Garrity's Friday 1.14 Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks Aqueduct, Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream

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Garrity's Friday 1.14 Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks Aqueduct, Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream

First race 3:50 pm EST. Last race goes off at 4:42 pm. Let it rye-d.

Here in the Northeastern United States, the weekend weather forecast is ominous, with a powerful winter storm supposed to slide up the coast Sunday into Monday. The gray skies, and the wind, cold rain, and snow, seem to be an apt metaphor for the state of the world, with the bad news seemingly ubiquitous and unrelenting, and good news harder to find than an overlay in a five-horse field.

But horse racing, this great sport, allows us to escape all of that, for a brief period of time, at least, and we’ll gladly take that respite, as today we have another Friday installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. This afternoon, we have plays in five races at four tracks, all of which go off in less than an hour’s time. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so pour yourself a glass of one of the fine, hand-crafted concoctions from our friends at Dad’s Hat Rye, and let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:50 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, New York-breds 4 & Up

Today’s featured race at the Big A goes as Race 8, and it’s a second-level allowance for state-breds. It drew a field of ten. We like a horse at a big price, 7-No Salt, who stretches out to this one-turn mile distance after winning a 6 ½ furlong sprint in his last start, and whose come-from-behind running style should be an asset in a race that on paper looks like it should have a very fast early pace. He will be well back early; we think he will be first late, and that makes his 15-1 morning line number too good to pass up. We will bet him to win. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $35 to win on 7-No Salt.

Oaklawn Park, Race 6, 3:51 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Nine sophomore colts go in this allowance in Arkansas. We like 4-Chasing Time, a Steve Asmussen trainee who took a few tries to break his maiden, which he did two starts back, at Churchill Downs in November. He tried winners for the first time in his last, and while he did not win, he did run well, finishing second behind a runaway victor, and we think he should improve off that effort, especially since he has a big advantage in early speed over the rest of this group. Look for Chasing Time to go right to the front, and to take this race in wire-to-wire fashion; we will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 6, $40 to win on 4-Chasing Time.

Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 4:19 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Today’s 7th at Oaklawn features a full field of twelve 3-year-old fillies, and it’s a terrific betting race, as the group is pretty evenly matched. We like 4-Awesome Taylor, who makes her first start for trainer Rene Amescua after two races as a juvenile in Southern California. She ran well in both starts last year, and seems poised to improve in this spot, which makes her a major contender. She has some speed, and should be pressing the pace from the start; we will bet her to win at 8-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Awesome Taylor.

Fair Grounds, Race 6, 4:35 pm ET

$50,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Nine maidens go in the 6th in New Orleans. We like 3-Zen, who makes the biggest drop of racing, going from the Maiden Special Weight level to maiden claiming company. She hasn’t shown much in her two career starts, but horses, especially young horses like Zen, have a tendency to wake up, to improve significantly, when facing lesser company. The dictionary definition of “zen” contains references to calm attentiveness, and actions guided more by intuition than by conscious effort; this is a pretty good description of going to the windows to cash a ticket. We think Zen will provide some zen of the pari-mutuel variety, and will consequently bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 6, $35 to win on 3-Zen.

Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:42 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Florida-bred Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Seven Florida-breds line up for this dirt sprint. We like 1-Freak, who won the last time she ran at this distance, back in October, and who should get a good trip today, sitting just behind a couple of faint-hearted speedballs, ready to pounce when the pacesetters begin to slow down in deep stretch. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 1-Freak.

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

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