Myhartblongstodady, winning the 2021 Hettinger Stakes at Belmont Park.
Myhartblongstodady, winning the 2021 Hettinger Stakes at Belmont Park.NYRA

Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks Aqueduct, Woodbine, Churchill Downs, Santa Anita

First post 4:09 pm EDT. Last post 4:41 pm. Let it Rye'd.

A sure sign that summer is gone, and that fall has arrived, is the post times of races: most tracks do not have artificial lighting, and must therefore run during daylight, and with the shortening days, post times trend earlier. So our regular Friday installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour is a little bit more of a late afternoon, rather than early evening, affair than it has been of late, which if nothing else is a good excuse to ditch work early to watch horses running in circles. 

We have five plays today, in five races at four tracks, all of which go off in under an hour’s time. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them, so pour yourself a couple of fingers of one of the delicious, hand-crafted-in-Pennsylvania libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat Rye, and let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:09 pm ET
$125,000 John Hettinger Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, New York-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Nine females bred in New York go in the Hettinger. The pick is 4-Marvelous Maude, who was last seen finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Flower Bowl at Saratoga on September 3. She ran her typical race that day, which was not good enough against stakes company; but against this lesser field, that kind of effort should put her in the winner’s circle. She is 5/2 on the morning line, but since she’s trained by Chad Brown and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, she will get bet, and will be a shorter price by post time, but we will play her to win anyway. Look for her to be toward the rear early, and to prevail with a strong late run. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Marvelous Maude.

Woodbine, Race 7, 4:16 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3 & Up

Seven turf runners go in the 7th at Woodbine. We like 3-Taranto Titan, who broke his maiden in his last start with a strong late rally. The jump from maiden ranks to allowance ranks is a big one, but we think Taranto Titan can handle it, as on paper this looks to be a pretty weak group. Look for him to be just behind the pacesetter early, and to roll late. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Woodbine, Race 7, $40 to win on 3-Taranto Titan.

Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:22 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

This very tough second-level allowance goes as Race 8 at Churchill. We like 4-Decision Maker, who has run well of late, with a second and two thirds in his last three starts. We normally bet against these kinds of perennial non-winners, but we think that in the case of Decision Maker, his recent placings are primarily a result of having faced tougher-than-usual competition. That will not be the case today, as this group looks weak. We will bet Decision Maker to win at 5/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $40 to win on 4-Decision Maker.

Santa Anita, Race 2, 4:28 pm ET
$32,000 Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

It’s opening day at Santa Anita, and the second race, a claiming dirt sprint, drew a half dozen runners. 6-Darling Donna is a deserving favorite, but is likely to be overbet, and for that reason alone we are playing against her, and are doing so with 4-Never Sway, who should get an ideal stalking trip, sitting just behind what we expect to be a very contested early pace, moving forward after the early leaders have run themselves into submission. We will bet Never Sway to win at 4-1 odds. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 2, $40 to win on 4-Never Sway.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:41 pm ET

$40,000 Claiming, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

A field of eight hard-knocking claimers lines up for the 8th at Aqueduct. The one who catches our fancy is 5-American Tattoo, who is dropping slightly in class here, having run in a couple of $50k claimers in his last two starts. His last race was not great, but we are drawing a line through it, partly because it was run in the slop, but mostly because it was his first start in five months, and he has shown in the past that he usually does not run his best off a layoff. American Tattoo should be better here with that tightener under his belt, especially since he has speed, and the race looks likely to be won by a horse on or near the front end. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-American Tattoo.

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

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