Garrity's Sunday 1.9 Horse Racing Picks for Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn and Santa Anita – 2 stakes
We have plays in four races today, with a pair of stakes on each coast sandwiched around a claiming race in New Orleans, and an allowance race in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, so let’s go.
Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:50 pm ET
$100,000 Rego Park Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, New York-bred 3-Year-Olds
Nine state-bred 3-year-old colts go in the Rego Park. We see a very fast early pace, so fast that it should set up the late charge of 6-Doin’ittherightway, the best closer in the field. This modestly-bred colt began his career at Finger Lakes, where he did quite well breaking his maiden and winning a minor stakes; and we think his last start, which was in an allowance race at Aqueduct on Dec. 16, was better than it looks: he got stuck behind slow early fractions that favored the front-runners, and still managed to close for second. We expect a more favorable pace scenario for him today, which makes him a contender, we think; and that makes his 12-1 morning line odds look positively juicy. We will bet him to win. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-Doin’ittherightway.
Fair Grounds, Race 6, 4:45 pm ET
$17,500 Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up
An evenly matched group of seven lines up for this race in the Big Easy. We are taking a shot with a big price, 6-War Chest, whose recent form is terrible, but who has a world-class turf pedigree (he’s by top stallion War Front, out of a Ghostzapper mare), and who did run some races in Chicago last year that would be competitive with this group. He’s had some time off and we are hoping that the rest has him ready to run here, and he may have a pace advantage over his rivals, as he has some speed, the rest of the field does not. We will bet War Chest to win at 15-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 6, $35 to win on 6-War Chest.
Oaklawn, Race 8, 4:46 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 3/16 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
Today’s 8th at Oaklawn is a third-level allowance, for older horses who have not won three races (excluding maiden and claiming races, which don’t count). This is a tough level, and that, combined with the fact that the group of horses that winters in Hot Springs is probably the best in the country, would have us expecting the field in a race like this to look like a stakes race. And that is indeed the case, as seven of the nine entrants come into this race having last run in a stakes.
Most of these stakes runners are coming off poor efforts, which makes sense: if their last race was a good stakes try, they’d be running in another stakes, rather than taking a step down to an allowance. So the trick to handicapping a race like this is to look at the company these horses have been facing, to see if Horse A’s 5th-place finish in his last start is better or worse than Horse B’s 8th-place run in his last try.
We think this angle favors 4-Night Ops, and favors him in a big way. In his last five starts, all of which were stakes races, the winners were Maxfield, Independence Hall, Max Player, Art Collector, and Dr. Post – these are some of the best dirt horses currently in training, and we think that Night Ops is going to find the lesser competition here to be positively invigorating, like a high school basketball player who can’t get off the bench in a varsity game, but who plays in a CYO game and scores 40 points. We think Night Ops runs this field off their feet this afternoon, and the only appropriate thing to do with this opinion is take it to the windows: we will bet Night Ops to win at 5/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $50 to win on 4-Night Ops.
Santa Anita, Race 7, 6:35 pm ET
Grade 3 Las Cienegas Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
The 2022 edition of the Grade 3 Las Cienegas, which is run down the hillside turf course at Santa Anita, drew a field of eight fillies and mares. It’s a wide open field, and a good betting race, and our pick is a new face in Southern California, 8-Gold for Kitten, who makes her first start for trainer John Sadler, after running pretty competitively last year in Kentucky, Virginia, and Ontario. She comes off a layoff here, having last run at Woodbine in October, but we think she will be ready to fire today, and though her recent races have been at longer distances, we think she is going to like going 6 ½ furlongs down the hill. Look for her to be toward the rear early, and rolling late; we will bet her to win at 8-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 8-Gold for Kitten.
That’s all for today. Until the next time, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.