Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks Belmont, Oaklawn, Santa Anita and the Roxelana at Churchill Downs opening day
Cairama, shown last September at Belmont, runs today at Oaklawn. But Garrity doesn't think he's going to win.NYRA

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks Belmont, Oaklawn, Santa Anita and the Roxelana at Churchill Downs opening day

First post is 5:32 pm EDT.

We are now just one week from the Kentucky Derby, and in anticipation of the big day, we have plays in five races, from New York to Kentucky to Arkansas to Southern California. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, so let’s go.

Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:32 pm

$100,000 Elusive Quality Stakes, 7 furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up

A good and deep field of eleven lines up for the Elusive Quality, to be run at 7 furlongs on the Widener turf course at Belmont. We like a horse looking to rebound after a disappointing effort: it’s 8-Toro Strike, who was pretty good sprinting on the turf in Europe the past two years, but who was a bit of a disappointment in his first North American start, when he ran dead last in a minor stakes race at the Fair Grounds in February. We are drawing a line through that race, partly because horses sometimes falter in their first start on this side of the pond, and partly for the 5 ½ furlong distance, which is shorter than Toro Strike wants. He’s had time to acclimate, the 7 furlong distance and Belmont Park’s wide, sweeping turns should be right up his alley, and we think will allow Toro Strike to show his abilities, which are very real. At 6-1, we’re betting on it. We will play him to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 8-Toro Strike.

Oaklawn Park, Race 10, 6:10 pm ET

$150,000 Bachelor Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

A field of six sophomore colts lines up for the Bachelor, and it’s a fascinating race to handicap: as the two favorites, 3-Cairama and 5-Cogburn, who are 8/5 and 2-1 respectively, seem to be similar in overall ability, but they have earned their comparable speed figures in very different ways: Cogburn has blazing speed, and Cairiama is more of a pace-pressing type. We think Cogburn’s blazing early foot is going to be the difference in the race: We think he is going right to the front, and winning this race in wire-to-wire fashion. We will bet Cogburn to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 5-Cogburn.

Santa Anita, Race 10, 8:36 pm ET

Grade 2 Santa Margarita Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

A field of nine older fillies and mares lines up for the Santa Margarita. It’s a weak group, by Grade 2 standards, at least, so we are going to take a shot with 3-Blue Stripe, who won four of six races in her native Argentina at the start of her career, showing enough promise that she was thrown to the wolves in the Breeders Cup Distaff last November. She was overmatched and had a bad trip, and unsurprisingly finished far back; we are drawing a line through that race, partly because it was her first start north of the equator, but mostly because the competition Blue Stripe saw that day was miles tougher than what she will face here. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 10, $35 to win on 3-Blue Stripe.

Santa Anita, Race 11, 9:09 pm ET

Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

Seven go in the Whittingham. The early pace looks fast, which makes the pick 4-Dicey Mo Chara, an English-bred 4-year-old, and Leonard Powell trainee, who has a good late kick, and is in good form, coming off a runner-up finish in the San Luis Rey on March 12. He should also thrive at this distance: he’s been running longer and shorter races, but this mile and a quarter trip should be right up his alley. This is another abysmally bad field for a graded stakes race, but Dicey Mo Chara looks the best of the group. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 11, $40 to win on 4-Dicey Mo Chara.

Churchill Downs, Race 9, 10:11 pm ET

$160,000 Roxelana Overnight Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Churchill Downs both opens for the season, and kicks off Derby week, with a card under the lights tonight. The Roxelana, which drew a field of five, is the feature. Sometimes races are hard to handicap, but this one is easy: 5-Caribbean Caper simply appears superior to the rest of the group. Her morning works leading to this start have been sensational, a suggestion that she is ready to run, and she also gets the tactical advantage of the outside post position. Add it up, and Caribbean Caper is your winner here. We will bet her to win at 8/5. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $50 to win on 5-Caribbean Caper.

That’s all for today. We will be away for a few days, taking a brief freshening for Derby week, so until the next time, enjoy the races, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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