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Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour picks Saratoga and Del Mar Opening Day – Lake George, Oceanside Stakes

First post is at 5:39 pm EDT. Last post is at 8:30. It's a long summer Happy Hour spilling into dinner. Please drink responsibly.

Today’s Friday installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping is a good one: There are excellent cards at both Saratoga, which has been open for a bit more than a week, and Del Mar, which opens for the summer today. This is what summer racing is supposed to be, so we are relaxing our usual time constraints, with plays in five races, all in either Upstate New York or Southern California, spread out over about two and a half hours.

We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all five races, so pour yourself a tumbler of one of the delicious handcrafted refreshments from our friends at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 9, 5:39 pm ET
Grade 3 Lake George Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A field of nine 3-year-old fillies lines up for the Lake George. We are eschewing the obvious contenders in favor of a filly at a price: 9-Spirit and Glory began her career in her native Ireland, where she ran pretty well in in four races over the winter, but what makes us fancy her in this spot is how she did in her last start, which was her first on this side of the pond, when she rallied strongly to win an allowance at Belmont Park a month ago. That was a terrific effort, as she did two things that are very difficult: she won in her first North American start; and she made up ground running into a glacially a slow pace. While there is probably a chance that she regresses off that effort, we think it is just as likely that she makes another step forward, and that makes her 8-1 morning line number too good for us to pass up. Look for her to be flying late; we will bet her to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $50 to win on 9-Spirit and Glory.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 10, 6:13 pm ET

Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, New York-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

This first-level allowance sprint drew fourteen entrants. Partly because of the size of the field, and partly because of the running tendencies of the state-bred fillies and mares who comprise it, we are predicting a pace collapse, with very swift early fractions setting the table for a closer to come from out of the clouds to pick up the pieces. We think that animal may just be 3-Gringotts, whose recent races are nothing to write home about, but who has shown in the past that she can be effective when the race shape favors her late-running style. This is what we are expecting, so we will bet her to win at 15-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 10, $35 to win on 3-Gringotts.

Del Mar, Race 4, 6:30 pm ET

$16,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

This claimer at Del Mar drew a full field of ten. We like 2-Exclusive Speaker, who ships to Southern California off a couple of good efforts up North, the last at Pleasanton and the one before at Golden Gate. His speed figures mark him as a contender, and so does his post position, as he should get an excellent stalking trip, saving ground while stalking the race’s likely pacesetter, who is drawn just to his inside. Exclusive Speaker is 8-1 on the morning line, which we think is an overlay; we will bet him to win. The bet: Del Mar, Race 4, $35 to win on 2-Exclusive Speaker.

Del Mar, Race 7, 8:00 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A good field of eleven 3-year-old fillies lines up for this maiden race down at old Del Mar. The pick is first-time starter 1-Above Suspicion. She is trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, and what made us notice her is her morning workouts leading up to this race, which have been very, very fast. This is good in and of itself, but it is even better, we think, because Mandella is not known for working his horses especially quickly. That is a sign to us that Above Suspicion is a runner, and at 8-1, an excellent play. We will bet her to win. The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $40 to win on 1-Above Suspicion.

Del Mar, Race 8, 8:30 pm ET

$100,000 Oceanside Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The Oceanside is the traditional opening day feature at Del Mar, and like it does every year, it drew a big field, with 14 3-year-olds lining up to run a mile. We like 3-Balnikhov, who has had buzzard’s luck in his last three races, running well and finishing in the superfecta each time, but failing to win any of them. We think those also-ran finishes were entirely the result of bad racing luck; we also think Balnikhov’s fortunes are going to change here, as he looks to be clearly superior to colts he will be facing. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 8, $40 to win on 3-Balnikhov.

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

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