Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour picks races at Aqueduct, Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, Santa Anita

Racing at Aqueduct.

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Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour picks races at Aqueduct, Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, Santa Anita

First race is 3:57 pm EST. Last race is 4:37 pm. Let it rye-d.

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It has felt like spring the past few days here on the East Coast of the United States, but the equinox is still a bit more than a month away, and a look at today’s entries across the continent is a reminder that are still in deep winter: The races today will be run at the tracks that sustain the sport through the dark months.

So we will be thinking, if not living, spring in today’s installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping, which features five races at five tracks in about 40 minutes’ time. It’s an all-dirt lineup today, and we expect a fast track in all of them, so pour yourself three fingers of one of the delicious, hand-crafted concoctions from our friends at Dad’s Hat – we like the Pennsylvania Straight Rye, served straight, and neat – settle into your luckiest easy chair, and let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 7, 3:57 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, New York-bred Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Seven go in today’s featured race at the Big A, a second-level allowance for state-bred females. We like 6-Epona’s Dream, a stretch-runner who has been unfortunate in her last two starts, both of which had a dawdling early pace that muted her late kick. We think that will not be the case today, as the presence of a couple of speedsters should ensure robust early fractions, and should set the table for Epona’s Dream to get up late. She may be last early, but we think she will be in front when it matters; we will bet Epona’s Dream to win at 6-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Epona’s Dream.

Oaklawn Park, Race 5, 4:03 pm ET

$30,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

The maiden races at Oaklawn Park are the best in the country this time of year, and the field of ten here, all of whom are in for a $30,000 tag, is a good example why: It’s a terrific betting race. We like 9-Pregame, who has yet to win in seven career starts, but he has hit the board in three of them, and today makes the biggest class drop in racing, going from Maiden Special Weight to maiden claiming company. His best races have been at this mile distance, and on dirt; he simply looks better than the rest. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 5, $40 to win on 9-Pregame.

Fair Grounds, Race 5, 4:05 pm ET

Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Louisiana-bred 3-Year-Old Fillies

Eight state-breds sophomore fillies line up for the 5th in the Big Easy. 4-Royal O’Haigain has three things going for her: she gets class relief here, having last run against open company (i.e. horses bred in other states) and in a stakes race; she is a stalker in a race whose shape should favor that running style; and she starts for Brandan Walsh, a skilled trainer is good at placing horses, and who here seems to have found a good spot for her. Add it up, and Royal O’Haigain is going to the winner’s circle, and we are going to the windows: we will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 5, $35 to win on 4-Royal O’Haigain.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:11 pm ET

Starter Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

This starter allowance in South Florida drew a field of seven. 5-Smiling Teufels is a strong play: the 4-year-old should get a dream stalking trip, sitting just behind pacesetters who are likely to hang around until the finish; he should get first jump on the closers, moving to the front at the top of the stretch, and from that spot, be able to hold off the closers late. We will bet Smiling Teufels to win at 3-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Smiling Teufels.

Santa Anita Park, Race 2, 4:37 pm ET

$25,000 Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Seven claimers go in the 2nd at Santa Anita. One of them, 5-Too Late, has been running in allowance races, against tougher horses, but has little to show for it: he finished far back in each of his last three starts. But he has been racing frequently enough that he seems to be both fit and sound, and in this spot he faces a far, far weaker group here than he has grown used to facing. He has just one win in 15 career starts, but he seems to have found a spot where he can find the second victory that he has been chasing in vain for the past 20 months. We will bet Too Late to win at 3-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 2, $40 to win on 5-Too Late.

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

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