Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks 5 Pimlico stakes races – Hilltop, Black Eyed Susan
On this lovely spring day, the eyes of the racing world will be on Pimlico, where there is a very good card on the day before the Preakness, one headlined by the Black Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. That is an excellent excuse for a special edition of our regular Friday feature, Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping. Happy hour today will last longer than usual, a bit over two hours, during which five good stakes races will be run at Old Hilltop in Baltimore. We expect fast dirt and firm turf for all of them, so pour yourself a tumbler of one of the pleasingly potent potables from our friends at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.
Pimlico, Race 9, 3:36 pm ET
$100,000 The Very One Stakes, 5 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
There’s a lot of speed among the ten females entered in the Very One, which should set the table quite nicely for 5-Thundering Creed, who spun her hooves in her last start on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park, but who was very good in a couple of turf sprints before that. She will not be first early, but we think she will be first where it counts, and will bet Thundering Creed to win at 6-1. The bet: Pimlico, Race 9, $40 to win on 5-Thundering Creed.
Pimlico, Race 10, 4:07 pm ET
Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
Seven line up for the Miss Preakness. At first glance, it looks like a poor betting race, as morning line choices 2-Key of Life, who’s even money, and 6-Maple Leaf Mel, who’s 8/5, appear better than the rest. The first impression is that if one doesn’t win, the other will.
But we are taking a swing against both, as they are both need-the-lead speed types, and they are equally fast. That means a good old-fashioned speed duel, with the two of them running each other into submission trying to establish early superiority, and a come-from-behinder picking up the pieces late. The stretch runner who looks the best to us is 4-Afternoon Tea, who broke her maiden at Keeneland last month by sitting comfortably behind dueling speedsters early, and rallying late; we see a similar setup, and a similar result, for her here. We will bet Afternoon Tea to win at 8-1. The bet: Pimlico, Race 10, $40 to win on 4-Afternoon Tea.
Pimlico, Race 11, 4:38 pm ET
$100,000 Hilltop Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies
A dozen 3-year-old fillies line up for the Hilltop. The pace looks fast, which should favor 1-Breath Away, a stretch-runner whose last race, a win in a minor stakes at Gulfstream Park, was impressive both against the clock and visually, and who gets extra credit for rallying strongly on the speed-favoring Gulfstream sod. Her rail post should allow jockey Joel Rosario to save ground, and we expect her to blow away this group with a big stretch run. We will bet her to win at 2-1, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Pimlico, Race 11, $50 to win on 1-Breath Away.
Pimlico, Race 12, 5:10 pm ET
Grade 3 Pimlico Special, 1 3/16 miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
An interesting group of eight older horses lines up for the Pimlico Special. 2-Rattle N Roll is the morning line choice, and a deserving one, as three of his last four starts were excellent, with the only dud a fourth-place finish in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes at Keeneland, where he found the marathon 1⅝ mile distance a bit too far for his liking.
Rattle N Roll’s recent form is good, and this 11-furlong distance suits him quite well. But we think pace may be a problem for him: He’s a stone-cold deep closer, and we doubt the early fractions of this race will be swift enough to set up his late run. He could certainly win, but at a short price, we are taking a shot against him, and are doing so with 8-Keystone Field, who we think is going to get the early lead, and stay there all the way around the track. He was last seen doing a speed-and-fade in the Grade 2 Fort Marcy at Belmont Park, but we can’t see his last-place finish in that race as anything but a tightener for this spot, as the Fort Marcy was on turf, and Keystone Field has been much better of late on conventional dirt. This is a good horse who seems to be sitting on a top effort, and who figures to get an advantageous trip from both a trip and pace standpoint; we will bet him to win at 10-1. The bet: Pimlico, Race 12, $40 to win on 8-Keystone Field.
Pimlico, Race 13, 5:44 pm ET
Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
The 2023 renewal of the Black Eyed Susan, a race first run in 1919, is a good one, with a deep field of twelve fillies going to the gate. The first thing we did in assessing the group is to study the merits of morning line favorite 9-Faiza, who comes to Baltimore from California, where she was very impressive winning the first five starts of her career.
To put it bluntly, Faiza is the kind of horse we live to bet against. While her form looks good, she has never faced a field this big, she has never faced a field this good, and betting against horses who get big figures beating up on small and weak fields in California when they ship East has been a profitable angle the past few years. At somewhere around even money, Faiza is a mammoth underlay, and Rule #1 of this game is to bet against underlays.
The pick is 4-Merlazza. She’s a filly with a blueblood Kentucky pedigree (by Medaglia d’Oro, out of a Distorted Humor mare), and while she has yet to run quite as fast as Faiza, the way she ran her last two starts, wins in a stakes and an allowance at Oaklawn Park and the Fair Grounds, respectively, make us think that she is going to take a big step forward here. That makes her a major win contender, and at 6-1, a good wager. We will play her to win. The bet: Pimlico, Race 13, $40 to win on 4-Merlazza.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.