Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks for Aqueduct, Laurel Park, the Sycamore at Keeneland
It’s a Friday in October, so it’s time for an autumnal installment of our regular Friday feature, Dad’s Had Happy Hour Handicapping. We have plays in five races today, one in Maryland and a pair each in New York and Kentucky. We expect fast dirt and firm turf for all five, so pour yourself a dram of one of the fine, hand-crafted-in-Pennsylvania libations from our friends at Dad’s Hat, and let’s go.
Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:22 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
This mile and a quarter allowance race at the Big A drew a field of six. Five of them appear to have little interest in staying the 10 furlongs, which makes the pick 6-Costa Terra, who has run the distance three times, winning one and finishing second twice. Look for him to be relaxed early, and running much more strongly at the end than his rivals. We will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-Costa Terra.
Laurel Park, Race 9, 4:37 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
A field of seven is assembled for today’s featured race at Laurel Park. We can’t get past the favorite, 5-Royal Whisperer, who finished fourth at this level in his last start, at Pimlico on September 17. He stumbled at the start that day, and will need to break more alertly, but if he can stay on his feet when the gates open, he should get a dream trip, sitting just behind two dueling speedsters, and seizing command when the pacesetters start backing up. We will bet Royal Whisperer to win at 9/5 odds. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 5-Royal Whisperer.
Keeneland, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Old Fillies
2-year-old fillies, twelve of them, line up for this maiden race at Keeneland. We like 11-Plumeria, whose two career starts were on grass; she did pretty well, finishing second both times. What we like about her today is the surface: this race is on dirt, and both her pedigree (she’s by Curlin) and her running style suggest she will be better on that surface than she was on the sod. Plumeria will have to overcome her outside post position, which is a significant disadvantage, but we think she just might be good enough to handle it, and that makes her 10-1 morning line number too good to pass up. We will bet her to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 8, $40 to win on 11-Plumeria.
Aqueduct, Race 9, 4:54 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up
A turf sprint caps off the Friday card in New York; it drew a field of ten. The pick is 8-Alexis Zorba, who ran second in his last start, in a similar spot at Saratoga five weeks ago. That might by itself be enough to give him the nod here, but we move him up several notches for the fact that it was his first race in over a year, and he should run better today. Look for him to be forwardly placed early, and in front late. We will bet him to win at 6/5. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 9, $50 to win on Alexis Zorba.
Keeneland, Race 9, 5:16 pm ET
Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 3 & Up
The Sycamore, a 12 furlong turf stakes that drew a dozen entrants, will be an interesting test of what is a fundamental handicapping question these days: When it comes to turf racing, how much better are European horses than their American counterparts? We think the answer is a heck of a lot, and we think that will be provided by 3-Bold Act, a Godolphin/Charlie Appleby runner, who would probably be 15-1 in a stakes race in England or France, but who looks far superior to the second- and third-string group of American horses he will face here. He has run in two Group races this year, the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam at Saint Cloud in France in July and the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in June; he finished third in each, which would not seem to be sufficient reason to rank him highest in this field. But American turf racing is so bad right now, especially when it comes to stakes, that we automatically assume that Euros are better, especially ones like Bold Act, who has been better on the kind of firm ground that he will get this afternoon. American racing is in sad, sad shape; we can’t change that, but we can take advantage of it by backing Bold Act. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $50 to win on 3-Bold Act.
That’s all for today. Until the next time, enjoy the races, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.