Garrity's Sunday Santa Anita Picks: The John Shear Stakes are named for longtime paddock boss who's now 102

Garrity's first post is 5 pm EDT.
John Shear, at 100, winning the Mr. Fitz Award. After his retirement, Santa Anita named a race after him.
John Shear, at 100, winning the Mr. Fitz Award. After his retirement, Santa Anita named a race after him.@SAPaddock on Twitter

Happy Easter, and happy Passover, to all who celebrate.

Because of the holiday, the simulcast schedule this afternoon is light, as many tracks are dark for Easter Sunday. As a result, we have just two plays, both at beautiful Santa Anita Park, and both down the unique and iconic hillside turf course there. We expect the grass in Arcadia to be firm, so let’s go.

Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 5:00 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up

A field of seven lines up for the 5th at Santa Anita. The pace, as so often is the case in these turf sprints down the hill in Arcadia, is going to be a determining factor: we think that 2-Fast Buck looks like lone speed, and that should result in the 5-year-old gelding getting an easy early lead, and dominating the race from that tactically advantageous position. We see a wire job for Fast Buck, and will bet him to win at 3-1. Besides, what’s better than a fast buck on Easter Sunday? The bet: Santa Anita, Race 5, $40 to win on 2-Fast Buck.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 6:00 pm ET
$100,000 John Shear Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Old

This race is named for John Shear, who retired last year, but who before was captain of the paddock at Santa Anita for over 60 years. It makes us happy that Shear is still with us, having turned 102 in January, one of the last living links to the old chaw-and-spit days, when the remnants of the Wild West were still in the air in Southern California. So it is both appropriate and delightful that he has a stakes race named for him, especially at a time when he is still around to savor it.

There are eight runners in the 2023 John Shear Stakes, but we have eyes for just one: 2-First Peace, who shortens to 6 ½ furlongs after running a mile in each of his last three starts. We like the cutback, but what we like more is that he is a strong finisher, which will be a major asset in a race that on paper looks to have a very fast early pace that will play against the speed horses, and play in favor his stretch-running style. First Peace has decent early speed, so he shouldn’t have to make up tons of ground – we see him settling nicely in midpack during the early stages of the race, and taking the prize with a well-timed, and strong, late charge. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 2-First Peace.

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

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