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Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping: Saratoga, Monmouth, Ellis Park, Del Mar

First post 4:18 pm EDT, last post 6:27 pm. Let it Rye-d.

If it’s Friday, it’s time for another installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping, where we play a number of races in a relatively short period of time. Today we have five plays at four tracks, and because we are in full-blown summer mode, we are making Happy Hour longer, with about two hours between the first and last contest. We expect fast dirt and firm turf for all five races, so pour yourself a couple of fingers of one of the delicious, hand-crafted-in-Pennsylvania libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 7, 4:18 pm ET

$135,000 Curlin Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

A field of nine sophomore colts lines up for the Curlin. It’s a surprisingly good group, and a very good betting race. We are all in on favored 7-Creative Minister, who found the waters a little too deep in his last two starts, finishing fifth and third, respectively, but those two races were the Belmont Stakes and the Kentucky Derby, where he faced the best 3-year-olds in the land. He has a potent combination of speed and stamina, and while he found the Belmont’s mile and a half distance a bit too far for his liking, this shorter nine furlong distance should be right up his alley. Creative Minister simply looks better than the rest; we will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 7, $40 to win on 7-Creative Minister.

Monmouth Park, Race 7, 4:48 pm ET

Starter Allowance, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

Eight go in this starter allowance at the Jersey Shore. We are going with a speed play, in the form of 8-Indian Buzz, who comes off a wire-to-wire win in an allowance race at Monmouth on June 10. We see a similar setup, and a similar result, here: we think Indian Buzz goes right to the front, and stays there all the way around the track. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 8-Indian Buzz.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 8, 4:56 pm ET

Allowance, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

This second-level allowance turf sprint drew a dozen entrants. It is not often that we see this, but the runner with the best late-pace numbers, meaning he finishes the race most strongly, is the longest shot on the board: it’s 8-Spirit Animal, who is 50-1. Even better is that he is not some hopeless plodder: His speed figures are marginally competitive, and he has some back class, having run decently in some graded stakes in California the past few years. He will need a fast early pace to set up his late run, but we think he will get just that, so we are wagering that he will pick up the pieces at a mammoth price: We will bet Spirit Animal to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $30 to win on 8-Spirit Animal.

Ellis Park, Race 8, 5:10 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Ten maiden fillies line up for this mile turf race in Western Kentucky. We like 8-Sacred Kitten, who is 15-1 off a couple of seemingly disappointing efforts at Churchill Downs. Those races were on the dirt, and Sacred Kitten’s pedigree is turf, which begs the question: Why was trainer Kenny McPeek running her on a surface for which she is probably ill-suited?

Well, there’s a pretty good reason for that: The turf course at Churchill Downs has been closed since early June, and we think McPeek ran Sacred Kitten because he had a horse ready to go, and dirt was the only option. It is not surprising that she was non-competitive in those races, but we think they will do her a lot of good as tighteners for this spot. We think she improves significantly in her return to turf, and that makes her a contender, and at 15-1, an excellent play. We will bet her to win. The bet: Ellis Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 8-Sacred Kitten.

Del Mar, Race 6, 6:27 pm ET
$100,000 Daisycutter Stakes, 5 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A good group of seven female turf sprinters line up for the Daisycutter. We like 6-Havana Love, an Irish-bred 4-year-old filly who comes out of two good but non-winning efforts running down the hillside turf course at Santa Anita. Those two efforts seem to suggest that she is rounding into form, but what makes us particularly fancy her here is an equipment change: She adds blinkers, which should sharpen her focus, and get into contention right out of the gate. We will play Havana Love to win at 12-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 6, $40 to win on 6-Havana Love.

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

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