Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Withers at Aqueduct, Suncoast & Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, more

First post is 4:16 pm ET.
Horse Racing at Tampa Bay Downs.
Horse Racing at Tampa Bay Downs.Tampa Bay Downs

3-year-olds, of both sexes, take center stage today, as the day’s biggest stakes race, the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, and four of the five total races we have selected to play, are restricted to horses born in the benighted pandemic year of 2020. We expect fast dirt and firm turf for all races; let’s go.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, 4:16 pm ET

$100,000 Pelican Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

Eleven go in the Pelican. We see no reason to look past favored 5-Sibelius, who appears so overwhelmingly superior to the rest of this group that he may not have to run his best race to win. He’s fast enough to get the early lead if jockey Junior Alvarado wants it, but we think that it is more likely that he presses the pace, sitting just behind the early leaders, and blowing them away when the field turns into the home stretch. Sibelius looks much the best; we will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, $50 to win on 5-Sibelius.

Aqueduct, Race 9, 4:27 pm ET

Grade 3 Withers Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The Withers drew a field of seven. We like the looks of 4-Hit Show, who comes off a good maiden win at Oaklawn Park on December 17. The maiden races in Hot Springs are the best in the country right now, so the colt has some talent, but what makes us think he is poised to run a big race is his trainer: Brad Cox rarely comes to New York during the winter, but when he does, it pays to take notice, as he has two wins in just three starts at the current Aqueduct meet. The Withers, at a mile and an eighth, is longer than most Derby preps this time of year, and it looks to us like Cox has shipped Hit Show to the friendly confines of Ozone Park because he looks like a horse who will thrive at the distance. Hit Show is 9/5 on the morning line, but will probably be shorter by post time; we will bet him to win anyway. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 9, $50 to win on 4-Hit Show.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, 4:48 pm ET

$150,000 Suncoast Stakes, 1 mile 40 yards, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

The Suncoast is a race that will get a lot more attention than normal this year, as it marks the return of 1-Wonder Wheel, who in her last start won the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies, a victory that earned her an Eclipse award as the top 2-year-old female of 2022.

Based on her record – she also won the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland last fall – Wonder Wheel would seem to be a layover in this spot, running against eight seemingly overmatched rivals, but we think her presence makes this a sensational betting race, as she will be a minuscule price – she’s even money on the morning line, and will be more like 2/5 when the gates open – and we think that whatever edge she possesses on the track will be far, far smaller than her odds on the tote board would suggest. Put another way: Wonder Wheel is the biggest underlay of the day, and salivate at the prospect of betting against big underlays.

The pick is 9-Julia Shining. She is undefeated in two career starts, and while she has nowhere near the credentials as the favorite, she has run pretty well, and pretty fast, both times she raced. She has a sensational pedigree (by Curlin, out of an A.P. Indy mare), and while she might prefer slightly longer distance than the mile and 40 yards here, we think that the pace will help her: the early pace of the Suncoast should be fast, which will favor her stretch-running style. We will bet Julia Shining to win at 5/2. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 9-Julia Shining.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 10, 5:18 pm ET

Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

A full field of twelve goes to the gate in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. We are taking a shot with a price, 3-Classic Legacy, who was last seen breaking his maiden in the third start of his career. He has yet to run especially fast in any of his races, but what makes us fancy his chances here is distance: he’s run exclusively in sprints so far, and both his pedigree and his running style suggest to us that he will be better going around two turns than he has been going around one. That gives him a real chance in this race, especially since the field lacks a clear standout, and it makes his 12-1 morning line number too good for us to pass up. We will bet him to win. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 10, $40 to win on 3-Classic Legacy.

Oaklawn Park, Race 9,. 5:42 pm ET

$150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Eight sophomore fillies line up for the Dixie Belle. There is quite a bit of speed in the group, so much, in fact, that we think a pace meltdown is a distinct possibility, which would play right into the hooves of 2-Klassy Bridgette, who has won her last two starts the same way, by sitting behind a swift early pace, and closing strongly late. We see a similar setup, and a similar result, for her today, which makes her a good wager at 6-1 odds. We will bet her to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Klassy Bridgette.

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

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