Garrity's Saturday Stakes Picks Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga, Pacific Classic at Del Mar, plus 3 more

Garrity's first post is 6:18 pm EDT.
Racing at Del Mar.
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The biggest card of the day is at Del Mar in Southern California, where the Pacific Classic headlines a terrific 11-race program. We like the races out West so much, in fact, that they comprise the bulk of our action on this first Saturday in September: we have plays in four races from Del Mar, plus one race at Saratoga. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so let’s go.

Saratoga Race Course, Race 11, 6:18 pm ET

Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

The Jockey Club Gold Cup seems to have lost a bit of luster in the recent past, which is a sad illustration of how far the handicap division in horse racing, which used to be the sport’s most prominent, has fallen. This is a race that has been won by countless all-time greats, nearly legendary horses like Citation, Kelso, Buckpasser, and John Henry, and we doubt that any of horses assembled for its 2023 renewal – the field of eight is somewhere between pedestrian and lousy – will be remembered in six months, let alone in fifty years.

Still, someone will have to win the race, and we think it will be 6-Tyson, a 4-year-old who is short on experience, with just five starts in his career, but long on promise, as he’s run pretty well in four starts at Woodbine this year. The question with him is the surface: He’s so far run exclusively on the synthetic track at Woodbine, and it is not guaranteed that he will handle conventional dirt. We think he will thrive on it – his blueblood Kentucky pedigree practically screams that he’ll be an excellent 10 furlong dirt horse –  and that makes Tyson the pick. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 11, $40 to win on 6-Tyson.

Del Mar, Race 7, 7:37 pm ET
Grade 2 Del Mar Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

A field of ten lines up for the Del Mar Mile. We see a fast early pace, and that makes the pick 4-Balnikhov, who is a very dependable sort: When the early fractions are rapid enough that they favor come-from-behinders, he does well; when the pace is slow, and favors horses who set or stalk the pace, he finishes off the board. We think the race shape is going to play right into the hooves of Balnikov, and that makes him very dangerous, and an enticing win play at 6-1 odds. Look for him to be flying late; we will bet him to win. The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Balnikhov.

Del Mar, Race 8, 8:07 pm ET

Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A deep and interesting field of ten lines up for the Torrey Pines. We like a filly who should be a very nice price: it’s 5-Olivia Twist, who was last seen in the San Clemente on July 22, where she vied for the lead for six furlongs but faded late, finishing sixth. We’re giving her a pass for that effort, partly because it was her first start in nearly five months, and partly because it was on turf, a surface she had never tried before. We think her effort that day will serve as an excellent tightener for this spot, and we also think that the race shape will favor her, as she’s a closer, and the early pace should be fast. We will bet her to win at 20-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Olivia Twist.

Del Mar, Race 10, 9:13 pm ET

Grade 1 Pacific Classic, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

The Pacific Classic is the biggest race of the summer at Del Mar, and one of the biggest of the year in Southern California, so it’s good to see that it drew a field worthy of its stature: a good and deep group of eleven will go to the post. In a field that big, it’s tempting to take a stab at a price, but we cannot get past morning line choice 1-Geaux Rocket Ride, who looks like a budding star. He was sensational winning the Haskell at Monmouth Park in his last start, and his morning workout since suggest that he is going to be even better today. Look for him to press the pace early, and roll late; we will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 10, $50 to win on 1-Geaux Rocket Ride.

Del Mar, Race 11, 9:45 pm ET

Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

Eleven older turf horses go in the Del Mar Handicap. The pick is 4-Missed the Cut. He was bred in Kentucky, but began his career on turf in Europe, where he was pretty good, winning three of his first four starts. When he was brought to the United States, trainer John Sadler tried him on dirt, which is understandable, as he’s by Quality Road, one of the top dirt stallions in the world. That was an unsuccessful experiment – he lost both times he tried conventional dirt – but we think those races will set him up perfectly a return to his preferred surface, grass. His race record suggests he is good enough; his recent morning workouts suggest he is fit and sound. We will bet Missed the Cut to win at 6-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 11, $50 to win on 4-Missed the Cut.

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

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