Ruth to win at 7/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Curly Ruth.

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

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