Garrity's Labor Day Stakes picks The Hopeful at Saratoga, 2 Dueling Oaks at Kentucky Downs, plus Del Mar

Garrity's first post is 5:57 pm EDT.
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The word of the day on this Labor Day is wet: The day’s most important race, the Hopeful at Saratoga, figures to be run on a sloppy track; and at Kentucky Downs, races that were rained out yesterday are being run today, on a turf course that will likely be about as soft as races as we see in North America. We have five plays in four races; let’s go.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 11, 6:11 pm ET

Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds

Six hopefuls go in the Hopeful. The pick is 3-Bourbon Bash, who we’d probably be against on a fast track, but who we move way up in the slop. He’s not run on an off track yet, but he has two things that we think will allow him to thrive: He’s got a good wet-track pedigree, and he has the most natural speed in this field. In a short field, we see him going right to the front, under jockey Tyler Gafflione, and staying in front from starting gate to wire. He will likely be shorter than his 6-1 morning line number by post time; we will bet him to win anyway. The bet: Saratoga, Race 11, $40 to win on 3-Bourbon Bash.

Kentucky Downs, Race 9, 5:57 pm ET

$500,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, 1 5/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Kentucky Downs had a rough go of it with the weather over the weekend, with heavy rains forcing the cancellation of racing yesterday and the latter portion of Saturday's card, including a couple of stakes with hefty purses. We are expecting them to be able to run today, albeit on a turf course that will be rated yielding, and which will probably be about as soft as turf races are run in North America.

That will be a challenge for the dozen 3-year-old fillies entered in the Oaks, for not only have none of them ever run this far, but the distance will seem even longer, as soft turf requires more effort to get over, in a way that is roughly analogous to how soft sand is more tiring to run on than hard sand. This race, like the Dueling Grounds Derby that follows, is going to be a stern test of stamina.

There is one filly who we think will do quite well on the boggy ground: it’s 12-Skims, an English-bred who is by Frankel, a world-class stallion on turf, who is based in England, where races are routinely run over conditions like what Skims will see today. As yet she has only hinted at her wet-turf ability, finishing third in the Wonder Again on a Belmont Park course rated yielding, but a combination of the longer distance today (the Wonder Again was run at a mile), and the softer going, has us liking her chances here. She is also bred to run all day, so staying the distance should not be an issue. We will bet Skims to win at 5-1, and play her (see below) in the Double covering races 9 and 10. The bets: Kentucky Downs, Race 9, $35 to win on 12-Skims; $25 double, 12 (Skims) with 12-Ready to Purrform.

Kentucky Downs, Race 10, 6:31 pm ET

Grade 3 Dueling Grounds Derby, 1 5/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

Like the Dueling Grounds Oaks, the Dueling Grounds Derby drew a field of twelve; also like the Oaks, none of these colts have run this far before, and most of the entrants seem unlikely to thrive on the yielding turf. One who will, we think, is 12-Ready to Purrform, who we’d probably like a little bit on firm ground, but who we move up in a big way in boggy conditions. He’s by Kitten’s Joy, who died recently, but who in the last two decades sired innumerable turf runners, and who seemed to transmit to his progeny an ability to get over wet grass. We think that Ready to Purrform will be running strongly in the latter stages of this race, while the rest of the field is gasping for air, and we will consequently bet him to win at 3-1 odds. The bet: Kentucky Downs, Race 10, $40 to win on 12-Ready to Purrform.

Del Mar, Race 7, 7:10 pm ET

$100,000 Tranquility Lake Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A field of seven older females lines up for the Tranquility Lake. The pick is 4-Velvet Slippers, who is looking to get back to the form she showed last year, when she ran quite well in allowance and stakes company. Her two starts in 2022 have been disastrous, a speed-and-fade in a Grade 3 at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day, and a May turf allowance when she threw her rider at the start; but we think this is a good spot for Velvet Slippers to get back to winning ways, especially since she has thrived in the past at this mile distance. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Velvet Slippers.

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

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