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Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Hour Handicapping picks Keeneland and Oaklawn, with the Maker's Mark Mile

First post is 4:12 pm EDT. Last post 5:16 pm. Let it Rye-d.

If it’s Friday, it’s time for another end-of-week installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. For this spring day that will feel more like summer in much of the Eastern United States, we have plays in five races, three of them at Keeneland, which is in the middle of its short, and stakes-rich, spring meeting, and all of which go off in just over an hour’s time.

We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so pour yourself a glass of one of the delicious rye whiskeys from our friends at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.

Keeneland, Race 7, 4:12 pm ET

$250,000 Fanduel Limestone Stakes, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Races during Keeneland’s brief spring meet tend to draw big fields, and so, generally speaking, do turf sprints, and the Limestone is a good example of both, as a dozen sophomore fillies go to the starting gate. We like the looks of 11-Lady Hollywood, who was good enough as a juvenile last year to win a Group 3 race at Longchamp in Paris in September, and who finished fifth in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in her lone start since. While the layoff is a minor concern, we think her effort in the Breeders Cup, when she pressed a very fast pace, was better than it looks on paper, and we especially like the fact that she is back to running against members of her own sex –  her last two, including the stakes win, were against males. She’s 15-1 on the morning line, but because she is trained by Wesley Ward, will be shorter at post time; we will play her to win anyway. The bet: Keeneland, Race 7, $40 tow in on 11-Lady Hollywood.

Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:34 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, New York-breds 3 & Up

This second-level allowance for state-breds at the Big A drew a field of eight. We’re all in on 4-Whittington Park, whose last race was better, by a pretty big margin, than anything any of the other seven entrants have managed to do of late. There is no guarantee that Whittington Park will repeat this effort – these are horses, not machines, and it’s why they call this game gambling – but one believes that the best representation of a horse’s current form is his most recent race (and one should), then he looks to be the likeliest winner. We will bet him to win at 8/5. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Whittington Park.

Keeneland, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Nine older females go to the gate for this third-level allowance dirt sprint. Favored 9-Chi Town Lady looks tough on paper, but we are taking a shot against her, and are doing so with 2-Travel Column, who has run mostly in longer races, and against tougher company, but who has been quite good in the past sprinting: she’s run around one turn three times, and won twice, and in the other, finished a very good third in the Ballerina, a Grade 1 stake race. She has good speed, and we see her going right to the front from her inside post position, thereby gaining a tactical advantage over 9-Chi Town Lady, who has little early speed. We will bet Travel Column to win at 3-1. The bet: Keeneland, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Travel Column.

Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 4:54 pm ET

$12,500 Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A dozen filly and mare claimers line up for the 7th in Hot Springs. We have eyes for a lightly raced filly who is making a pretty big drop in class: it’s 8-Funtimegirl, who was last seen doing a speed-and-fade in the slop on February 26. She finished last that day, beaten over 26 lengths, but it was at the much tougher $50,000 claiming level, and we think she looks poised to rebound here. We will bet her to win at 10-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 8-Funtimegirl.

Keeneland, Race 9, 5:16 pm ET
Grade 1 Makers Mark Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up

Eight go in the Makers Mark Mile. 7-Modern Games is clearly the best horse in the race, a truly elite turf miler who has been running, and running exceedingly well, against the toughest competition in the world. This is a horse who has won Grade/Group 1 races in France, Canada, and the U.S., and on form, he sticks out like Wilt Chamberlain in the team picture of the 1953-54 Overbrook High basketball team.

But are taking a swing against him: Modern Games is very, very good, but he’s also going to a be a very, very short price, at 1/5 or so the shortest we’ll probably see anywhere this weekend. And at that kind of number, no matter how good he is, he’s an underlay.

We like 5-Dr Zempf. He’s an English-bred 4-year-old, and while he has nowhere near the credentials Modern Games has,he did run pretty well in Ireland and England last year, albeit against moderate company. He comes off a razor-sharp win in an allowance at Gulfstream Park, and that he closed strongly on that speed-favoring turf course is, we think, a sign that Dr Zempf is poised to deliver a top effort. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $40 to win on 5-Dr Zempf.

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

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