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Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks races at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds and Oaklawn

First post 4:26 pm ET. Last post 5:16 pm. Let it Rye-d.

We don’t know where this month has gone, but here we are, the last Friday in February, which makes it a wholly appropriate excuse for another installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. Today we have selected five races that will be run in under an hour, all with cocktail-friendly, late-afternoon post times. We expect fast dirt and firm turf for all of them, except at Oaklawn Park, where morning rains should produce a muddy track. So pour yourself a glass of one of the exceedingly exquisite elixirs from our friends at Dad’s Hat Rye, and let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:26 pm ET

Starter Allowance, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

A half-dozen starter older females line up for this starter allowance. Two of them, 1-Sa Foradada and 1A-Ughrouda, are coupled in the wagering due to common ownership, which is a good thing, because we don’t like either of them, and entries typically get overbet. We are instead going with 5-Vodkatini, who comes off two excellent races, the last a sharp win, against state-bred claiming company. A repeat of her should be good enough to take the prize here; we will bet her to win at 9/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $40 to win on 5-Vodkatini.

Fair Grounds, Race 6, 4:45 pm ET

Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Louisiana-bred 3-Year-Olds

This state-bred sprint drew a field of eight. There’s a lot of speed in the group, which should produce an absolute dream trip for 4-Clear as a Bele, who won his lone career start by sitting just off a fast pace and rallying late. We see a similar setup, and a similar result, today. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 6, $40 to win on 4-Clear as a Bele.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:57 pm

Allowance, Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

This one-turn mile allowance at the Big A drew a dozen entrants. We are taking a shot at one at a huge price, 9-Champagne Poetry, who was good enough in the first two starts of her career, which were in December of 2021 and January of 2022, that trainer Chad Sommers ran her in a series of increasingly tougher stakes race, including the Grade 3 Soaring Softly at Belmont last May. She was thoroughly outclassed in almost all of those races, but we think that there is still some ability there, and she just might be poised to show it today, in her second start off a long layoff. Is she a sure thing? No. But we think she has a chance, and at 30-1, that makes her a good wager. We will bet her to win. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Champagne Poetry.

Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:10 pm ET

Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

Eight allowance runners go in this, the featured race on today’s card at Oaklawn Park. We’d probably like 1-Mahaamel on a dry track, but on a wet one, which we expect, as there was a goodly amount of rain overnight in Hot Springs, we like him even more. Look for him to press the pace early, squirt clear at the top of the stretch, and hold on late. We will be him to win at 5/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 1-Mahaamel.

Fair Grounds, Race 7, 5:16 pm ET

Allowance, 1 mile, Turf, Louisiana-breds 3 & Up

Eight older horses bred in the Pelican State line up for this first-level allowance at a mile on turf. The pick is 8-Oneforvivi, who has a surprisingly good pedigree for this kind of race, (by American Pharoah, out of a Forestry mare), and who has been admirably consistent of late, hitting the board in each of his last five starts. The question is whether his typical effort is good enough to win, and we think the answer is yes, as Oneforvivi seems to have caught a field he can handle. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 7, $40 to win on 8-Oneforvivi.

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

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