Garrity's Saturday Stakes: Elkhorn, Ben Ali at Keeneland, Oaklawn Handicap, Bath House Row, Valley of Vapors
We have five plays for this beautiful spring Saturday: two at Keeneland in Kentucky, and three at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Like all horse racing fans, we are waiting eagerly for the Kentucky Derby, which is in two weeks, but these will more than tide us over, at least for today. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so let’s go.
Keeneland, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET
Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 4 & Up
The Elkhorn is our kind of race: a turf marathon for older horses. Ten of them are entered, and though most of them are grizzled veterans, we very much like a lightly raced younger horse: It’s 7-Howe Street, a 4-year-old who has run just three times, but who has done quite well in all of them. We particularly like his last two efforts, when he won maiden and allowance races, respectively, at Gulfstream Park. He finished strongly both times, which is a good sign for a turf runner; what is even better is that he did so on a Gulfstream turf surface that usually favors speed, and plays against come-from-behinders. That means that he is probably better than his figures indicate, which makes him a strong win contender here, and an excellent wager at 10-1 odds. We will bet him to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Howe Street.
Keeneland, Race 9, 5:16 pm ET
Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes, 1 3/16 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
Older horses, seven of them, line up for the Ben Ali.The pick is 7-Tawny Port, whose last start was better than it looks on paper, as he ran against some tough horses finishing fifth in the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park. He adds blinkers, which is a sign of positive intent, but what really seals the deal for us is that he is trained by Brad Cox, who is hot right now. Look for Tawny Port to stalk the pace early, and roll late. We will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $40 to win on 7-Tawny Port.
Oaklawn Park, Race 9, 5:30 pm ET
$150,000 Valley of the Vapors Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
The Valley of the Vapors drew a field of nine sophomore fillies. 2-Merlazza looks like a standout: her last race, which was a win in a Fair Grounds allowance, was her first around two turns, and it was also the best race of her young career. She has a blueblood Kentucky pedigree (by Medaglia d’Oro, out of a Distorted Humor mare), and she simply looks faster, and better, than the rest of this group. Merlazza will be a relatively short price, but we think there is value in every winner; we will bet her to win at 8/5. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 2-Merlazza.
Oaklawn Park, Race 10, 6:06 pm ET
Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
Seven older horses line up for the Oaklawn Handicap. We’re all in on 4-Proxy, who comes off a very good runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Handicap. He has been facing much tougher company of late, as his three most recent starts were all Grade 1 races, and he also cuts back to a mile and an eighth after running a mile and a quarter at Santa Anita, and he has always been better at this slightly shorter distance. Look for him to win with a powerful move around the far turn and into the top of the home straight. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 4-Proxy.
Oaklawn Park, Race 11, 6:46 pm ET
$200,000 Bath House Row Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The Bath House Row, named for a group of bathhouses where one can take the waters that made Hot Springs famous, is for 3-year-olds; nine are entered. One of them, 4-Red Route One, is getting some pretty significant class relief, as his last three starts were in Kentucky Derby preps. He was not quite good enough in those races, and will not be in the starting gate in Louisville on the first Saturday in May, but Red Route One should be plenty good enough to beat this group, none of which appears even remotely as tough as those he has been facing, colts like Angel of Empire, who won the Arkansas Derby and is currently #3 on the Kentucky Derby contender list. We will bet Red Route One to win at 2-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 11, $40 to win on 4-Red Route One.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the races, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.