Garrity's New Year's Day Stakes picks Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Santa Anita: Smarty Jones, Sham, more

Hagler is Garrity's pick in the Jerome.

NYRA

Garrity's New Year's Day Stakes picks Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Santa Anita: Smarty Jones, Sham, more

First post is 3:50 pm EST.

Happy New Year to all. While we are not a particular fan of this holiday, we note that it is important in our little horsey corner of the world, as today is the common birthday of all racing Thoroughbreds. Though they are normally born later, with the peak foaling months February through April, by common agreement, all racehorses, no matter the date on which they actually came into the world, turn a year older today.

The changing of the year is also when 3-year-olds, who were 2-year-olds yesterday, begin to take center stage. This includes the ramping up of the Triple Crown trail: there are three very early Kentucky Derby prep races today, the Jerome at Aqueduct, the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn, and the Sham at Santa Anita. In fact, five of our six plays on this Saturday afternoon feature 3-year-year olds; we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, except where noted below, so let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:50 pm ET
Grade 3 Jerome Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

It’s going to be a rainy day at the Big A, and the Jerome, which drew a field of eight newly-minted 3–year-olds, will be run in the slop. The wet conditions make the pick 8-Hagler, who has sprinter’s speed, a very good wet-track pedigree, and an outside post, which is a big advantage, as it will allow him to avoid having to deal with kickback, with the mud and water kicked up by the hooves of other horses in the race. We have questions about his ability to get longer distances, especially on a fast track, but the sloppy going, combined with the fact that mile races at Aqueduct are contested around one turn and are frequently run more like sprints, will mitigate any distance limitations he may have. Look for him to contest the pace right from the start; we will bet Hagler to win at 4-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 8-Hagler.

Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:11 pm ET

$100,000 Dania Beach Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

Eight go in in the Dania Beach. The pick is 6-No Nay Franklin, who has a world-class turf pedigree, being by premier international grass stallion No Nay Never, but whose last race was on dirt: it was the a minor stakes race at Gulfstream that was rained off the sod and onto the main track. He acquitted himself quite nicely that day, finishing second, just a head behind the winner and over six lengths clear of the colt who ran third; we think that effort will set him up quite nicely for a big run today. He’s 10-1 on the morning line, but will likely be shorter at post time; we will bet him to win anyway. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 6-No Nay Franklin.

Gulfstream Park, Race 10, 4:42 pm ET
$150,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The Mucho Macho Man drew a field of six. The pick is 6-Graphic Detail, a Bill Mott trainee who has just one career start, but he made it a good one, breaking his maiden at first asking at Belmont Park in November. The outside post will help, but what will help him even more is that this is a very weak group. Look for him to press the pace early, move to the front at the top of the stretch, open up down the lane, and win going away. We will bet Graphic Detail to win at 5/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 6-Graphic Detail.

Oaklawn Park, Race 9, 5:13 pm ET

$250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The Smarty Jones drew a full field of fourteen, and that, plus the fact that it’s a deep and evenly matched group, makes it a terrific race to handicap, and the best race of the day to bet. We like 8-Vivar, who comes into this race off a layoff, having finished sixth in his last start, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November. We think Vivar appears ready to move forward off that start, partly because of the time off and partly because he had a troubled trip in it, running wide throughout. But what really makes us fancy his chances today is pace: we think the early fractions of the Smarty Jones will be fast, which should set up Vivar’s late charge quite nicely. And it doesn’t hurt that he is trained by Brad Cox, who always seems to win these kinds of races. We will bet Vivar to win at 8-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 8-Vivar.

Santa Anita Park, Race 6, 5:35 pm ET

Grade 2 Joe Hernandez Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up

NIne go in the Joe Hernandez, which we are expecting to be run on turf with a bit of give in it, something on the order of good. Partly because of the going, and partly because we are expecting a very swift early pace, we like 4-Delaware, who makes his first start for new trainer Paddy Gallagher after a lengthy 2020 campaign on the New York circuit for Chad Brown. This is a horse who can run well when presented with the right pace setup, as he showed winning the Danger’s Hour Stakes at Aqueduct last April, and while we think the early pace will set up his late charge, what makes us like even more here is the distance: we think he will find Santa Anita’s unique and iconic downhill turf course much to his liking. Look for him to be well back early, and flying late; we will bet Delaware to win at 6-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 6, $35 to win on 4-Delaware.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 6:05 pm ET

Grade 3 Sham Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The Sham drew a field of just five, but it’s an interesting group, with the two favorites both trained by Bob Baffert, and while they are logical contenders, we are going against both of them, and are doing so with 1-Mackinnon, who switches to dirt here after a pretty good juvenile campaign during which he raced almost exclusively on grass. He appears to have quite a bit of ability, as he showed with a third-place finish in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf in his last start, but what makes us favor him today is is pedigree: he’s by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and while the Pharoah has emerged as a quite good sire of turf horses, the maternal side of Mackinnon’s pedigree (he’s out of a Scat Daddy mare) has us thinking that conventional dirt is where he belongs. So do his recent works, which were on dirt and very fast. All this makes him extremely dangerous, and makes his 3-1 morning line price in the Sham quite appealing. We will bet Mackinnon to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 1-Mackinnon.

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

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