Garrity's Saturday Stakes jumps to the Grand National at Far Hills, adds Raven Run, more, at Keeneland

Garrity's first post is 4:32 pm EDT.
Agitaire won the John Forbes at Far Hills last year, and tries again today.
Agitaire won the John Forbes at Far Hills last year, and tries again today.@FarHillsRace on X

The national stakes schedule is very thin today, especially considering that it’s Saturday in what should be the sport’s best month. So we have just four plays: a pair of races at Keeneland, and a pair at Far Hills, where the Grand National headlines the biggest day of jump racing of the year. We expect fast dirt and firm turf at Keeneland, but at Far Hills, where all races are on grass, we expect the ground to be soft. Let’s go.

Far Hills, Race 6, 4:32 pm ET
Grade 1 Grand National Stakes, 2 ⅝ miles (Hurdles), Turf, 4 & Up

The Grand National is the Kentucky Derby of American jump racing, a big enough race that it has once again drawn entrants from Europe, where steeplechase racing is a far, far bigger deal than it is here. We think the Euro contingent looks superior, and the one who looks the best to us is 6-Salvador Ziggy, who has had a good campaign in 2023, winning three consecutive starts over the summer, and then finishing an excellent second in the Guinness Kerry National, a Group 3 race at Listowel in Ireland last month. He will get the 2 ⅝ mile distance, and he will like the soft going at Far Hills, but most important, Salvador Ziggy simply looks like the best horse. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Far Hills, Race 6, $50 to win on 6-Salvador Ziggy.

Keeneland, Race 8, 4:44 pm ET
Allowance, 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

A dozen line up for this third-level allowance on the turf. Partly due to the size of the field, and partly because of the traits of the fillies and mares that comprise it, we think the race will set up for a closer, and the one we fancy most is with 5-Poca Mucha, who hasn’t won since August of last year, but who has shown in the past that she can be quite effective when a swift early pace sets up her last charge. We think that makes her dangerous here, at boxcar 20-1 odds. We will bet her to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Poca Mucha.

Keeneland, Race 9, 5:16 pm ET
Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

The Raven Run drew a field of nine. While the credentials of the top betting choices are pretty solid, we are taking a shot at a colt who will be a big price: it’s 3-Nom de Plume, who has two wins and a second in three career starts. While that is nice, what has us enthusiastic about his chance is the surface: to date, he has raced on turf and synthetic, but he has a pedigree that makes us think he will be better on conventional dirt. Add that he’s a closer, in a race that on paper looks to favor that running style, and we think Nom de Plume is very live, at 20-1 on the morning line. We will bet him to win. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $40 to win on 3-Nom de Plume.

Far Hills, Race 7, 5:17 pm ET
$100,000 John Forbes Memorial Stakes, 2 miles, Turf, 4 & Up

The Forbes is the nightcap at Far Hills, and the only race of the day that is not run over fences: it’s a straight two mile race on the turf. We liked 6-Agitaire when he won this race last year, and we see no reason to get off him now: while it’s true that his results since have been somewhere between lousy and disastrous, we think that is more a function of where and how he ran: the conventional races in which he ran, at Gulfstream Park over the winter, were too short; and his last two starts were over fences, where he struggled. He is back where he is best, running two miles on the flat, on ground with some give to it, and we expect another big effort from him. We will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Far Hills, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Agitaire.

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

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