In the Acorn, Pretty Mischevious nipped Dorth Vader. Today in the Test, Garrity believes the Empire strikes back.
In the Acorn, Pretty Mischevious nipped Dorth Vader. Today in the Test, Garrity believes the Empire strikes back.NYRA

Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Jersey Shore at Monmouth, 2 at Ellis Park, the Test and Derby at Saratoga

Garrity's first post is 3:57 pm EDT.

Today is the kind of day that racing fans live for: a Saturday with excellent horses, and good stakes races, as far as the eye can see. We have selected five as being worth of our parimutuel attention, and expect fast dirt and firm turf for all of them, except at Saratoga, where the turf will be yielding. An exciting afternoon of racing awaits, so let’s go.

Monmouth Park, Race 8, 3:57 pm ET

$100,000 Jersey Shore Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The Jersey Shore, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds, drew a field of nine. We’re all in on favored 2-Squire Creek, who was last seen finishing a game third in a minor stakes at Ellis Park last month. That race was at 7 furlongs, and in the slop; we think he will improve on the cutback in distance, and moving back to a fast track. He may get the early lead, or he may stalk; either way, he is going to blow this race wide open when they enter the stretch. He is 2-2 on the morning line, but will be shorter at post time; we will bet him to win anyway. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Squire Creek.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 8, 4:26 pm ET

Grade 1 Test Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

The Test is a race with a long and rich history, and its 2023 renewal more than lives up to its past, as a cracking good group of eight 3-year-old fillies goes to the gate. Quite a few of them look excellent, but the one who looks best to us is 6-Dorth Vader, who finished behind 9/5 morning line favorite 1-Pretty Mischevious in her last two starts, but who should be able to turn the tables here, primarily because of distance: Both of those races were at longer distances, and Dorth Vader’s edge in speed will play much better at 7 furlongs than it did around two turns. Look for Dorth Vader to press the pace early, move to the front down the stretch, and to hold off the late runners, including Pretty Mischievous, late. We will bet Dorth Vader to win at 6-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $50 to win on 6-Dorth Vader.

Ellis Park, Race 8, 4:34 pm ET
$200,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Dueling Grounds Derby, 1 1/18 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The first of a pair of good turf stakes at Ellis Park is this nine furlong affair for sophomore colts. It drew thirteen entrants. We’re predicting a swift early pace, and a runner coming from far back, which makes the pick the late-running 5-Lincoln Highway, who comes off a third-place finish in an allowance race on June 24. That effort looks passable on the surface, but we think it was actually better than it might appear at first glance, as he closed strongly into early fractions that were a bit on the slow side. He’s a lightly raced colt with an excellent pedigree, and we think he can take a big step forward today, especially with a race shape that favors his closing running style. We will bet him to win at 15-1. The bet: Ellis Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Lincoln Highway.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 9, 5:01 pm ET

Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes, 1 3/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The Saratoga Derby Invitational drew a field of nine. Three of them come from Europe, a continuation of a trend that has seen horses based on the other side of the pond dominating turf stakes in New York. While the natural inclination from that might be to lean to the Euros as far as betting is concerned, we think that is a mistake here, as trainers from France and the UK generally bring horses to the U.S. looking for ground firmer than they get in Europe, runners who they think will be better on firm turf than on the soft and often boggy courses that are the norm over there. And that will play against them today, as Saratoga has had quite a lot of rain the past few days, and this course, if this race stays on grass, will be very, very soft.

The pick is 2-Program Trading. He would be worth considering under any circumstances, as he is undefeated in two career starts, and he comes from the powerhouse Chad Brown barn, but we like him even more given the conditions, as his pedigree suggest he will handle soft turf, and we think the way the race will run will favor him: he has a bit of early speed, and the rest of the field has none. We see rider Flavien Prat taking Program Trading right to the front, setting the pace while running glacially slow fractions, and from that tactically advantageous position being impossible to catch. We see him winning in gate-to-wire fashion, and will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $50 to win on 2-Program Trading.

Ellis Park, Race 9, 5:07 pm ET

$200,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Mint Mile Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

An interesting group of twelve older horses line up for this mile turf race. We are taking a shot at a horse at a big price, 10-Santos Dumont, who on paper would seem to have little chance, as he’s never run on turf, and his last few races have been somewhere between mediocre and terrible. But to our eyes he has a few things going for him: the first is that despite his lack of experience, he has a pretty good turf pedigree; the second is that his recent morning workouts have been sensationally good, a sign that he is ready to run a big race; and the third is that he has a trainer, Chris Hartman, who is excellent with grass horses. Oh, and he has speed too. He is not a cinch, but we think he has a very real chance, and at 20-1 odds, he merits a play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Ellis Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 10-Santos Dumont.

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

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