Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks longshots in 2 Grade 1 races on Belmont Undercard: The Jaipur and Manhattan
Coming into the stretch in the 2018 Jaipur Stakes.NYRA | Rob Mauhar

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks longshots in 2 Grade 1 races on Belmont Undercard: The Jaipur and Manhattan

The Jaipur's post time is 3:53 pm EDT.

Horse racing is in an unusual place right now: as a sport, its overall health seems poor, with all the relevant metrics – attendance, the size of foal crops, wagering handle, public attention – down significantly. But the sport’s flagship events, the biggest races and meets like Saratoga and Keeneland, have never been more popular. It is a dichotomy that is ghoulishly fascinating: Racing’s normal days get scant attention, but the biggest days are bigger than ever.

In recent years, one of the biggest of the big days has been Belmont Stakes day at Belmont Park. Under the direction of former racing secretary Martin Panza, many of the flagship races of the Belmont Spring meeting have been run on the undercard of the third jewel of the Triple Crown: races like the Metropolitan Handicap, the the Acorn, and the Ogden Phipps, all Grade 1 races worthy of being the featured race on any Saturday card, are now relegated to supporting status in order to pump up the Big Day.

This normally results in a Belmont Stakes day that is one of the best wagering days of the year. But this year something odd has happened: while there is plenty of sporting interest in these undercard stakes, they are almost without exception lousy betting affairs. Take the Metropolitan Handicap, a.k.a. the Met Mile, for example: Flightline is a freakishly talented animal, the fastest horse to come down the pike in quite some time, and even leaving aside the fact that he runs less frequently than solstices come around – he’s raced three times since April of last year – it will be fascinating to see if he can maintain the form that he showed when won the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita in December in eye-popping fashion, running a hole in the wind and finishing over 11 lengths ahead of the runner-up finisher.

But while watching a horse like Flightline is about as good as horse racing gets as a sport, his presence makes the Met Mile an awful betting race: there are only four other entrants, three of them appear to be utterly overmatched, and his only rival who appears to have any chance is Speaker’s Corner. At post time, Flightline will be 1/5, Speaker’s Corner something like 8/5, the rest at bigger prices, with little chance to win. This pretty much eliminates win betting as a viable activity, and the short field makes alternatives like the exacta and trifecta equally unappealing.

And unfortunately, the Met Mile is not the only race with this kind of predicament: short fields abound at Big Sandy today, making one of the best gambling days of the year an overwhelming disappointment. We are hopeful that this is a one-year aberration, because if it is anything other than a fluke, the sport is in even more trouble than we thought.

So what, then, is a bettor to do? We do gambling here, so we’ve done the best we could, finding as many viable wagering options as we can. Some races, like the Met Mile, are utterly unplayable, and must be skipped, but we’ve managed to find two playable races on the Belmont undercard, both of which are on grass, and both of which feature runners that we think are live at big numbers. The turf will be firm for both of these turf races, so let’s go.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 3:53 pm ET
Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes, 6 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

A field of thirteen lines up for the Jaipur. We like a runner at a big price, the Brazilian-bred 9-Filo di Arianna. He showed some promise in his first North American start last year, a sharp win in an allowance race at Woodbine last July, then went to the sidelines, and returned in the Shakertown at Keeneland in April, where he did a speed-and-fade and finished last.

We are willing to excuse his effort that day, as it was his first start off a layoff. His recent morning works are strong, and suggest that he can revert to the form he showed at Woodbine last year. And it helps that he has the right running style: The pace in the Jaipur should be fast, but not overly so, and Filo di Arianna should get a good stalking trip, sitting just behind the pacesetters, the perfect spot for the race shape we expect. We will bet him to win at 20-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Filo di Arianna.

Belmont Park, Race 10, 5:38 pm ET
Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, 4 & Up

The Manhattan drew a field of ten. The field lacks a clear standout, which makes it a terrific betting race, and has us reaching for a huge price: We like 3-Tokyo Gold, the French-bred, Japan-based globetrotter who comes into this race off a third-place finish in a minor race at Longchamps in Paris in April. There are two things that we like about this 4-year-old colt: The first is that he is used to facing very, very tough competition, and will not be fazed by running in this Grade 1; the second is that he has shown in his races the past few years that he likes firmer ground, and the turf course at Belmont Park today should be just the way he likes it. You can throw in a third thing we like about Tokyo Gold: He’s 30-1 on the morning line, and he could be even higher at post time. We will bet him to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 3-Tokyo Gold.

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

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