Garrity's Saturday Stakes: CCA Oaks at Saratoga; Matchmaker, Haskell, etc at Monmouth, San Clemente at Del Mar
The fourth Saturday in July will feature summer racing at its best: it will be sunny, it will be hot, there are good races all over, and the grandstands from one end of this great country to the other will be filled with sweaty railbirds waving rolled-up programs. The rest of the globe may be in flames, but in our little horsey corner of the world, summer is indeed in full bloom.
The day’s best racing will be at Monmouth Park on the Jersey Shore, where the Haskell headlines a superb 14-race card, but there is also good stakes action at the summer’s glamor meetings, Saratoga and Del Mar. We have plays in four races from Monmouth sandwiched between stakes on both coasts, a Saturday six pack of action that is guaranteed to be exciting, and that will hopefully be profitable.
We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races. Let’s go.
Saratoga Race Course, Race 5, 3:16 pm ET
Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
The CCA American Oaks is a Grade 1, and would normally be in a featured spot later on the card, but today it is run early, as Race 5, presumably because it drew just five entrants. On paper, it appears to be a match race, with 3-Nest and 5-Secret Oath, who finished second and first, respectively, in the Kentucky Oaks, and who since ran pretty good non-winning races against the boys – Secret Oath ran fourth in the Preakness; Nest finished second in the Belmont – seeming to tower over the other runners.
But we think the stage might be set for another filly to spring a surprise: it’s 2-Society, who has nowhere near the credentials of the two favorites, but who has something they, and the rest of the field, lack: She has speed, and she has it in abundance. With those two monsters outside of her in the starting gate, jockey Tyler Gafflione will have no choice but to use that early foot, right out of the gate, going right to the lead, and we think that will be quite effective, especially since the main track at Saratoga has been quite kind to speed of late. With everyone’s attention solidly focused on Nest and Secret Oath, we think Society might just get loose on an easy lead, and prove quite difficult to catch down the lane. We think Society wins this race in wire-to-wire fashion, and will bet her to win at 8-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 5, $40 to win on 2-Society.
Monmouth Park, Race 9, 4:05 pm ET
Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Eight go in the Matchmaker, and trainer Chad Brown, whose barn is loaded with turf horses, starts three of them. They will all be bet, and any one of the trio could win, but we prefer a runner from conditioner Brendan Walsh: it’s 3-Lady Rockstar, who has won a pair of allowance races since being brought to the U.S. after running an English campaign last year. The sky seems to be the limit for this filly, as has a terrific late kick, she is by world-class turf stallion Frankel, and she seems to be rounding into form, and as a 4-year-old, into her physical prime. Look for Lady Rockstar to gallop patiently early, and to win with a big stretch move; we will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 3-Lady Rockstar.
Monmouth Park, Race 10, 4:38 pm ET
Grade 3 Molly Pitcher, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
The deserving favorite in the Molly Pitcher, which drew seven entrants, is 3-Search Results, a Grade 1 winner last year who comes off a very good third-place finish last out in the Ogden Phipps. If she wins here, it will surprise nobody.
But Search Results is going to be a very short price, likely odds on, and we are therefore going to take a swing against her, and will be doing so with 7-Bonny South, who has been competitive in some incredibly tough races going back to last year. She too comes out of the Phipps, in which she ran fourth; she will need to improve today to turn the tables, but at 3-1, we think that a step forward by Bonny South is a good gamble. We will bet her to win. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 10, $35 to win on 7-Bonny South.
Monmouth Park, Race 11, 5:09 pm ET
Grade 1 United Nations Stakes, 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 3 & Up
Don’t overlook the other Grade 1 race on today’s Monmouth card: it’s the United Nations, a terrific race that this year drew a deep and competitive field of ten. 4-Tribhuvan is favored off a win in the Manhattan at Belmont Park last month, but while his wire-to-wire effort that day was quite good, he got away with murder on the front end, as he was lightly regarded, and the jockeys of the other horses in the race let him get away and gallop early, and couldn’t catch him late. We expect very different tactics and very different results today, as Tribhuvan’s jockey, Manny Franco, will have a figurative bullseye on his back; we think the early pace of the U.N. will be legitimate, which will play against the speed horses, and favor the come-from-behinders.
That makes the pick 10-Gufo. He is the race’s best closer – he is one of the best finishers on turf in the country – and while that sometimes puts him at a tactical disadvantage, as deep closers of this ilk are at the mercy of how the pace unfolds in front of him, we think that today the race shape will be right up his stretch-running alley. He will probably be last early, but we think Gufo will be first where it matters; we will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 11, $50 to win on 10-Gufo.
Monmouth Park, Race 12, 5:45 pm ET
Grade 1 Haskell Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
A field of eight lines up for the Haskell, the biggest race of the year in the Garden State. The two favorites are 2-Taiba, a lightly raced but freakishly fast animal trained by Bob Baffert, and 7-Jack Christopher, the undefeated and unchallenged colt who goes for Chad Brown. This terrific matchup, West versus East, makes this a compelling race.
Taiba is 7/5 on the morning line, and Jack Christopher 3/2, and it will be interesting to see how the betting goes. We hope everyone and his mother bets Taiba, because we are all in on Jack Christopher, who simply seems better: He has earned superior speed figures than Taiba, but he also has two advantages that we think will be key: He has more natural early speed, and he also drew outside of his rival. This will give jockey Jose Ortiz, who rides Jack Christopher the tactical edge of being the hunter, rather than the hunted, of sitting just outside Taiba throughout the running of the race, ready to move whenever the opportunity presents itself. We see Jack Christopher drawing off to win the Haskell comfortably, and will bet him to win. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 12, $50 to win on 7-Jack Christopher.
Del Mar, Race 11, 10:04 pm ET
Grade 2 San Clemente Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies
A field of thirteen sophomore fillies goes to the post for the San Clemente. Trainer Phil D’Amato won yesterday’s Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar with an Irish-bred, Balnikhov, and we see that streak continuing here, as the pick is 6-Bellabel. She had a fair-to-middling season last year at second-tier Irish tracks like Naas and Killarney, but in her last she took to American racing, as the old saying goes, like a duck takes to water, winning the Blue Northern Stakes at Santa Anita. That was in January, so she is coming off a layoff, and that is a concern; the flip side of that is that Thoroughbreds undergo massive amounts of physical development between January and July of their 3-year-old years, and we think Bellabel will be even better in the San Clemente than she was in the Blue Northern. That means she is headed to the winner’s circle, and we are headed to the windows; we will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 11, $40 to win on 6-Bellabel.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.