Gunite blew away the field last August in the Hopeful but hasn't been the same since. Today he runs at Churchill Downs.
Gunite blew away the field last August in the Hopeful but hasn't been the same since. Today he runs at Churchill Downs.NYRA

Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Belmont, Monmouth

First post 3:50 pmEDT. Last post 4:48 pm. Let it Rye-d.

We are either in or approaching summer, depending on whether one defines the seasons in meteorological or astronomical terms, so we will split the difference, if only to harken back to our younger days, when summer couldn’t begin fast enough, and say it’s already here. Racing fans likewise have good reason to embrace the warmer months, as they feature the most eagerly awaited meetings, and many of the sport’s biggest individual races, of the entire year.

Five plays in five races, five handicapping puzzles to ponder as spring yields to summer, comprise today’s installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. They run from one end of the country to the other, from New York to the Jersey Shore to Kentucky to California, and they all go off in a bit less than an hour’s time. We expect a fast main track in the dirt races, but soft turf at Belmont and Monmouth, both of which saw rain overnight. So pour yourself a tumbler of one of the delightful libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat, settle into your favorite easy chair, and let’s go.

Churchill Downs, Race 7, 3:50 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Six line up for this allowance race in Louisville. It might as well be called the Second Chance Saloon, as the majority of the field comes into the race off disappointing efforts in stakes races. We like one of them: 2-Gunite, who was quite impressive as a juvenile last year, winning the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga in September, before something went wrong a month later in the Champagne at Belmont, where he finished a well-beaten fifth, and then went to the sidelines for an eleven-month break. But his recent workouts suggest that he is back, that he is sound and fit, and if Gunite shows up today, he should be able to handle this group. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 7, $40 to win on 2-Gunite.

Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:22 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

First-level allowance fillies, twelve of them, line up for this one-turn mile on the dirt. We’re against the favorite, 1-Cocktail Moments, who has talent, but who will almost certainly be overbert, probably wildly, as she comes off two non-threatening efforts in major Grade 1 races, the Kentucky Oaks and the Ashland Stakes. She could win, but she does not appear to be overwhelmingly superior to her rivals here, and at something like 3/5, that makes her an underlay, and a play-against.

We like 7-Olivia Darling. She last ran at Keeneland, where she finished second in an allowance race on April 22. That was a new career best for her in terms of figures, and it seems to us that trainer Graham Motion has her poised for another step forward today, which makes her a major threat, and at 10-1, a terrific wager. We will bet her to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Olivia Darling.

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

Starter Allowance, 6 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

A field of eight lines up in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains for the 2nd at Santa Anita. With most of the group having tried and failed at this starter allowance level, a few of them repeatedly, we are going with an animal who has not: it’s 3-Comradery, who was claimed for $50,000 out of his last start by new trainer Steve Knapp. He has a class edge on this field, having been running primarily in allowance races going back to last year, and while most of those races were at longer distances, we think he is quite capable at this 6 furlong distance. We also like the quick turnaround with him: he last ran on May 21, and the fact that Knapp wheels him back in just 13 days is a sign to us that Comradery is ready to fire. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 2, $40 to win on 3-Comradery.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:40 pm ET

Allowance, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

A field of ten goes to the gate for this first-level allowance at Belmont Park. We like 10-Q F Seventy Five, and we like him almost entirely because of pace: He is the only horse in the field with even a little bit of early speed. We think he will get the lead in this spot, and will do so quite easily, galloping through the first three-quarters of a mile, and with that head start, the rest of the field will not catch him. We see a wire job for Q F Seventy Five, and will therefore bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 10-Q F Seventy Five.

Monmouth Park, Race 7, 4:48 pm ET

Allowance, 5 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

Eight older horses go in this allowance at Monmouth. The pick is 5-J P Hellish, who spent the winter running in claiming races at Gulfstream Park, but who has the right running style for this spot: he has enough early speed to stay reasonably close to what should be a swift early pace, but he also has a strong enough finishing kick to overtake the speeders, and hold off the closers, late. We will bet J P Hellish to win at 7/2. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 5-J P Hellish.

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

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