Racing at Fair Grounds.

Racing at Fair Grounds.

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Garrity's Friday 1.7 Dad's Hat Happy Hour Horse Racing Picks: Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Santa Anita

First post 4:05 pm EST. Last post 4:35 pm. Let it rye-d.

With the Northeast a winter wonderland, and an overnight snowstorm having caused the cancellation of racing at Aqueduct this afternoon, we are looking South and West for the races that comprise this Friday installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. It’s the first one of the new year, and we have plays in four races at four tracks, in Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, and California. We expect fast dirt and firm turf for all, so pour yourself three fingers of one of the fine, hand-crafted concoctions from our friends at Dad’s Hat Rye, and let’s go.

Fair Grounds, Race 5, 4:05 pm ET

$30,000 Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

This dirt sprint for $30,000 claimers drew a field of seven. We’re all in on the one on the outside, 7-Irish Hokie, who was claimed for $8,000 two back by trainer Matt Shirer, who ran him on the turf, where he ran fifth in a race that appears to have been a warmup for this spot. Shirer is good with horses moving from turf to dirt, with a 21% win rate, and we consider his placement of Irish Hokie – he bought him for $8k, and is running him for $30k – a positive sign. Look for Irish Hokie to win with a pace-pressing trip. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 5, $40 to win on 7-Irish Hokie.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:11 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

This first-level allowance for females drew a field of nine. We’re against the favorite, second-time starter 9-Join the Dots, a 4-year-old filly who could win, but who will be overbet partly because of her excellent pedigree (she’s by Medaglia d’Oro, out of a Distorted Humor mare, and sold for $700,000 as a yearling), partly for her human connections (she’s trained by Shug McGaughey, and will be ridden by Javier Castellano), and partly because the way she ran in her lone career start, when she won a maiden race at Belmont Park in October. There’s nothing wrong with her except that her odds will be too low, especially since her maiden win was not especially fast, and that makes her a play-against.

We are taking a shot with 2-Confident. She is also a 4-year-old filly, and while her pedigree may not be quite as glittering as the favorite’s, we think it’s good: she’s by Tonalist, out of a Giant’s Causeway mare. What makes us fancy her is a change in surfaces: she has so far run exclusively on turf and synthetic, but in this spot will try conventional dirt for the first time. We think she has a chance to be quite good on it, and that makes her 6-1 number look positively juicy, especially since she, unlike many turf and synthetic runners, has some speed, which always plays better on dirt. We will bet her to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Confident.

Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 4:19 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A dozen fillies and mare maidens line up for the 7th at Oaklawn Park. We like 6-Wings of an Angel, a first-time starter with a good pedigree and an excellent pattern of morning workouts the first two weeks. Though it’s always somewhat of a guess how horses will run in their first career start, we expect Wings of an Angel to show some early zip, and from there, the question will be whether she is good enough. We think the answer will be yes, which makes us eager to take her 4-1 price to the windows. We will play her to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 6-Wings of an Angel.

Santa Anita, Race 3, 4:35 pm ET

$25,000 Claiming, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 4 & Up

Nine turf claimers line up for the 3rd at Santa Anita. While we normally advise playing against class droppers, we are making an exception for 9-Keystone Field, who is in for a tag for the first time in his career, having run previously only in allowance and maiden special weight races. While we generally view this kind of class drop as a negative sign, with Keystone Field, it makes sense: He’s 7 now, old for a racehorse, and as a gelding, he has no residual value as a breeder. The question is presumably whether to retire him or keep him running, and it looks like his connections have decided to run him, and to do so at a level at which he can be competitive. And because he is trained by Richard Mandella, who cares for his horses as well as any trainer on the planet, we can be confident that Keystone Field is healthy and sound. If so, we think he demolishes this field, and therefore will bet him to win at 8/5. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 3, $50 to win on 9-Keystone Field.

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

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