Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping: Picks for Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita and Oaklawn

First post is 4:26 pm ET. Last post is 5:37 pm. Let it Rye-d.
Racing at Fair Grounds.
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It’s the first Friday in February, and we are celebrating that alliterative occasion with another installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping: today we have five races at four tracks, all of which go off in just a bit more than an hour’s time. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:26 pm ET

$40,000 Maiden Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, New York-bred 3-Year-Olds

A motley group of eleven state-bred maidens line up for the nightcap at the Big A. The pick is 9-Collected Special, who has speed and an outside post, which is nice; what is better is that he has done well against tougher competition, including a decent third in a Maiden Special Weight against open company at Delaware Park last October. We think this son of Collected goes right to the front, and runs away from the rest of this group in gate-to-wire fashion. We will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Collected Special.

Fair Grounds, Race 7, 4:45 pm ET
$30,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A full field of eleven lines up for the 7th in the Big Easy. The obvious contender is 11-Berlaine, who makes a lot of sense on paper, as she has shown some ability in her three career starts, and is dropping from straight maiden company to the maiden claiming ranks, the biggest class drop in racing. She could certainly win, but we are playing against her, as she starts for trainer Brad Cox, whose horses always get bet, and her outside post is a significant disadvantage, as races at this distance at the Fair Grounds start fairly close to the clubhouse turn, and a wide trip seems likely. 

We like 2-Oh Macarena. She also is dropping into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time, but what has us fancying her chances is the surface: her first two starts were carded for grass, but were rained onto dirt; today, she finally should get a chance to try the sod, where she should be better. We will bet her to win at 8-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 7, $40 to win on 2-Oh Macarena.

Santa Anita Park, Race 4, 5:04 pm ET
$32,000 Maiden Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

A nondescript – that’s a polite way of saying godawful – group of eight maiden claimers lines up for today’s 4th at Santa Anita. We like the looks of 1-Takamakahara, who makes his career debut today. He starts for trainer Jose Flores, who is new to the Thoroughbred game, but who for years has been a competent conditioner with quarter horses down at Los Alamitos. That’s good enough for us, as is the fact that Takamakahara, unlike virtually all of his rivals, has not yet shown that he is a chronically slow animal. We will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 4, $40 to win on 1-Takamakahara.

Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:06 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies 

If one wants to see a good illustration of the impact slots have on purses, one can look at this allowance race at Oaklawn Park: the purse is a whopping $140,000, more than many stakes races, even at major tracks, and a staggering sum for the nondescript dozen entered in the race.

This is not necessarily a good thing for the long-term health of the sport, but it has produced a good betting race, one in which the pick is 6-Legadema, who ran quite fast in her career debut at Churchill Downs, which she won back in November, before doing a speed-and-fade in a stakes race at the Fair Grounds a month later. That race was at a mile and a sixteenth; we expect that Legadema is going to run very well cutting back to a sprint, especially since she’s been given some time off to recover. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-Legadema.

Oaklawn Park, Race 9, 5:37 pm ET
Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

A good renewal of the Bayakoa Stakes goes as Race 9 in Hot Springs. We’re all in on favored 9-Shotgun Hottie, who is very clearly the fastest horse in this field when she is at her best. The question from a handicapping perspective is if she can be at her best today, as she last ran at Monmouth Park in July, and horses are sometimes unable to fire in their first start off a layoff of over six months. We think the answer to this question is yes, as Shotgun Hottie has been working well leading up to this race, and she starts for a trainer, Cherie DeVaux, who is skilled at getting horses to run well off the bench. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 9-Shotgun Hottie.

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

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