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Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks Opening Day at Del Mar, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga

First post is 4:48 pm EDT. Last post is 5:44 pm. Let it Rye-d.

We have a good edition of our regular Friday feature, Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping, for this afternoon: five races at the sport’s premier summer meetings, Saratoga, Monmouth, and Del Mar. The weather will be terrific at the latter, as it always is; in New York and New Jersey, there is a decent chance of rain, but we think there’s a decent chance they can dodge raindrops, so we’ve handicapped all races for fast dirt and firm turf.

It’s a nice slate today, so pour yourself a dram of one of the savory, hand-crafted-in-Pennsylvania libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat Rye, and let’s go.

Monmouth Park, Race 7, 4:48 pm ET

Starter Allowance, Monmouth Park, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3 & Up

The forecast at the Jersey Shore this afternoon is iffy, with a front forecast to roll through, producing showers and thunderstorms. We’re going to pray that it holds off until after the day’s races, and that this starter allowance, which drew nine runners, can stay on the turf, because we quite like 9-It Can Be Done, who will have to negotiate a very tough outside draw, but who otherwise looks very much the best. Look for him to press the pace early, squirt clear at the top of the stretch, and hold off the closers late. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 9-It Can Be Done.

Del Mar, Race 1, 5:00 pm ET

$16,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up

The first race on opening day at Del Mar is always run around two turns, so that the horses, right after they leave the gate, can run by the grandstand. The crowd will let out a terrific roar; it is one of the great spectacles on one of the sport’s great days.

As for the race itself, it’s a $16,000 claimer that drew a full field of ten. We like 7-Universal Payday, who has earned superior speed figures at Gulfstream Park, and who might get away at a decent price because the locals are unfamiliar with him. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 1, $40 to win on 7-Universal Payday.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 8, 5:10 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

Today’s 8th at the Spa is this tough second-level allowance. It drew a field of nine. We are taking a stab with a colt who will be a giant price: 9-Major Blue, who on paper would seem to have little chance, as he’s lost each of his last five starts by giant margins. We think he is better than those results would indicate, however, as he was either doing something for which he is ill-suited (sprinting on turf), or the race shape worked against him. He returns in this spot to what he does best, running nine furlongs on dirt, and he has abundant speed: we think jockey Tyler Gafflione is taking Major Blue right to the front, and he has a shot to stay there all the way around the track. At 50-1, that merits a play; we will bet him to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $50 to win on 9-Major Blue.

Del Mar, Race 2, 5:34 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Ten maidens go in the second at Del Mar. In a tough group, the nod goes to 9-Thrust, a first-time starter with an excellent pedigree (he’s by top stallion Violence, out of a Candy Ride mare). His outside post position is a tactical advantage, but what we like more than that is what this 3-year-old colt has done in the morning: his workouts the past month or so have been excellent, and suggest that he has the speed, and the foundation, to win at first asking. We will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 2, $40 to win on 9-Thrust.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 9, 5:44 pm ET

Grade 3 Lake George Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

The Lake George drew an interesting field of ten sophomore fillies. The pick is 5-Revalita, who has done passably well of late, hitting the board in both times she’s run this year, but who gets the nod because of distance: her last two starts were in slightly longer races, and we think that she is very dangerous cutting back to a mile here. She has a terrific late kick; look for her to be toward the rear early, and rolling down the stretch. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 5-Revalita.

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

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