Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks races at Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, Woodbine and Fair Grounds
The pickings, as far as weekend stakes races go, are getting slim, but that is as it should be time of year: we think that North American racing should be ramping down this time of year, with Thanksgiving weekend the last hurrah for the season, and December a dark month everywhere.
We have taken a break from the preparations for our annual early winter slumber to handicap five surprisingly good races today, from tracks in New York, Kentucky, Ontario, and Louisiana. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races; there is money to be made, so let’s go.
Aqueduct, Race 7, 2:45 pm ET
$100,000 Key Sense Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, New York-bred 2-Year-Old Fillies
Eight go in the Key Sense. The past performances of one of them, 3-Cara’s Time, present a fundamental question handicappers must face on a daily basis: She has good speed, and in her last two starts, she raced on the lead while setting moderate early fractions. Unsurprisingly, she finished well in both, winning one and running second in the other. The race before that, she contested a very swift early pace, and faded badly, finishing over 25 lengths behind the winner.
The question: Which of these races represents her true abilities? The answer is that they all do: Speed horses nearly always run better when they are not forced to exert themselves excessively in a race’s early stages. If they can run comfortably early, they will be strong late; if they go too fast early, they will fade late.
The bad news for Cara’s TIme in this race is that there is another filly with the same running style: The undefeated 6-Soloshot has dominated both her starts by virtue of her sheer early speed, but she is not any faster than Cara’s Time, which means that the two of them are going to run each other into submission early, setting the race up for a filly coming from behind. We see 5-Tricky Temper picking up the pieces, passing the out-of-gas pacesetters in mid-stretch, and rolling to a victory that will be determined almost entirely by pace. We will bet Tricky Temper to win at 4-1 odds. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $40 to win on 5-Tricky Temper.
Churchill Downs, Race 9, 5:05 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3 & Up
Today’s 9th at Churchill Downs is a very tough third-level allowance on the turf that drew a field of twelve. We are all in on 8-Kingmax, who did some good work this summer at Monmouth Park, winning a pair of allowance races. These efforts were good enough that trainer Jorge Delgado tried him in a stakes race at Woodbine, where he did not take to the synthetic racing surface, and finished a well-beaten fifth. This is a horse who ran in some very salty races in England last year, and he looks very live returning to the turf, especially since he has a very strong late kick, and we think the shape of the race will favor that running style. We will bet him to win at 10-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 8-Kingmax.
Woodbine, Race 9, 5:12 pm ET
Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes, 6 furlongs, Synthetic, 3 & Up
A good field of ten lines up for the Kennedy Road. We are taking a shot with 2-Flag of Honour, who was bred in Australia, and raced Down Under until he was brought to North America earlier this year. His first try on synthetic was his last start, when he settled in mid-pack early, rallied strongly to take the lead in the stretch, and was caught late, finishing a close third. We think that was a very good effort, especially since it was his first start since March, and his first on this side of the equator, and see improving significantly today. That makes him a major threat, and at 10-1, an excellent wager. We will bet him to win. The bet: Woodbine, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Flag of Honour.
Churchill Downs, Race 10, 5:35 pm ET
Grade 3 Chilukki Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Nine older fillies and mares line up for the Chilukki. We are going with a straight-down-the-line speed play, in the form of 9-Hot and Sultry, who has a significant edge in early zip over her rivals, and whose outside post will provide the optimal spot for her to use it, as mile dirt races at Churchill Downs are run around only one turn, rather than two, as they are at most other tracks. Look for Hot and Sultry to go right to the front, and stay there all the way around the track; we will bet her to win at 7/2 odds. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 10, $50 to win on 9-Hot and Sultry.
Fair Grounds, Race 9, 5:45 pm ET
$75,000 Larry D. Robideaux Memorial Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Louisiana-breds 3 & Up
This sprint for state-breds drew a full field of thirteen. The pick is 10-Jack Hammer, who cuts back after doing a speed-and-fade at a mile and 70 yards in his last start. He may have faltered last time because of the distance; it may have been because the pace that day was faster than average; either way, we think that effort will have him razor-sharp for this 6 furlong distance today. Look for him to press the pace, sitting just behind the leaders early, and to roll late. We will bet him to win at 10-1 odds. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 9, $40 to win on 10-Jack Hammer.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.