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Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping Picks Aqueduct, Santa Anita, the Matron Stakes at Oaklawn

First post is 4:28 pm EDT. Last post is 5:58 pm. Let it Rye-d.

Today is the last day in March, and to celebrate making it through another month, and through another work week, we have an installment of our regular Friday feature, Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. We have plays in five races at three tracks, all of which have cocktail-friendly, late-afternoon post times. There’s money to be made, so pour yourself a couple of fingers of one of the delectable rye whiskeys from our friends at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:28 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, New York-bred 3-Year-Olds

Today’s featured race at the Big A is this state-bred allowance; it drew a field of seven. The pick is 3-Kerness, who comes off two consecutive wins, in a maiden claiming race at Parx and an allowance at Laurel, respectively, and who here should get an early lead, and be long gone. We think Kerness wires this group, and will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $40 to win on 3-Kerness.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 5:00 pm ET

$20,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

Eight maiden claimers go in the nightcap in Ozone Park. Favored 6-Old Point on paper looks to be the best, but he also will likely be a terrible bet, as he finished second in each of his last two races, both of which were at this $20k level. That he failed to take advantage of either of those opportunities makes taking a short price on him a thoroughly unappealing proposition.

We like 4-Ghoststryder. He is dropping in class here, with his last start coming against $40k maidens; we like that, and we also like that this is his second start off a layoff, and he should therefore show improvement. We will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Ghoststryder.

Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:26 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

This sprint for fillies and mares drew a field of ten. In a race this short, we would normally look for speed, but a few of the runners are need-the-lead types, and none of them has enough early zip to establish clear early superiority. That means a contested pace, and a winner coming from either slightly or way behind.

We like 2-Gunning, who comes off a very good race, when she won an allowance in the slop on March 9. Considering that was her first start in nearly six months, and that she reeled off a very fast morning workout six days ago, she seems fit and ready. Look for her to sit comfortably just behind the dueling speedsters, seizing command down the home straight. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Gunning.

Santa Anita, Race 4, 5:30 pm ET
$62,500 Maiden Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A half dozen go in the 4th at Santa Anita. We like the looks of a first-time starter, 2-Paid in Gold, who has done some very good work in the morning, and who has a trainer, Karen Headley, who is good overall and very good with horses debuting. And best of all, the rest of this group looks very, very weak. We will bet Pain in Gold to win at 5/2. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 4, $40 to win on 2-Paid in Gold.

Oaklawn Park, Race 9, 5:58 pm ET

$250,000 Matron Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Seven older females line up for the Matron Stakes at Oaklawn Park. It’s a very good field, especially for a Friday, as several of the entrants are battle-tested and tough. Our pick is the one who we think might have the most natural ability: 2-Matareya, who had a terrific season last year as a 3-year-old, winning the Grade 2 Eight Belles at Churchill and the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont, before a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga sent her to the sidelines for the rest of the year. She comes off a layoff here, but if she has progressed and matured physically in the past seven months – and her recent morning drills suggest she has – then she is going to take the Matron Stakes. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Matareya.

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

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