Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks races at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, Oaklawn
If it’s Friday, it’s time for another installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. Today we have plays in five races across this great land, from New York to Louisiana to Arkansas to the palm trees of Southern California, and all of them take place in less than an hour's time, with late-afternoon post times conducive to enjoying a sip of one of the delightful amber libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, except at Aqueduct in New York, which looks wet; so pull up a chair, and let’s go.
Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:26 pm ET
Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, New York-bred 3-Year-Old Fillies
Nine 3-year-old fillies bred in New York line up for this allowance race at the Big A. The morning line choice is 9-Downtown Mischief, who has been installed as the 7/5 favorite here, in her second career start, after earning a big speed figure winning her debut a month ago. We hope every wise guy in Ozone Park bets on her, because she looks to us like an underlay: she got a perfect trip beating a bad field last out, and we think she is going to find things much more difficult facing winners for the first time.
The pick is 7-Midtown Lights. She was last seen running second in a state-bred stakes race on December 17, an effort that we consider good; it also rather importantly showed that Midtown Lights can handle this level of competition, something the favorite has not yet shown. We will bet Midtown LIghts to win at 5/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $40 to win on 7-Midtown Lights.
Fair Grounds, Race 6, 4:45 pm ET
Allowance, 1 mile 70 Yards, Dirt, Louisiana-bred Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
This non-winners-of-four-lifetime allowance in New Orleans features eight older state-bred females. We like 3-Vale Male, and we like her because we think she will get a dream trip, sitting well behind a suicidal pace duel in front of her, saving ground from her inside post position, seizing control of the race when the early pacesetters run out of gasand throw in the towel, which will probably be at the top of the home stretch. We will bet Vale Male to win at 4-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 6, $40 to win on 3-Vale Male.
Santa Anita, Race 3, 5:05 pm ET
$32,000 Claiming, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
This claimer at Santa Anita, which drew a field of seven, is carded for 6 ½ furlongs on the turf, but it will be run on the flat, not down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. We mention that because the different configuration requires a slightly different handicapping strategy: we think this layout is much more favorable to speed, which makes the pick 3-Gallovie, who has much more early foot than the rest of the field, and who we see dominating this race from start to finish. This game can be complicated, but in this case the strategy is simple: identify the best horse, and bet him to win. We will do that by taking 8/5 on Gallovie. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 3, $50 to win on 3-Gallovie.
Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:10 pm ET
Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
Seven older horses line up for the 8th at Oaklawn. It’s one of the most fascinating races to handicap we’ve seen in some time: most of the entrants are coming out of stakes races, including 4-C Z Rocket, who is the 7/5 after a very strong runner-up finish at the Breeders Cup Sprint, which is merely the most prestigious 6 furlong dirt race in the world.
We are looking beyond the favorite, however, to a 4-year-old who we think has a very good chance at a very good price: it’s 3-Sky and Sand, who runs today off a five-month layoff, and whose last five races before his winter vacation were on turf. On the surface, he would seem to deserve his 20-1 morning line price.
But a little bit deeper dive into his past performances has us thinking that he might be live. We don’t know why trainer Steve Asmussen ran Sky and Sand in all those grass races, but he began his career on conventional dirt, and did quite well on it, including breaking his maiden in the slop thirteen months ago. He has a pedigree that to us seems more suited for dirt than turf; he has good speed and a strong finishing kick, the perfect style for sprinting on di/rt; and his recent morning workouts have been sizzling, a suggestion that he is sitting on a monster race. At 20-1, that makes him a sensational wager: we will bet him to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $50 to win on 3-Sky and Sand.
Fair Grounds, Race 7, 5:15 pm ET
Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
Ten lightly raced fillies go in the 7th at the Fair Grounds. We are looking for a rebound from 5-Forest Chimes, who looked very good winning her debut on New Year’s Eve, and then had a rough trip from both a traffic and pace standpoint in her second and las start, when she finished a well-beaten fourth in the Silberbulletday Stakes on January 21. We like that Forest Chimes gets class relief here, running against first-level company after competing in a tough stakes race; what we like even better is that on paper the pace of this race looks quite swift, which will favor her late-running style. We will bet Forest Chimes to win at 7/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 7, $40 to win on 5-Forest Chimes.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.