Derrynane, racing at Saratoga last July, is Garrity's pick this July.
Derrynane, racing at Saratoga last July, is Garrity's pick this July.NYRA

Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping Picks Woodbine, Ellis Park, Monmouth, 2 Saratoga stakes

First post 4:43 pm EDT, last post 5:39 pm. Let it Rye-d.

Two stakes races at Saratoga, where yesterday was opening day, serve as anchors for another Friday edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. We have plays in five races, and we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Summer is in full bloom, so pour yourself three fingers of one of the delicious, hand-crafted libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye, and let’s go.

Woodbine, Race 8, 4:43 pm ET

$25,000 Claiming, 7 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

A dozen claimers line up for this Woodbine turf sprint. We like 11-Ready Hero, a 4-year-old gelding who has burned a lot of money in his last two starts, losing as the favorite each time, but we think he had excuses: one of them was at a longer distance, which was probably too far for him; and in the second, he had traffic trouble. He should be able to get a clean trip here from his outside post, which is good; what is even better is that Ready Hero appears to have caught a very weak group. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Woodbine, Race 8, $40 to win on 11-Ready Hero.

Saratoga, Race 8, 5:05 pm ET
Grade 3 Coronation Cup, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A talented and deep field of eleven 3-year-old fillies lines up for the Coronation Cup. Because about half the group are speedballs, one-way, need-the-lead types, we are expecting very, very quick early fractions, and a winner coming from off the pace. We think that will be 6-Derrynane, who broke her maiden on this Saratoga turf course last year, but who has had a bit of buzzard’s luck since, hitting the board five times in six starts without finding the winner’s circle. We think that changes today, as she should get an absolutely ideal setup, with the quick early pace setting up her late rally just about perfectly. That makes her an excellent play at relatively generous 5-1 odds. We will bet her to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-Derrynane.

Ellis Park, Race 8, 5:10 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

Eight go in this turf allowance in Western Kentucky. The pick is 6-Risk Manager, a come-from-behinder who spent the winter at Gulfstream Park, where the turf course generally plays against that running style in favor of speed. We think he is going to find the much fairer turf course at Ellis Park much more to his liking, and a couple of sensational morning workouts in recent days suggest that Risk Manager is sitting on a big race. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Ellis Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 6-Risk Manager.

Monmouth Park, Race 8, 5:16 pm ET
$10,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 mile 70 yards, Dirt, 3 & Up

Nine maiden claimers line up for the nightcap at Monmouth. On paper, there’s a horse who seems to tower over the rest of these inveterate non-winners: it’s 6-Comedic Timing, who has been running reasonably well in Maiden Special Weight races on the Mid-Atlantic circuit. On figures alone, he’d merit a strong play.

But there is a huge red flag with Comedic Timing: he’s a 4-year-old colt with an elite Kentucky pedigree – he’s by Into Mischief, arguably the top dirt stallion in the world right now – and his owners paid $360,000 for him a little more than a year ago. If he’s been running even passably well, why would they put him in a race where anyone with a claiming license can buy him for a measly ten grand?

The reasonable conclusion for a handicapper is that he’s damaged goods, and that his owners and trainer are therefore trying to unload him. At a short price, that makes him a strong play-against, and that also makes this a good betting race. We like 1-American Rocky, who also drops into this spot from the Maiden Special Weight ranks, but for him the drop makes sense, as he lacks the glittering pedigree of the favorite, and this is probably the level where he belongs. We think he runs big dropping in class, which makes his 15-1 odds very enticing. We will bet him to win. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 1-American Rocky.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 9, 5:39 pm ET
Grade 3 Forbidden Apple Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up

Older turf runners, a dozen of them, go in the Forbidden Apple. We are all over 1-Set Piece, who has been running against much tougher going all the way back to last year. He is 6 years old now, and while his results last fall, when he finished off the board in a couple of Grade 1 races, might suggest that he may have lost a step, we think it was more a matter of the competition he faced, which was stiff, than a sign he is slowing down. He showed in his last start, when he came off a layoff to take a Grade 2 at Pimlico back in May, that he is all the way back, and a similar effort today is going to make him very tough to beat. Look for him to be relaxed early, saving ground from his inside post position, and to win with a strong stretch run; we will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 1-Set Piece.

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

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