Garrity's Memorial Day Stakes Picks: The Winning Colors at Churchill Downs, Three Grade 1's at Santa Anita
Memorial Day has always been a big day in racing, and as a result, the simulcasting calendar is very busy this afternoon, with holiday cards all over the place. The best one in the country, by far, is out in Southern California, where Santa Anita runs three Grade 1 races that highlight a 10-race program. We have selected those three, plus the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill Downs, for a quartet of Monday stakes action. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all four races, so let’s go.
Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:22 pm ET
Grade 3 Winning Colors Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
A half dozen filly and mare sprinters draw into the Winning Colors. 5-Echo Zulu is the odds-on morning line favorite, but that is primarily due to reputation: She was the champion juvenile filly two years ago, when a victory in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies capped a spectacular undefeated season, but she has simply not progressed much since then, and in this spot, against some pretty salty competition, she looks to us like a big underlay.
One thing Echo Zulu still has, in abundance, is speed, but so do a couple of the other runners here. We think that is going to result in a swift pace that favors a closer, and the one we think will pick up the pieces is 4-Last Leaf, whose best races in the past have been when she sits back early and makes a big late run. That is the scenario we see for her today, and will bet her to do just that, and to win, at 8-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, race 8, $40 to win on 4-Last Leaf.
Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 6:12 pm ET
Grade 1 Gamely Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Seven go in the Gamely. Six of them are locally based, so considering our low opinion of the quality of the turf horses based in Southern California, it is no surprise that we like the one who is not: The pick is 5-Viareggio. She is a 4-year-old Irish-bred filly, and eleven of her twelve career starts were in Great Britain and Ireland, where she was good, but not great, but that would appear on paper to be enough to beat this very average group, which is nowhere near Grade 1 quality. Viareggio comes off an allowance win at Keeneland a month ago, and while it was not an especially fast race, we like the way she ran that day, as she showed she could handle firm turf, something she never saw in Europe but will get here. We will bet her to win at 5/2 odds. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 5, $40 to win on 5-Viareggio.
Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 7:13 pm ET
Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up
A field of eleven lines up for the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. We’re all in on 11-Salesman, who makes his North American debut here off a layoff of nearly a year. He was bred in Ireland, and has raced exclusively in France, where he was mostly a ham-and-egger, durable and sound but not exactly a win machine, with just three victories in 23 career starts. But there are a few things that make us like him here: We think he will do better on the firm turf at Santa Anita than the soft turf he saw in France; his morning workouts of late have been excellent; and he starts for Hall of Fame trainer, Richard Mandella, whose confidence is shown by his presence here, rather than in a more logical allowance race. We think he is a major contender, and will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 11-Salesman.
Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 7:44 pm ET
Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
The 2023 Hollywood Gold Cup, a Grade 1 run for most of its 85-year history at long-gone Hollywood Park, drew a field of six. The heavy favorite is 4-Defunded, a Bob Baffert trainee who comes off a fast win in the Californian on April 22. He could win, but he’s 4/5 on the morning line, and we think at that kind of number he’s a play-against, as he’s never won at this 10 furlong distance.
2-Senor Buscador is a strong play. He’s never run a mile and a quarter before, and we cannot understand why, as both his pedigree and running style suggest that he will thrive at a mile and a quarter. Look for him to be running strongly at the end of the race, when the other horses are gasping for air; we will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Senor Buscador.
That’s all for today. Until the next time, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.