Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Picks: One stakes at Belmont, Kentucky Oaks, 2 more, at Churchill Downs

First post 4:04 pm EDT. Last post 5:51 pm. Let it Rye-d.
Zandon returns in the Westchester Stakes.
Zandon returns in the Westchester Stakes.NYRA

Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping is our regular Friday feature, but the one on the first Friday in May – today – is one of the very best of the year, as it’s Kentucky Oaks day at Churchill Downs. Because of that, we’re going to extend happy hour a little bit: Pace yourself, because we have plays in four races, three on the Derby eve card in Louisville, and one at Belmont Park in New York, that will be run in about two hours’ time. This is a day for savoring, both the tremendous equine athletes who make this the greatest game in the world and our friends at Dad’s Hat, so make yourself a julep from one of their delicious, hand-crafted-in-Pennsylvania whiskeys; we expect fast and firm today, so let’s go.

Churchill Downs, Race 9, 4:04 pm ET

Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

The 2023 renewal of the La Troienne Stakes drew ten entrants. The star of the field, and the morning favorite, is 4-Secret Oath, who won the Kentucky Oaks exactly one year ago. We hope she gets lots of backing at the windows, because we think she is far likelier to take a minor prize than to end up in the winner’s circle.

We like 2-Search Results. She ran in the Kentucky Oaks two years ago, when she finished a neck behind Malathaat after a thrilling stretch duel. She was last seen in the Breeders Cup Distaff in November, where she got cooked running too close to a wickedly fast early pace, and faded to finish sixth, but she looks poised to run much, much better today, even off the layoff. Look for her to prevail with a pace-pressing trip from her inside post; we will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $50 to win on 2-Search Results.

Churchill Downs, Race 10, 4:51 pm ET

Grade 2 Edgewood Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Eleven sophomore fillies line up for the Edgewood. It’s a good field, and a good betting race. The pick is 11-Revalita, who we like very much: she began her career in France, where she was bred, and while on the surface her lone U.S. start, a fourth-place finish in the Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4, might not look like much, we think it was a deceptively good try, as she made up a lot of ground late, and did so while running very wide. If she was able to close that strongly on Gulfstream’s speed-favoring turf course, then she should be much, much better on the much fairer Churchill sod – especially since the pace here looks like it will be fast, which will play in favor of her late-running style. At 5-1, she is a sensational play; we will bet her to win, and we will do so with gusto. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 10, $60 to win on 11-Revalita.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 5:05 pm ET

Grade 3 Westchester Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 4 & Up

Eight go in the Westchester. 7-Zandon is a strong play: He makes his first start as a 4-year-old today, after a very good campaign last year that saw him hit the board in six of his seven starts, all of which were against top-level competition. This game can be very difficult, but in the 2023 Westchester Stakes, we think Zandon is a reminder of a fundamental handicapping precept: find the best horse and bet him to win. We’ll take his 2-1 morning line number and do exactly that. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $50 to win on 7-Zandon.

Churchill Downs, Race 11, 5:51 pm ET

Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

The 149th running of the Kentucky Oaks – they’ve been running this race since 1875 – is the headliner today, and, as usual, it drew a full field. It’s a nice group, with the lack of a clear star offset by the fact that the 14 entrants are pretty evenly matched, which makes it a good race to bet.

We’re against the favorite, 7-Wet Paint, who is a nice filly, but who has earned mediocre speed figures despite getting very favorable trips in her last two starts. She could win, but at 5/2, she is a mammoth underlay, and Rule #1 in this game is that always to bet against an underlay, whether it’s in a Grade 1 race or a $4,000 claimer.

We like 4-Southlawn. She comes into this having won two consecutive races, and though she did not not run exceptionally fast in either race, we think we have not yet seen her best, as two back she prevailed despite running close to a very fast pace, and in her last start, she rallied strongly to pass Pretty Mischievous, who is also entered here, and who got a very favorable trip from a pace standpoint, and who looked home free in deep stretch. 3-year-olds this time of year can improve rapidly in a short time, and overcoming unfavorable circumstances can be a sign of that; Southlawn has the look of this kind of filly, and that makes her a major win threat, and a terrific wager at a generous 8-1 number. We think Southlawn triumphs in  the 2023 Kentucky Oaks for trainer Norm Casse and jockey Rey Gutierrez, and will bet her to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 11, $50 to win on 4-Southlawn.

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

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