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Garrity's Saturday Stakes Picks the Gotham, Fountain of Youth, San Felipe – three Kentucky Derby preps, more

Garrity's first post is at 4:55 pm ET.

The calendar has flipped to March, and the racing calendar seems to have flipped as well, as we’ve gone from the winter doldrums to a day packed with coast-to-coast stakes action. There are significant Triple Crown prep races in New York and Florida; there is also one in California, where the Santa Anita Handicap headlines the biggest day of the meet at the Great Race Place. It’s a great day to be a fan, and an even better day to be a bettor.

We have plays in six races, all stakes, and expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Let’s go.

Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 4:55 pm ET
Grade 2 Buena Vista Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

A field of eight turf distaffers goes to the gate for the Buena Vista. The pick is 8-Nadette, a French-bred 4-year-old filly who did some very nice work in Europe last year, running in some very, very tough stakes races at Chantilly, Deauville, and Longchamp. That is the big leagues in France, and while her starts on this side of the pond have not been as good as her races overseas, we are hoping that she has just taken a little bit of time to acclimate to her new surroundings. We think that Nadette is simply better than she has shown in this country so far; we think that she will show that by prevailing in the Buena with a strong late run. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 5, $40 to win on 8-Nadette.

Aqueduct, Race 9, 4:56 pm ET

Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Fourteen sophomore colts line up for the Gotham. Partly because of the size of the field, and partly because of the traits of the horses comprising it, we’re expecting a fast pace, and that makes the pick 11-Slip Mahoney, who should get an ideal stalking trip from his outside post. This guy has a pedigree that makes us excited about his prospects for the spring classics – he’s by Arrogate, out of an A.P. Indy mare – and we think he announces his presence on the national scene with a triumph in the Gotham this afternoon. We will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 9, $40 to win on 11-Slip Mahoney.

Gulfstream Park, Race 14, 5:43 pm ET

Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Ten 3-year-old colts are entered in the Fountain of Youth, but most eyes will be on just one: 4-Forte, who last year won a series of Grade 1 races, including the Breeders Cup Juvenile, a campaign that earned him the Eclipse award as the nation’s best juvenile. He will be a short price today, 7/5 on the morning line and likely shorter when the gates open, and he probably deserves to be, but we are playing against him, as it’s his first start off a long layoff, and this is a race he does not need to win.

The pick is 7-Mage. He has far less experience than the colts he will face today, with just a maiden win to his credit, but he has something that we think just might make up for that lack of seasoning: speed. With the rest of this field comprised almost entirely of stalkers and closers, we see Mage getting an uncontested early lead, and we think that from that tactically advantageous position, he can stay in front all the way around the track. We will bet Mage to win at 8-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 14, $40 to win on 7-Mage

Santa Anita Park, Race 6, 5:57 pm ET

Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The last of today’s major Kentucky Derby prep races is out West, the San Felipe at Santa Anita, which drew a field of eleven. It’s a sensationally good race, so good that we would be surprised if at least a few of these runners failed to make it to the starting gate at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May.

We give the nod to 2-National Treasure, whose race record might, on the surface, seem a little light, as he has raced four times, with his only win coming in a maiden race back at Del Mar back in September. But he has run very well in all his starts, with one win, two seconds and a third, and he did so despite facing some incredibly difficult company, colts like Forte, last year’s champion juvenile, and Cave Rock, who was very nearly as good as Forte last season. There aren’t any horses of that caliber in the San Felipe, so we think National Treasure will earn a trip to the winner’s circle with a pace-pressing trip from his inside post position. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 6, $40 to win on 2-National Treasure.

Santa Anita Park, Race 11, 8:00 pm ET

Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up

Nine older turf horses go in the Kilroe Mile. We can’t get past the favorite, 6-Hong Kong Harry, who simply looks too good: He’s coming off a layoff here, with his last start a win in the Seabiscuit at Del Mar in November, but he’s a horse who runs well fresh, having won three times the past two years when he ran off a layoff. If he runs his race today, the rest of the field is running for second money – and we think he will run his race today. We will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 11, $50 to win on 6-Hong Kong Harry.

Santa Anita Park, Race 12, 8:31 pm ET
Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 4 & Up

Eleven line up for the Big ‘Cap. We expect a swift early pace, which, combined with the fact that the local horses seem likely to struggle with this mile and a quarter distance, point in the direction of 6-Warrant, who ships to Southern California from Louisiana for trainer Brad Cox. He galloped in his last start, beating a small field of overmatched allowance runners at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 26, and while he will need to be better today to win, we think improvement is in the cards, as his last was his first start in over six months. With that tightener under his belt, we think Warrant will take a major step forward today, finishing strongly while the rest of the field falters down the stretch. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 12, $40 to win on 6-Warrant.

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

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