Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Derby prep Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, plus Aqueduct, Santa Anita

Garrity's first post is 3:43 pm ET.
Racing at Tampa Bay Downs.
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It’s one of the bigger days of the year at Tampa Bay Downs, where the Sam F. Davis Stakes, a somewhat important Kentucky Derby prep, at least for this time of year, headlines an eleven-race program. We have three plays there, and one each at Aqueduct and Santa Anita, for a Saturday five-pack that is guaranteed to be fun, and might a chance to put a few extra dollars in your pocket. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, except as noted below, so let’s go.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 7, 3:43 pm ET

$50,000 Minaret Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

Nine go in the Minaret. We like the looks of 4-Lady Radler, who makes her seasonal debut. She had a hit-or-miss campaign last year, struggling against graded stakes company, but doing quite well against slightly lesser foes; this looks like a field she can handle. It should also help that this race is on dirt, and at 6 furlongs, as she has been at her best in the past on that surface and at that distance. She has speed, and she may set the pace, or she may press it; either way, we think she will hit the wire first, and will bet her to win at 9/2 odds. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Lady Radler.

Aqueduct, Race 9, 3:55 pm ET
$150,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up

The Heavenly Prize, which goes as Race 9 at the Big A, is a one-turn mile for older females. It drew a field of eight, and the fundamental handicapping question is whether any of them can beat morning line favorite 7-Saddle Up Jessie, who comes from Maryland, and the barn of top mid-Atlantic trainer Brittany Russell, and whose last three starts have all been terrific.

Our answer is yes: we think that the favorite is vulnerable, primarily because her last three starts, while appearing good on paper, were all earned with the benefit of marshmallow-soft trips, and we expect her to get a much sterner test today. That makes the pick 3-Portage, who has struggled at shorter distances, but whose last race at a mile was exceptionally good. Portage has abundant speed, and we see her going right to the front early, and staying in front all the way around the track. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 9, $40 to win on 3-Portage

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, 4:15 pm ET

$100,000 Pelican Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up 

A surprisingly good field of eight is assembled for the Pelican. There is a ton of early speed, which makes a very fast early pace likely, and that makes 3-Nakatomi the likeliest winner by a wide margin. He was last seen running a very good third in the Breeders Cup Sprint, and while the fact that he did so well against the best sprinters in the land is a good sign, what is even better is that the race shape should favor his stalking running style. Look for him to be mid-pack early, and to blow the race wide open with a big move as the field turns into the stretch. We will bet Nakatomi to win at 9/5 odds, and will do so with gusto. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, $50 to win on 3-Nakatomi.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 10, 5:15 pm ET
Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

Kentucky Derby hopes burn bright all year long, but they will burn brighter than usual this afternoon for the connections of the dozen 3-year-olds who will go to the gate for the Sam F. Davis. While we doubt that the winner of the Run for the Roses is in this group, expect to see a couple of them in the starting gate in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.

The field lacks a clear favorite, which makes it a terrific betting race, as there are many different directions a handicapper can go. The direction we favor is straight at 5-No More Time, who is lightly raced, with just three career starts, but who has done well, breaking his maiden in his second try, and finishing fifth in the Mucho Macho Man in his most recent race. That was an effort that we think is better than it looks on paper, as it was his first try against stakes company, and he made a pretty big move in the middle of the race, closing into a slow pace to challenge for the lead at the top of the stretch, and then faded slightly, finishing 3¾ lengths behind the winner. We think No More Time will be better today, partly for that experience, partly because his pedigree suggests that he will be better as the distances get longer, but mostly because he looks like he is developing, and improving, rapidly. At 10-1, that’s enough for us: we will play him to win. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 10, $40 to win on 5-No More Time.

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 7:00 pm ET

Grade 3 San Marcos Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 4 & Up

The rains came to the West early this week, as a major storm dumped buckets of the stuff all over California. It was so bad, in fact, that Santa Anita canceled racing yesterday, and while we are expecting this race to remain on grass, we’re expecting the turf to have quite a bit of give to it.

That’s all right with us, because we think that yielding going makes 5-Planetario a strong play. He’s run on only firm turf since he came north of the equator two years ago, but before that, he was very good on soft going in his native Brazil, so we expect him to handle the footing with aplomb. He’s coming off a layoff, with his last start a sharp win in the Hollywood Gold Cup at Del Mar in November, but we are comfortable with that, as his trainer, Richard Mandella, is an ace at getting horses to fire off the bench. Look for Planetario to be well back early, and flying late; we will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Planetario.

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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