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Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks races at Oaklawn, Gulfstream, Aqueduct and Santa Anita, including the Whitmore

Garrity's first post is at 5:22 pm EDT.

It’s a Saturday in early spring, and while the lineup of stakes on the national simulcasting calendar might at first impression appear a bit lacking, a closer look shows some very bettable races with good wagering opportunities.

We have plays in five races, all stakes, in New York, Florida, Arkansas, and California. We expect fast dirt and firm turf for all, so let’s go.

Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:22 pm ET

Grade 3 Whitmore Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

Ten sprinters line up for the Grade 3 Whitmore. It’s a very salty group, and one of them is going to have to run huge to prevail. We think that will be 7-Flash of Mischief, who comes off an uncharacteristically poor effort in the King Cotton Stakes, when a wide trip on a sloppy track that favored inside runners caused him to fade late. We expect a much, much better effort from him today; look for him to sit just behind what should be swift early fractions, and prevail with a strong late rally. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Flash of Mischief.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 5:32 pm ET

$100,000 Cicada Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A field of six 3-year-old fillies goes in the Cicada. The favorite is 3-Downtown Mischief, who is odds-on after winning her first two career starts quite impressively. She could very well win, but at a short price, we think she is a play-against, as this is the first time the New York-bred filly will run against open company, and both of her wins were on wet tracks, and while she was obviously very good on them, it is no guarantee that she will be equally good on fast dirt.

We like 6-Fancy Azteca. Like the favorite, she is lightly raced, but she looks to us to be a filly on the improve, and we think she will get a setup similar to her last start, when she won an allowance race by sitting just behind a fast early pace, and moving forward when the pacesetters tired. We will bet her to win at 10-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-Fancy Azteca.

Gulfstream Park, Race 11, 5:35 pm ET

$100,000 Silks Run Stakes, 5 furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up

Turf sprinters, a dozen of them, line up to dash five furlongs in the Silks Run Stakes. A wickedly fast early pace seems likely, as quite a few of them have tremendous early zip, which has us looking in the direction of 5-Belgrano, who has enough speed to stay reasonably close early, an important trait on Gulfstream’s speed-favoring turf course, combined with a strong finishing kick. This 9-year-old gelding won the Janus Stakes at Gulfstream back in December by closing late after the speed collapsed; we expect a similar result today. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 11, $40 to win on 5-Belgrano.

Oaklawn Park, Race 9, 5:54 pm ET

Grade 3 Essex Handicap, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up

Ten older horses go in the Essex. We like the looks of 2-Vittorio, who did quite well in his last start, finishing second in a Gulfstream Park allowance on February 5. He earned a very good speed figure for that effort, and while we would like that under any circumstances, we like it even more for the fact that it was his first start in ten months. If he improves off that effort, he’s going to be awfully tough here. Another positive is that he is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, and we think it is noteworthy that Mott brought him to Arkansas, where he doesn’t run much (Mott has just six starts at the current Oaklawn meeting), rather than run him in a race much closer to his winter base in South Florida. The ambience in Hot Springs is nice, especially in early spring, but we don’t think Mott went there for it: We think he came because he thinks the same thing that we do, which is that Vittorio is sitting on a big race. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Vittorio.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 6:31 pm ET

$100,000 China Doll Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A septet of sophomore fillies goes to the gate for the China Doll. The most likely winner is the favorite, 6-Comanche Country, who was quite good as a juvenile last year, good enough to earn a spot in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. While she may very well win, we think she will be an underlay, and the first rule of this game is to bet against underlays.

We like 2-Havana Angel. She’s an Irish-bred filly who began her career in Europe, where she ran quite well, including a very good third-place finish in a Group 3 race at Chantilly last June. She has been awful since she was brought to the U.S. last summer, but we think she looks poised to show marked improvement today. We will bet her to win at 15-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Comanche Country.

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

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