Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby and 3 other races from Gulfstream, Oaklawn
We’re fully in the throes of Kentucky Derby fever today, as two of the most significant prep races, the Florida and Arkansas Derbies, will be run at Gulfstream and Oaklawn Parks, respectively. The racing today has it all: younger horses, older horses, dirt, turf, a filly running against the boys in the Arkansas Derby… it’s a great day to be a fan of the world’s greatest sport. We have plays in five stakes today, and we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Let’s go.
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 3:37 pm ET
Grade 2 Pan American Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 4 & Up
Gulfstream Park’s turf course has become something of a joke, with its bias toward speed so prevalent that it is frequently the condition of the course, rather than the horses, that dictates winners. Put bluntly: deep closers, who do so well in turf races at other tracks, simply cannot win at Gulfstream.
This trend makes the pick long shot 2-Mid Day Image, who is a cinch to get the early lead, and should do so while running quite comfortable early fractions. We think that from that advantageous early position, the speed-favoring nature of the turf at Gulfstream, will carry Mid Day Image all the way around the track, despite the fact that he’s never run this far before. We will bet him to win at 12-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Mid Day Image.
Gulfstream Park, Race 12, 5:17 pm ET
Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
Seven go in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. We’re playing against the favorite, 7-Kathleeen O, who is a fine filly, undefeated in three career starts, but who will be a minuscule price, and who will be an underlay, as her closing running style, which will probably be an asset in the Kentucky Oaks, will be a liability today.
We like 2-Catchie. She showed a new dimension in her last start, when she led in wire-to-wire fashion to break her maiden at Turfway Park. That race was on a synthetic racing surface, and because her effort in it was so much better than her prior races, it is fair to wonder whether the jump forward was a result of the surface. We don’t think so: she has the looks to us of a filly who has come into her own physically of late, as indicated by her terrific morning works the past two weeks, and she looks like she is poised for a big run today. And she has early speed, which will be a major asset in a race whose early pace should be moderate. We think Catchie jumps forward today, and will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 12, $40 to win on 2-Catchie.
Oaklawn Park, Race 9, 5:40 pm ET
Grade 3 Oaklawn Park Mile, 1 mile, Dirt, 4 & Up
Ten older horses go to the gate for the Oaklawn Park Mile. We hate the chalk, 4-Cezanne, who has racked up wins, and gaudy speed figures, beating up on small and weak fields in California, but who will find the waters here much, much deeper than he has grown accustomed to. He will probably be a pace factor, but we do not see him around at the finish.
We like 8-Fulsome, and we like him quite a bit, despite the fact that he’s coming off a layoff, having last run in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx in September. He had a fine season last year, winning five of eight starts, and while he was a cut below the best colts of his generation, he has the looks to us of a horse who will be a force in the handicap division this year. We view it as a very positive sign that trainer Brad Cox starts him here, in a Grade 2 stakes race, for his 2022 debut, rather than in a less demanding spot like an allowance race. A step forward off his form from last year makes Fulsome the horse to beat – and that is exactly what we are expecting. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 8-Fulsome.
Gulfstream Park, Race 14, 6:38 pm ET
Grade 1 Florida Derby, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
Eleven colts line up for the Florida Derby. We like 3-Simplification, who won the Fountain of Youth in fast time four weeks ago. Before that, he finished second in the Holy Bull, to 7-White Abarrio, who is also in the field; we think that today Simplification is going to turn the tables, as the name of the game with 3-year-olds this time of year is improvement, and Simplification seems to us to have moved forward the past few months more than White Abarrio. And his figures, both speed and pace, mark him as a better horse at the moment. We think Simplification wins the Florida Derby, and will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 14, $40 to win on 3-Simplification.
Oaklawn Park, Race 12, 7:35 pm ET
Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
A field of nine lines up for a ticket to Louisville in the Arkansas Derby. Eight of them are colts, but one is a filly: 6-Secret Oath, who looked sensational winning the Honeybee on Feb. 26. We’ve seen some wise-guy chatter this week from handicappers planning to bet against her – and we hope they all follow through on that, because Secret Oath looks to us to be strictly the one to beat. The speed figure she earned in the Honeybee is probably good enough to win here, but we actually think she was better that day than the numbers indicate, as she had to overcome some pretty significant traffic trouble during the race, and in doing so showed both toughness and athleticism. Both will serve her well here, and throw in the fact that she is probably markedly better now than she was five weeks ago, and we’re on board: get ready for a lot of talk about a filly running in the Kentucky Derby, because Secret Oath is going to start that conversation by winning this race. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 12, $50 to win on 6-Secret Oath.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.