Fire Sword is the pick in the 8th at Aqueduct.
Fire Sword is the pick in the 8th at Aqueduct.NYRA

Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Picks 3 stakes at Keeneland, plus races at Aqueduct and Santa Anita

First post 4:12 pm EDT, last post 5:16 pm. Let it Rye-d.

If it’s Friday, it’s time for another installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. It’s a particularly good one, at least as far as the quality of racing goes: it is opening day at Keeneland, where a trio of superb graded stakes headline an excellent, 10-race card.

We have five plays today, in five races that go off in about an hour’s time; we expect fast dirt and firm turf for all of them, so pour yourself a tumbler of one of the delicious, hand-crafted-in-Pennsylvania libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat Rye, and let’s go.

Keeneland, Race 7, 4:12 pm ET

Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

A field of eight lines up for the first of three consecutive stakes races at Keeneland. There’s a load of speed in the group, and we think that will produce a very quick early pace that will play against the front-runners, and play in favor of the stalkers and closers. The best-looking one of the latter group looks to us to be 6-Necker Island, who figures to get a dream trip, sitting just behind and outside the early leaders, ready to pounce when the pacesetters begin to tire. His last two races were excellent; we think Necker Island makes it three in a row today, and gets his picture taken as the winner of the Phoenix. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Necker Island.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:22 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

Today’s featured race in New York is this third-level allowance, which drew a field of six. The morning line choice is 5-Baby Yoda, who probably deserves favoritism, but whom we are playing against, as he will be overbet, and therefore an underlay.

The pick is 2-Fire Sword, who makes his first start here for trainer David Donk, who claimed him for $50,000 out of a race at Saratoga six weeks ago. Donk is an experienced and competent trainer, and we like the fact that he has placed Fire Sword aggressively, entering him at this very tough level, rather than sending him back out against claimers. We like even more that Fire Sword has speed: we think he is going to get an easy lead here, and, once established on the front end, will be difficult to catch. We see a wire-to-wire win for Fire Sword, and will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Fire Sword.

Keeneland, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET

Grade 2 JP Morgan Chase Jessamine Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 2-Year-Old Fillies

We are well into the fall now, which means juvenile racing is getting serious, and the Jessamine, which drew a full field of twelve, is a good example: It’s a terrific race from both a wagering and sporting standpoint, and should produce a couple of runners we’ll see at the Breeders Cup.

With none of these fillies having run this far before, handicapping the race involves a lot of extrapolating, trying to determine who which runners will get the distance, and that has us picking a filly who should be a mammoth price: it’s 11-Knockyoursocksoff, who has a good turf pedigree, something most of the other runners lack, and who won quite impressively in her career debut, in a maiden race at Colonial Downs on August 3. Trainer Vicki Oliver was evidently quite impressed by her effort that day, because she started her next in a $500,000 stakes at Colonial Downs; she did not run terribly that day, finishing fourth, but we are nevertheless drawing a line through that race, as it was run on bog-like, yielding turf, which Knockyoursocksoff probably didn’t like. Knockyoursocksoff will get firm turf today, the same kind of going she saw at Colonial, and we think that makes her very live – and when a horse you fancy is 30-1 on the morning line, there’s only one thing to do, and that is go to the windows. We will bet her to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 8, $40 to win on 11-Knockyoursocksoff.

Santa Anita, Race 3, 5:02 pm ET
Starter Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

This starter allowance turf sprint at Santa Anita drew a field of seven. We like 7-Roses and Candy, who starts for Ron McAnally, one of the sport’s unquestioned good guys, who we are thrilled to see is still training horses at 90. Ronnie Mac not only trains Roses and Candy, but he, along with his wife Debbie, bred him – and he also trained his sire, Candy Ride, one of the more important stallions of the past 20 years. We See Roses and Candy getting a good stalking trip from his outside post, and seizing control of this race down the stretch, when the early leaders begin shortening stride. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 3, $40 to win on 7-Roses and Candy

Keeneland, Race 9, 5:16 pm ET

Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Old Fillies

Fourteen go to the gate for the Alcibiades, another stakes that will produce a couple of Breeders Cup runners. The pick is 4-Raging Sea, who jumps into the deep waters of a Grade 1 race off just one career start, a 7-furlong maiden race at Saratoga on August 7. That is a massive class jump, but we think Raging Sea will be able to handle it, partly because of the way she won her career debut – she ran quite well, and looked like a filly who will thrive in longer races – partly because her world-class pedigree (she’s by Curlin, out of a Storm Cat mare), and partly because she is trained by Chad Brown, who would not start her in a Grade 1 if he didn’t think she could handle it. Add it up, and Raging Sea looks the best of this group; we will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $40 to win on 4-Raging Sea.

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

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