1st: 8-1-4-6-2…Phenomenal Phoenix (8) gets a small drop in class and he loves the 1 mile distance – going 3 wins and 1 second in six lifetime starts. Had a good one two back and seemed to bounce off that one, but a return to that previous form is good enough here today. More Than Shirl (1) gets a return to a more comfortable level, too, and may be the one to beat if he can repeat his form of last two. Two back winner came back to run huge this week. Bipartisan (4) likes the distances and is 1-for-1 at Churchill. Have to use. I bet the 8 to win/place and then box the 8-1-4. Small key of 8 over/under the rest.

2nd: 6-4-2-3-1…Sister Kan (6) has been in the money in six of eight lifetime starts for a hot trainer and barn. Beaten favorite in each of the last two. If gets a clean trip, should pop today. Buy Low Sell High (4) gets a return to his best class mates and should be handy in this spot, too. I bet the 6 to win/place and the 6-4 exacta box. I wheel the 6-4 over/under to cover.

3rd: 5-3-4-1-6…Warrior’s Club (5) is the first horse to join the Churchill Downs Club and he should put a smile on a lot of people’s faces today. The class here. Period. I bet 5 to win/place and then key over/under the rest of the numbers. Best bet of the day and I key in doubles, pick 3s.

4th: 2-4-8-3-1…Miss Cobblestone (2) gets a slight nod in a wide open affair. This mare is a true stalker, but can close with a kick. Won back to back last year and could be right again now. I bet the 2 to win/place and then wheel over/under the rest.

5th: 10-6-5-2-1…Thunderon the Nile (10) gets the “dot” (must use) here. Coming off an extended layoff for a barn that can get them ready to pop off the bench. A high-priced yearling can win today with a cleaner trip and is working good. Showreel (6) gets back to the grass after being claimed in the last one. I like this filly and considered a claim drop myself. Picks up Corey Lanerie and that may be enough to put on top. I bet the 10 to win/place and then box in exacta with the 6. I wheel the 10-6 over/under the rest of the numbers.

6th: 2-8-5-6-4…Be a Factor (2) should be an over-whelming favorite in this spot and deserves to be. The post time favorite three in a row and odds-on in each of the last two, when she burned money. I am going to wheel all over the 2 in an exacta and leave it at that. Will use the 2 only in pick 3s and doubles.

7th: 3-1-2-7-8-4…Havana Dream (3) was swung tremendously wide in her last out, and with any better luck today she will be tough to handle at 8-1 ML. The deep closer must get a pace to run into, but there seems to be enough speed, what with Burma Road (1) and Princess Princess (4). Burma Road (1) comes off a huge run in her last and seems to be getting better and better for a top outfit. Flying Tipat (2) figures here, too. My hunch play of the day, though, is another longer shot in here – Taxable (7). This well-bred daughter of Tapit gets the grass for the first time and if she takes to it, look out. I bet the 3 to win/place and wheel over/under all the numbers. I also bet the 7 in here across the board.

8th 5-3-9-8-6…Caniform (5) was named by trainer Mike Maker in his last start and has been training well for this tilt. Drops to a career low claiming number and should find this spot to his liking. Arodg (3) was a beaten favorite in his last out after going 6 wide. Perplexedll (9) takes a free fall down the ranks, too, and may wake up a bit today. I bet the 5 to win/place and then box the 5-3-9 and the 5-3-8 in exactas.

9th: 5-8-3-2-4-6…The “dot” goes on Grand Candy (5) here. Ran against the ultra tough Richard’s Boy in a stakes at Pimlico in the last and only beaten 21/2 lengths. That same run today makes him a clear winner in this spot. I bet the 5 (5-1 ML) to win/place/show and then wheel over and under all the numbers listed. Key race for me.

10th: 8-6-4-3-1…Tough field for the 29th running of the G3 Aristides Stakes at 6F today. You have to give Limousine Liberal (8) the big edge in here, considering his impressive run in the G2 Churchill Downs in his last. But there are warning signs. Flashing. First of all, he’s backing up to 6F today and his record is two wins and four seconds at this distance – as opposed to the 7F he ran at in his last try. Secondly, each time the gelding has run a Beyer Speed Figure in the 100s, he plummeted in his next out. He ran a 101 in his last race. Third, he picks up the meet’s leading rider today, but still, all in all, it is a rider switch. So, what do you do? I don’t know what you do, but I go a different route. I bet The Truth or Else (6) – a deep closer – to make a huge run in the lane to win. And, I bet a 6-4-3 exacta box on one ticket and 6-4-1 on another. As a saver, only, I bet a small 6-8 exacta box. Time to make some money here.

11th: 7-8-1-9-10-6…Wide open affair, but I finally land on Miss Vicki (7). She will be a low price and a big favorite, but if she runs anything close to that race at Keeneland, in her only previous start, she dusts these. Again, I try to hit a better price with Clever Score (8), who is winless in 11 career outs, but has finished in the money eight of those times. Needs just a little luck coming from the clouds to get the job done. But this race is completely void of any real speed. Will make the job toughter, for sure. I bet a 7-8-1 exacta box and a 7-8-9 exacta box and then bet the 8 to win/place.

Santa Anita:

G1 Shoemaker Mile: 7-3-2-4…A classy group contest the 74th running of the Shoemaker Mile, but I go with Bolo (7). He is inconsistent, and, sometimes, maddening. But when he’s good? He’s really good. And, it’s about time he popped another good one – on a track that he has taken to on 7 previous occasions and has won 4, run second once, and finished third two times. In other words, he has never missed the board on this grass course. Didn’t like the soft going at Keeneland. Figures to have a much firmer going today. New rider Corey Nakatani is no hack when it comes to turf riding, either. Dangerous. Bal a Bali couldn’t handle the soft going or Diversideo at Churchill in his last. Back home today and he should prefer a firmed footing, too. What A View (2) is one of two speedsters in this tilt, but he loves this grass course, and, as such, gets the edge. Farhaan (4) may be just hitting his best stride at age 8. But I think he’s a tick shy of these. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then wheel over/under the rest of the horses listed.

G1 Beholder Mile: 2-1-3-4…Only draws a field of five, but three of these are already G1 winners. Vale Dori (1) has won six in a row – including five straight Graded Stakes. Finest City (4) ran a huge one to just miss against Paulasilverlining at Churchill Downs in the G1 Humana Distaff. Yet, I go with Stellar Wind (2). At a mile, she has won twice and ran a game second in three tries. The loss came to whom? Beholder. The great Beholder. So, I bet the 2 to win/place and then single over only the 1-3-4. Show Stealer (3) is 20-1 ML and may sneak a peak at second.

Penn National:

Penn Oaks: 4-7-2-1…All the money is likely to land on Adorable Miss (7), who won a stakes on the grass at Gulfstream Park in only her second career start for trainer Todd Pletcher. But I go to Party Boat (4), who has much more experience, and may have more talent. Dyatail (2) gave Party Boat a run for her money at Aqueduct two starts back, before tiring. She is 8-1 ML. I bet the 4 to win/place and wheel over/under the rest.

Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup: 2-1-7-4…I cashed on Richard’s Boy (2) in his last effort and I don’t see any reason, at all, to get off him today. Is slated at 2-1 ML, but I think he drifts up from there and when he does, I will be ready for another paycheck. The best grass sprinter in the country right now. Ready for Rye (1) hasn’t been out since last November. A race into 2017 and he may be up for the task. I think connections are asking a lot today. Rainbow Heir (7) gets a huge jock improvement with move to JJ Castellano, and Take Cover is not without a shot, either. But I bet the 2 to win/place and then over/under the rest.

Mountainview Stakes: 4-3-1…All the action is likely to go to Madefromlucky (1) who gets the blinkers for the first time from trainer Todd Pletcher. But the horse didn’t win in 2016 and he’s 0-3 in 2017. How much are you willing to forgive a horse that hasn’t visited the winner’s circle in such a long time? I’m not as forgiving, especially when you have a hot horse in Matt King Coal (4) and an even hotter trainer in Linda Rice. And, Discreet Lover (3) couldn’t muster much of a run against Shaman Ghost going 13/16 miles in the Pimlico Special in his last, but figures much better in this spot. I bet the 4 to win/place and wheel over/under the “all button” here.

G2 Penn Mile: 7-4-3-8-1-6…Big Score (7) is a nice one by Mr. Big – a son of Dynaformer. And, he’s cruising at high altitude right now. Anything close to his last two tries, and he is very tough today. If you can get the 5-2 ML, I take it and run. But I will shop for some odds with the others, like Cistron (4), another California shipper, and Time to Travel (3). The former is likely to make the pace in this race, while the latter should be stalking the trip. If Time to Travel had anyone other than Edgar Prado up, I would be pouncing here. He ‘s run up against some BEARS and will benefit from that experience today, and is a handy 8-1 ML. Don’t look past this one! Frostmourne (8) is well bred for the grass, too, and could get a very nice stalking run with Irad Ortiz coming in to ride. I bet the 7 to win/place and then wheel over/under all the rest. I also bet the 3 across the board. One last exacta box gets me the 7-4-3.

Good luck &
All the Best/Gene

This feels great. It never gets old. We were hoping that he can rate and not get too far behind the speed and Flavien just rode him perfectly. He responded well in the stretch and we knew he tries really hard and he lived up to what we thought he would do. So, we’re really happy. We’re hoping that he can stretch out. We’ll find that out but I have a feeling we’ll try two turns and will see how it goes.”

JEFF LIFSON, West Point Thoroughbreds, Kanthaka, Winner San Vincente at Santa Anita
  • 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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean