Garrity's Black Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping: Races at Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, and Del Mar
It’s time for a special Black Friday installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. It’s a better one than normal, at least in terms of the quality of racing, as we have five stakes races, in New York, Kentucky, and California; in recognition of that, we have relaxed our usual time constraints, as the time from the first race to the last is a bit more than three hours.
So you’ll need to pace yourself, as Happy Hour will last longer than usual this afternoon, but nonetheless, pour yourself a glass of one of the delicious, hand-crafted-in-Pennsylvania ryes from our friends at Dad’s Hat, settle into your favorite easy chair, and let’s go. We are playing for fast dirt and firm turf in all races.
Aqueduct, Race 7, 3:14 pm ET
Grade 3 Comely Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
A field of eight sophomore fillies lines up for the Comely. The pick is 4-Kathleen O., who has been away from the races since a fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks in May. She appears, despite the layoff, to be sitting on a big race, which is nice; what is even better is that she seems to have caught a weak group, one we expect her to handle. Look for Kathleen O. to be mid-pack early, and rolling late; we will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Kathleen O.
Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:44 pm ET
$150,000 Aqueduct Turf Championship, 6 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up
Ten go in this turf sprint. The pick is 9-Gear Jockey, who has been facing much tougher of late, having raced in Grade 1 or Grade 2 races in his last four starts. He has enough speed to allow him to stay reasonably close to the early leaders, and a very strong closing kick; that is the ideal combination for turf races at this 6 furlong distance. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Gear Jockey.
Churchill Downs, Race 9, 4:57 pm ET
Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 2-Year-Old Fillies
Eleven juvenile fillies go to the starting gate for the Mrs. Revere. We’re taking a shot with one who should be a big price, 9-Have a Good Day, an Irish-bred who was quite good last year in some pretty classy races in England and France, but who has been dreadful – there is no other way to put it – in three U.S. starts since August. We like her today for two reasons: one is that she is too talented to be as bad as she has looked the past three months; the other is that this is her first start around two turns, and we think she will be much better at this longer distance than she was sprinting. We will bet her to win at 15-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 9-Have a Good Day.
Churchill Downs, Race 11, 5:56 pm ET
Grade 1 Clark Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
The Grade 1 Clark, which drew a field of seven, is the featured race of the day, both at Churchill Downs and nationally. The headliner and morning line favorite is 4-Rich Strike, who won the 2022 Kentucky Derby in one of the biggest upsets in the history of that venerable race. While we’ve enjoyed poking fun at this horse and his connections, noting that the only race other than the Derby that he ever won in his life was a maiden claimer, we cannot deny that he has run quite well in his last three starts, especially his last, when he earned a very good speed figure finishing a distant fourth behind Flightline in the Breeders Cup Classic.
We think that in this spot, Rich Strike is the best bet-against of the month: his best races have been at a mile and a quarter – the Kentucky Derby, the Travers, and the Breeders Cup Classic are all run at 10 furlongs – and when he gets a fast early pace that favors his closing running style. Today he will get neither of these, as the Clark is a mile and an eighth, and its early pace should be moderate. We hope that Rich Strike gets loads of support at the windows today, because that will inflate the prices of the other contenders, and we think Richie has little chance to win.
The pick is 1-Proxy. He comes off a 3rd-place finish in the Stephen Foster that we think was much better than it looks, as he closed strongly late, and did so despite a pace, and a racing surface, that favored speed and played against that running style. He comes off a layoff here, but his recent morning works have been sizzling, a sign that he is ready to deliver a top effort. Look for Proxy to be midpack early, and to earn a trip to the winner’s circle with a strong move at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 11, $50 to win on 1-Proxy.
Del Mar, Race 7, 6:30 pm ET
Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 3 & Up
A field of seven lines up for the Hollywood Turf Cup. Most of them have never run a mile and a half before, and a few of them appear to be highly unlikely to stay the marathon distance, but one who will thrive at it, we think, is 7-Dicey Mo Chara, who is in good form overall, hitting the board in stakes races in each of his last two starts, and who did quite well when he tried the distance back in March. We like the recency, and we like the fact that he should like the 12 furlong distance, and what seals the deal for us is pace: he has enough natural early speed that he should be in contention from the jump, which will be a huge asset, as the pace here should slow, and that will favor horses in front, and play against the deep closers. Add it up and Dicey Mo Chara is the pick; we will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $40 to win on 7-Dicey Mo Chara.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.