Gene’s Picks for Tuesday at Churchill

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Tuesday will kick off Derby week at Churchill Downs.

RACE 1:  1-2-6

David Vance — a talented trainer — has been cold as a mint julep on Derby Day, with only three wins in 57 starts this year. But he could grab one here with a bug boy rider.  The 2 will be the toughest competition, while the 6 could add some value to the exotics.
RACE 2: 1-6-9-5-8

The 1 is my reluctant choice, due to the fact that the trainer has been ice cold all year — with only three wins in 66 starts.  But this OK-bred could be salty at 6-1 in this spot.  Maker’s 6-horse will be huge favorite to romp here, and she may.  She has lost two in a row to Vendetta, who has been on my HTW list.
RACE 3: 6-3-4-5

The 6 should be ready to roll after just missing at Keeneland on April 9.  Runner-up in start two back came back to win, too.  She should be ready to win here.  The 3 won this condition last fall at CD, but was disqualified from the purse money.  That was a huge improvement, so one has to wonder if that was unusual or what.  If she runs that race, they all will be watching.
RACE 4: 3-2-4-7

The 3 has been working very well for trainer Steve Asmussen and comes off a useful 2nd in first race of the year…any improvement here and she finds the circle.  The 2 was claimed in her last start, which she won by 121/4 lengths.  Have to use. French Geroux is starting to wake up in the saddle a bit and that won’t hurt the 4.
RACE 5: 3-7-5-4-1-6

… dot on the 7 and the 1…The 3 has tried maidens for 15 starts and has hit the board six — still without a win.  Drops to Maiden-Claiming today, though, and gets a rider switch to the modern day Pat Day — Corey Lanerie.  Pick here.  The 7 will be very tough if her runs the same race back he did at Keeneland on April 7 and was steadied into the first turn that day.  Gets the dot here.  I look for big improvement from the 5 in his start for Al Stall.  Gets the blinkers and that should sharpen him up some.  If you are looking for a longer price, throw in the 1.  Will run better today and the horse that finished 3rd in last out came back to win.  Watch out for this one.
RACE 6: 7-8-4-3-1-2

A wide open race, but edge goes to the 7 with a massive drop in class for trainer Steve Margolis.  Trainer doesn’t exceed with switch in races surfaces, but if this one likes the dirt, watch out at 8-1 ML. Brad Cox is hotter than any trainer in the world these days and is dropping from 50,000 claiming to 16,000 today.  Will be tough.  I throw the 4 in third.  Gets the blinkers after two dull performances in a row.  Needs to pick it up, but does drop in class, too.
RACE 7: 2-3-9-10-4

Another wide open race, but I give the edge to the 2, who has won 2 in a row and goes for the hat trick today.  Likes to stalk the pace and should get a good trip in this one from Gabriel Saez.  The 3 is ultra consistent and has a win in only start over Churchill grass.  I look for big race today with third start off the layoff.  Maker tries to overcome a soft Keeneland meet and will try a small bump up with the 9.  Looks like last race may have this daughter of Kitten’s Joy ready now.
RACE 8: 4-1-5-6-2/3

Tough field to pick just one, but I give the edge to the 4.  First time out since last November, but appears ready after a bullet work at Keeneland, and he loves this track.  I give the second spot edge to Mott’s 1 horse.  Will go to the front and hope to last.  I give a dot to the 5, though.  Throw out the stakes races and this Indiana-bred mare fits here.
RACE 9: 9-11-10-5-2

Kenny McPeek’s horses have been firing on all cylinders lately, and although this one has had 8 tries at breaking his maiden before, the trainer may have picked the right spot here with another drop.  Gets a top rider, too, and if he runs the same race, should graduate.  Have to use the 11,10, but I think you should include the 2 at 12-1 ML.  The son of Ice Box gets blinkers, loses his manhood for the first time and gets a drop from a good barn.  If you get 12-1 here, try under and over the ones above.


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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