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Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks Laurel Park, Santa Anita, G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland

Garrity's first post is 2:54 pm EDT.

It’s a mixed bag of stakes action on this October Saturday: we have a sensationally good Grade 1 for 3-year-old fillies in Kentucky, a turf sprint in Southern California, and three races on the Maryland Million Card at Laurel. We expect firm going for the turf races; but at Laurel, where it will be a very rainy day, we are expecting a sloppy main track. Let’s go.

Laurel Park, Race 7, 2:54 pm ET

$100,000 Maryland Million Sprint, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Nine go in the Maryland Million Sprint. We would probably like 8-Al Loves Josie a little bit on a fast track, but we move him way up in the slop, as he has a lot of speed, and a good record in wet going, with two wins and two seconds in five career off-track starts. This is a case where post position will be very important: Al Loves Josie is not the only runner in the race with a lot of early speed, but that he drew outside the other speed should give him a tactical advantage that puts him in the winner’s circle. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 7, $40 to win on 8-Al Loves Josie.

Laurel Park, Race 10, 4:38 pm ET
$100,000 Maryland Million Distaff, 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

The Maryland Million Distaff drew ten filly and mare sprinters. The pick is 2-Luna Belle, a 4-year-old who has been away for a long time, having last raced in May of 2022, when she blew a tire and faded badly, finishing eleventh in the Black Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico. She was quite good before that, winning five consecutive stakes races, and here looks poised to regain the form she showed as a 3-year-old. We don’t know if she will take to a truly sloppy track, as she’s never run on one, but her pedigree has positive signs, and her recent morning works are an indication that she is ready to deliver a top effort. If she’s fit and sound, she looks the best of this group; we will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 2-Luna Belle.

Laurel Park, Race 11, 5:10 pm ET

$150,000 Maryland Million Classic, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, Maryland-breds 3 & Up

Eight go in the Maryland Million. We’re going with 1-Market Maven, who has the handicapping trifecta: speed, an inside post position, and good off-track form, having hit the board in all three of his career starts on a wet dirt. Look for him to go right to the front, and stay there all the way around the track. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 11, $40 to win on 1-Market Maven.

Keeneland, Race 9, 5:16 pm ET
Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

The Queen Elizabeth came up a corker of a race, with an imposing quintet of European fillies facing seven American rivals in a nine furlong turf race. Sure to get plenty of attention at the windows is 4-Mawj, the winner of this year’s 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. She could win, but we’re playing against her, partly because she will be a relatively short price, but mostly because she not has not run since her Guineas triumph in May.

The pick is 7-Sounds of Heaven, who, like Mawj, makes her North American debut in this spot. She comes off a dull 7th in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville in July, but what has us liking her chances today is how she ran previous to that: she ran a very good third, just a length behind the winner, in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Ascot in June, and before that won a mile race at York in May. Both of those races were on good to firm turf, a hint that she will excel on the firm footing she will get today. Sounds of Heaven is trained by Jessica Harrington, an extremely able conditioner who rarely comes to the United States; in this case, we think she has arrived with the goods, which makes the 8-1 morning line price on Sounds of Heaven enormously attractive. We will bet her to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $50 to win on 7-Sounds of Heaven.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 6:30 pm ET

$100,000 California Distaff Handicap, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, California-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A field of seven lines up for the California Distaff Handicap, but we have eyes for just one: 6-Rose Maddox, who was the runner up the last two times she ran on turf, finishing behind Eddie’s New Dream in both the Solana Beach at Del Mar and the Fran’s Valentine at Santa Anita. With her nemesis not present – Eddie’s New Dream finished fourth in the Swingtime Stakes on Monday – we think Rose Maddox will prevail. Look for her to be mid-pack early, and rolling late; we will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Rose Maddox.

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

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