Garrity's Saturday Stakes Picks Races at Laurel Park, Fair Grounds (Mineshaft, Risen Star) and Santa Anita
The best card in the country today, at least as far as stakes racing goes, is at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where the Risen Star, a key early Kentucky Derby prep, headlines a terrific 13-race program. We have plays in five races today, all of them stakes, three from the Big Easy, and one each from Laurel and Santa Anita Parks. We expect fast dirt and firm turf for all; there is money to be made, so let’s go.
Laurel Park, Race 8, 4:02 pm ET
Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
A field of eight lines up for the Barbara Fritchie Stakes at Laurel. 3-Pass the Champagne is a strong play: she comes off a solid runner-up finish in the Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs; that race was at a mile and a sixteenth, and Pass the Champagne appears poised to run a big race cutting back in distance to 7 furlongs. Look for her to press the pace early, and to win with a strong run down the long Laurel stretch. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 3-Pass the Champagne.
Fair Grounds, Race 10, 5:37 pm ET
Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
The Mineshaft drew a very good field of nine older horses. The obvious contenders have very solid merits, but we are looking past them, and in the direction of 3-Tawny Port, who today makes his first start as a 4-year-old. He flew beneath the radar last year, seeming a cut below the best 3-year-olds in the country, as evidenced by his result in the Kentucky Derby, when he finished a no-threat 7th at 80-1 odds. The rest of his season was mixed: he ran some good races, like his win in the Ohio Derby and a strong second in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga; and he ran a truly awful race, when he was next-to-last in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx in September.
We like Tawny Port here for two reasons. The first is that he has the look to us of a horse who may be significantly better as a 4-year-old than he was as a 3-year-old. The other horses in this field have run enough that we know their ceilings; with Tawny Port, nobody really knows how good he could be. The second reason is that he is trained by Brad Cox, who is hot right now, seeming to win with every other horse he starts. Add it up and Tawny Port is the pick; we will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 10, $40 to win on 3-Tawny Port.
Fair Grounds, Race 11, 6:09 pm ET
Grade 3 Fair Grounds Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 4 & Up
An octet of older horses lines up to run nine furlongs on turf in the Fair Grounds Stakes. We like 8-Corelli, an 8-year-old veteran who was away from the races for a long time, over a year, before his last start, an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on January 23. His run that day might seem a little underwhelming – he finished a no-threat third – but we view it as nothing more than a prep for this race, especially since he is a closer, and Gulfstream Park’s turf course has been playing against that running style, and favoring speed, all meeting long. Look for Corelli to be toward the rear early, and flying late; we will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 11, $40 to win on 8-Corelli.
Fair Grounds, Race 13, 7:14 pm ET
Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The road to the Kentucky Derby starts to get serious with the Risen Star, which drew a full field of fourteen. Expect to see a few of these colts in the starting gate at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May.
With a field this size, pace is usually a deciding factor, and that is doubly true when none of them have run this far before. We think the early fractions of the Risen Star will be fast, which will favor stamina, and horses coming from behind. A runner who should be able to do both is 7-Sun Thunder, who has a pedigree to die for (he’s by Into Mischief, out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare), and while he’s yet to run a truly fast race, both the way he’s run in his three career starts, and his two most recent morning workouts, which were sensationally good, have us thinking that he is poised to run huge. Look for Sun Thunder to be well behind the leaders early, and rolling late; we will bet him to win at 15-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 13, $40 to win on 7-Sun Thunder.
Santa Anita Park, Race 9, 7:38 pm ET
$100,000 Wishing Well Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
Nine older turf females line up for the Wishing Well, to be run down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. The pick is 4-Bay Storm, who cuts back to a shorter distance after running a mile in her last two starts. We expect her to use her speed, of which she has quite a bit, to work out a forwardly placed trip, to squirt clear when the field straightens for home, and to have enough in her tank to hold off the closers late. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 9, $40 to win on 4-Bay Storm.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.