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Garrity's Saturday Stakes pick Churchill Downs, Rich Strike, and Santa Anita –John Henry, Awesome Again, more

Garrity's first post is at 4:34 pm EDT.

With the remnants of Hurricane Ian making the first Saturday in October look wet in New York, where a big day at the absurdly named “Belmont at the Big A” meet will probably turn into a rainy, sloppy mess, we are going to dodge the bad weather, and wet tracks, by looking south and west, to a good stakes race at Churchill Downs, and four good events at Santa Anita, where the Grade 1 Awesome Again headlines a very good 10-race card. We have five plays in total, and we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all, so let’s go.

Santa Anita Park, Race 3, 4:34 pm ET

Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

A field of six older turf horses lines up for the John Henry. It’s a weak field for any stakes race, and an extraordinarily weak field for a Grade 2, but one of these animals has to win, and we think it will be 1-Gold Phoenix, a lightly raced 4-year-old Irish-bred gelding who comes off a very good effort, when he closed into slow fractions to take the Del Mar Handicap on September 3. We see a similar setup, and a similar result, today. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 3, $40 to win on 1-Gold Phoenix.

Churchill Downs, Race 10, 5:26 pm ET

Grade 2 Lukas Classic Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

The Lukas Classic drew just six entrants, but it’s a corker of a race despite the short field, as a majority of them are Grade 1 winners. One entrant, in fact, won what is arguably the world’s biggest race: it’s 4-Rich Strike, who was blanketed in roses after his mammoth upset in the Kentucky Derby in May. We like the fact that he’s running here, not because we like his chances – we wouldn’t bet him with counterfeit money – but because his name recognition, especially among casual fans, will attract wagering attention, and that will inflate the prices of the other horses, the ones who actually have a chance to win this race.

The pick is 3-Happy Saver. He has had seconditis of late, finishing as the runner-up in each of his last five starts, and while that might normally be enough reason to eliminate him from win consideration, he has finished behind horses like Life is Good, Flightline, and Olympiad – any one of whom would be 1/9 against this group. With a monster horse not present, we think Happy Saver looks clearly the best, and his 5/2 morning line number looks very fair. We will bet him to win, and will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 10, $50 to win on 3-Happy Saver.

Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 5:38 pm ET

Grade 2 City of Hope Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

A half-dozen older turf milers go in the City of Hope. Favored 3-Beyond Brilliant is very good, if not quite brilliant, but he’s a speed horse who is going to have a target on his back, and will therefore not get the easy lead he will need to win. At 6/5, he’s a play against.

The pick is 1-Cathkin Peak. He is by far the best closer in the group, and if the early pace is solid, which we are expecting, then Cathkin Peak should be able to pick up the pieces with a strong late rally. We will play him to win at 5/2. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 5, $40 to win on 1-Cathkin Peak.

Santa Anita Park, Race 6, 6:08 pm ET

Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

The Santa Anita Sprint drew a half-dozen runners. We’re all in on the favorite, 2-Forbidden Kingdom, who has a world of talent, but who was a major disappointment in his last start, when his Kentucky Derby dreams died after he did a speed-and-fade as the even money favorite, finishing last of six in the Santa Anita Derby. We think the issue was distance: he looks like a sprinter to us, and we think that he will show today, even coming off a six-month layoff, that he is going to be a very good one. Look for Forbidden Kingdom to be right up front early, and to be way in front at the wire. We will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 6, $50 to win on 2-Forbidden Kingdom.

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 7:08 pm ET

Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

This is the time of year to start paying attention when 3-year-olds take on elders, and that is our angle in the Awesome Again: we think 4-High Connection, the lone 3-year-old in the field of eight, is going right for the front early, and is going to stay in front all the way around the track. He has a very good pedigree, he has speed, and his best races in the past have been on the front end, and he will be a reminder that on the dirt, speed is the most important asset a horse can have. We will bet him to win at 12-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $50 to win on 4-High Connection.

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

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