Garrity's Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping: 3 stakes at Keeneland, plus Aqueduct, Oaklawn, Santa Anita
We do our Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping feature every week, but today’s installment is one of the best of the year, as this second Friday of April is opening day of the Keeneland spring meet, and the sensational card at Keeneland makes the quality of the races much better than we normally see on a weekday. To celebrate, we have plays in six races at three tracks, including three stakes from Kentucky, all of which go off in a bit more than an hour’s time. Kick off your shoes and make yourself comfortable, pour yourself a glass of one of the fine potables from our friends at Dad’s Hat Rye, and settle into your luckiest easy chair, because there is money to be made. We expect fast turf and firm turf in all races, except as noted below, so let’s go.
Keeneland, Race 7, 4:12 pm ET
$400,000 Lafayette Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The first of our trio of stakes at Keeneland is the Lafayette, a dirt sprint that drew a dozen runners. It’s a sensational race, from both a sporting and wagering perspective.
There are obvious contenders from big-name trainers, but we are going for a giant price, with 3-Old Homestead, who began his career in obscurity, at Delta Downs, where he triumphed in his first two career starts in eye-popping fashion, winning the two by an aggregate margin of over seventeen lengths. The figures he earned mark him as a contender in this spot, but what really makes us like his chances here is speed: Old Homestead is blazingly fast, seems a cinch to get the early lead, and because he’s coming from a second-tier track, we think the riders on the other horses in the field may fail to take him seriously, and just let him have it. That makes Old Homestead very dangerous to win the Lafayette on the front end – and he is 20-1 on the morning line. We will ride that bus to Overlay City, and bet him to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 7, $40 to win on 3-Old Homestead.
Keeneland, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET
Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds
Six go in the Transylvania, which we are expecting to be run on yielding turf. We’re all in on 4-Grand Sonata, who closed strongly to win his last two races, both of which were stakes at Gulfstream Park. A winning running line always looks good, but we think that Grand Sonata’s efforts in his last two starts were significantly better than they look on paper, as the Gulfstream turf played against closers all meet. On the grass at Keeneland, which plays much fairer, we think Grand Sonata is going to look like Superman coming out of the phone booth, especially since he seems well-suited to handle the soft going. Look for him to be flying late; we will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 8, $40 to win on 4-Grand Sonata.
Aqueduct, Race 8, 5:01 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, New York-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Eight state-breds line up for this second-level allowance at the Big A. Quite a bit of rain has fallen in New York the past few days, but we are expecting the track to dry out, and be fast, by the time the gates for this one open.
We also are expecting a rapid early pace, which should play right into the hands of 7-Ifihadachance, a stretch-running 6-year-old mare who has had buzzard’s luck in her two starts this year: in her first, the track came up muddy, which she did not like; in the second, the early fractions were slow, which muted her late charge. The shape of today’s race should be much more to her liking, which makes her 9/2 morning line number too good to pass up. We will bet her to win. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Ifihadachance.
Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 5:04 pm ET
Starter Allowance, 1 3/16 miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
This starter allowance in Hot Springs drew a field of seven. The pick is 1-Blueridge Mountain, who is in fine form, coming into this race off two consecutive wins at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and who should appreciate the mile and three-sixteenths distance. Look for him to be toward the rear early, behind what should be a slow early pace, to grind his way toward the front down the backstretch, and to win going away down the stretch. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 1-Blueridge Mountain.
Santa Anita, Race 3, 5:07 pm
$25,000 Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up
Eight hard-knocking claimers line up for the 3rd at Santa Anita. We’re going with a speed play, in the form of 7-Stanford Bay, who has been running, and running well, on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate in Northern California. He is the fastest horse in the field, but one of the advantages of drawing an outside post is that jockey Diego Herrera can use that speed tactically, rather than have to gun from the gate to avoid traffic trouble, as he’d have to do if he drew inside. Stanford Bay may get the early lead, or he may sit just off it; either way, he is going to the winner’s circle. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 3, $40 to win on 7-Stanford Bay.
Keeneland, Race 9, 5:16 pm ET
Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
The day’s best race is our last play: it’s the Ashland, a rare Friday Grade 1 that will see eight 3-year-old fillies go a mile and a sixteenth on the Keeneland main track. We like 2-Interstatedaydream, who showed a new dimension in her last start, when she beat a good allowance field at Oaklawn Park on March 13. That was her first start since last summer, and we like that she improved so significantly in her first start as a 3-year-old, and her first start around two turns. She had a very soft trip last time, from both a pace and a traffic standpoint, and she will almost certainly find the competition here much tougher, but she seems to have the talent to be able to handle it. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Interstatedaydream.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.