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Garrity's Monday Stakes: The G1 American Oaks on Santa Anita Opening Day has strong field and Shug shipper

Post time is 7:11 pm EST.

We hope everyone had a wonderful, and restful, Christmas holiday.

Today is one of the bigger days of the year in horse racing, not for any yule-related reasons, but because it is the traditional Boxing Day opener of Santa Anita’s marquee winter-spring meeting. We have come out of hibernation to handicap the card, and though we found most of the races unpalatable, one of them is worth arising from our solstice-induced slumber to play. Let’s go.

Santa Anita Park, Race 11, 7:11 pm ET
Grade 1 American Oaks, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

The American Oaks, a Grade 1 at a mile and a quarter on the turf, came up a corker of a race this year, with a deep and talented field of eleven. There are several logical contenders, including 5-Bellstreet Bridie, an English-bred who won the Red Carpet Stakes at Del Mar in her North American debut last out; and 9-Salimah, who ships West for trainer Chad Brown, and who will therefore be backed strongly at the windows, as all Brown’s runners are.

The filly who has caught our fancy, however, is one who figures to fly underneath the pari-mutuel radar a bit, and who therefore should be a very square price at post time: it’s 7-Skims, who spent most of this year in New York, where she was decent facing mostly second-string turf runners on that circuit. That would not seem to be a recipe for success in a race this tough, but what causes us to like her here is breeding: She is by Frankel, arguably the top turf stallion in the world, and she is out of a mare named Royal Decree, who is by Street Cry, who is sadly no longer with us, but who was himself a hugely influential sire. Not only are these turf bloodlines to die for, but there influences on both sides of her pedigree to suggest that she will be a late-bloomer, that she will improve as she gets older. Street Cry’s two most famous offspring, in fact, Winx and Zenyatta, did their best running at 4 and 5, and while it is probably absurd to compare Skims to these two all-time greats, it is reason to think that her best races might be in front of her. Another positive is that her trainer, Shug McGaughey, has decided to run her in this race, rather than a softer and more logical spot closer to his South Florida winter base. Skims will like the firm ground she will get today, and we think the race shape will favor her stretch-running style. Add it up, and Skims is the pick. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 11, $50 to win on 7-Skims.

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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