Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Appalachian, Madison, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby, more
It’s a big day today, with three key Kentucky Derby preps to be run: the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Blue Grass at Keeneland, and the Santa Anita Derby out West. But there are other good races in addition to those featuring 3-year-olds, the sport’s glamor division, and we have three of those as well, for a six-pack of Saturday stakes action, with action from coast to coast. Let’s go.
Keeneland, Race 6, 3:20 pm ET
Grade 2 Appalachian Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies
Eight sophomore fillies line up to run a mile on turf in the Appalachian. We like 4-Dolce Zel, a French-bred who comes off a strong win in the Florida Oaks a month ago. She beat a pretty good field that day, which is nice; what is even better is the way she did it, running mid-pack early and finishing very strongly late. That was her first North American start, and that makes an improvement today highly likely; it also means that the rest of this field is running for second money. We will bet Dolce Zel to win at 5/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 6, $50 to win on 4-Dolce Zel.
Keeneland, Race 7, 3:55 pm ET
Grade 1 Madison Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
A field of ten older fillies and mares lines up for the Madison. The pick is 3-Lady Rocket, a Brad Cox trainee whose last race, a win in the Go For Wand at Aqueduct, was sensational: she won by 9 lengths, earning big speed and pace figures in the process. That race was in December, so she’s coming off a layoff, but Cox is good at horses off the bench (30% win rate), and Lady Rocket’s workouts the past few weeks were very fast, a suggestion that she is so ready to run that she is practically breathing fire. She checks all the handicapping boxes, so we will bet Lady Rocket to win at 5/2, and we will loosen the rubber band around the bankroll a bit to do so. The bet: Keeneland, Race 7, $60 to win on 3-Lady Rocket.
Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:11 pm ET
$100,000 Danger’s Hour Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up
Turf racing has returned to New York, and what a good thing it is: The Danger’s Hour, which will be run over a mile on the inner turf course at the Big A, drew an enticing field of eight. We’re expecting the ground to have a bit of give to it, and we’re also expecting a fast early pace, and because of both factors, we like 4-Therapist, who is coming off a layoff, having last run at Belmont Park in November, but who has a strong late kick, and has run well on softer turf before. He will probably be last early, but we think he will be first where it matters; we will bet Therapist to win ant 6-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $35 to win on 4-Therapist.
Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:45 pm ET
Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
Eight Kentucky Derby hopefuls line for the Wood Memorial. We’re all in on the favorite, 5-Morello, who was last seen winning the Gotham in dominating fashion on March 5. While there is always a question whether a 3-year-old colt this time of year can replicate such a good performance, we think that another strong effort by Morello is likely today, as on paper it looks like the race will be run in a manner that will play right into his pace-pressing running style. We have misgivings about his ability to handle the adversity he is almost certain to face in Louisville in four weeks, but that is an issue for another day; this afternoon, Morello is going to punch his ticket for the Run for the Roses by triumphing in the Wood. We will bet him to win at 8/5. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Morello.
Keeneland, Race 9, 5:10 pm ET
Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The field of the Blue Grass is a good one, with a deep group of eight going to the post. Partly because of the makeup of the group, and partly because of the way that the main track at Keeneland tends to favor speed, we like 3-Trademark to spring a mammoth upset. His last two starts were abysmal – he was well-beaten in two stakes races at Tampa Bay Downs – but Trademark does have quite a bit of early speed, enough that we think he will be able to get the early lead quite comfortably, and he just may last far longer up front in Kentucky than he did in Florida, especially since he has the pedigree to handle this nine furlong distance, and he did well running as far as a mile and a sixteenth as a 2-year-old last year. Trademark is 30-1 on the morning line, and may be higher at post time; we will bet that he blows up the tote board, and will play him to win and to place. The bets: Keeneland, Race 9, $25 to win/$15 to place on 3-Trademark.
Santa Anita Park, Race 6, 5:45 pm ET
Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The Santa Anita Derby is a pretty good illustration of the current state of Thoroughbred racing in California: there’s a small field, and the specter of Bob Baffert looms over everything. For even though Baffert does not officially train any of the six entrants, having started serving a 90-day suspension earlier this week, three of them were in his barn until just a few days ago.
The hot favorites here are 4-Messier, who’s even money off a 15-length romp in the Bob Lewis on Feb. 6, and 3-Forbidden Kingdom, who is a rare beast, a talented California 3-year-old not trained by Baffert – he starts for Richard Mandella – and who is 6/5 after a very fast win in the San Felipe a month ago.
Both Messier and Forbidden Kingdom have abundant speed, and have used it to dominate their races from start to finish. But because they have similar running styles, we are playing against both, and we are doing so with 5-Win the Day, a stone-cold closer from the Doug O’Neill barn, who came from well back to win his last start on March 6. That was a maiden race, so there’s obviously an enormous jump in class stepping up to this Grade 1, but if there is a speed duel on the front end, Win the Day seems likely to pick up the pieces, and at 20-1, he’s a much better wager than eating chalk with either of the colts with more obvious credentials. We will bet Win the Day to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 6, $35 to win on 5-Win the Day.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.