Gene McLean has put together his picks for today’s races at Churchill Downs. No one in this industry has more experience or talent in reviewing, forecasting and handicapping Thoroughbred racing.
1st: 2-4-5-7…Dorodansa (2) comes off two straight thirds, but had trouble in her last one. Gets a positive jock change today and will be closing for a trainer that does well from in the switch from turf to dirt. Pay heed. A Little Attitude (4) stretches back out after a wide trip in her last, when she was claimed by a good barn. Does very well with first off the claim (.22), and picks up a significant rider change to the meet’s top pilot. Scatnap (5) is dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time in four starts for her 2017 debut, and she should fit very nicely in this bunch. Last time she ran a claimer, she won by 61/4 lengths at Churchill last summer. Barn is sketchy with this long a layoff, but this one has trained well of late. Julerette (3) gets a “dot” (must use) in this one, due to her back class and the fact that she had no chance in her last one. She actually “flipped in post parade” and still ran in the race. Don’t know why, but she did. And, of course, didn’t fire. I use her back in this spot, which is a huge class drop. I bet the 2 to win/place and then box the 2-4-5 and the 2-4-7.
2nd: 2-1-3-6-5-4…Rehearsed (2) is a daughter of Tapit and she woke up a bit in her last, even though she was wide, and she goes for one of the most patient, enduring, and old school trainers still in the game. And, a consummate gentleman. This deep closer makes career start #5 today and may be ready to rock now. Wholehearted (1) and Lil Miss Blue Eyes (1A) both could hit the board in this one and this entry gets the “dot.” Both are deep closers in a field of nearly all closers, but the 1A got blinkers the last time out and she made a nice middle move after a tardy start. May get better today. The #1 gets a new rider after a 7-wide trip in her last – which certainly compromised her efforts. Upstage (3) goes for one of the coldest barns around, but is well-bred, like most of G. Watts Humphrey’s are, and has shown ability against some good ones. I bet – note here – the 1 to win/place and then I box the 1-2-3 in the exactas. I then play the 1-2 over/under the rest of the numbers in the exactas, as well, hunting for a price play.
3rd: 1-2-6-4-8…Blarp (1) gets a big drop in class, despite the fact that he has been very competitive against some good ones this year. This 6YO gelding, by War Front, is a deep closer and must get some racing luck and a good trip from solid grass rider James Graham. Special Ops (2), another closer, has three straight 6th-place finishes, but also gets a noticeable class drop today and will benefit from that and a solid rider switch. A third closer, Ghurair (6), picks up BJ Hernandez after Graham sides with the #1 in here. Another class dropper, this one ran a huge one against Sir Dudley Diggs, who came back to win again this meet. A repeat puts this one right in the hunt. I throw in Dujac (8), who may be the lone speed in here, and he may be able to hold on for a piece. I bet the 1 to win/place and then box the 1-2-6, the 1-2-4 and the 1-2-8 in the exactas.
4th: 5-3-4-2-8…Ice Cream Truck (5) is a great name, and what a fun horse to own. The grand, old man is now 7YO and has raced 62 times, but he has hit the board in 32 of 62 starts, but is having one heckuva year. He has raced 8 times this year with 4 wins, 3 seconds and 1 third. Keep it up old man. You make us all feel good. Ship Disturber (3) is another having a good year with 4 wins and a third in 7 starts this year. Goes for a new trainer today in Scooter Dickey, who is really good with first starts off a claim. Fleet Gold Digger (4) is 0-for-12 at Churchill Downs, but lucky “13” may be the spot. Hope always springs eternal. I bet the 5 to win/place and then box the 5-3 solid. I then wheel the 5-3 over/under the 4-2-8.
5th: 9-3-7-2-5…Goods Gone West (9) is my pick in this spot, coming off a rock solid effort where he nearly won. Another 7YO gets a huge rider switch, picking up the meet’s top rider in Lanerie. Arsenalofdemocracy (3) goes for a top barn and comes off his 7th career win. Doesn’t win back-to-back very often (if ever?) and that’s a cause for pause. Roberto Gato (7) comes off a layoff for a sneaky good barn and could pop in a soft field. I bet the 9 to win/place and then box in the exactas with 9-3-7 and 9-3-2.
6th: 5-7-8-1-10-9-11-6…Meister Legend (5) is a deep closer and shortens up a bit. A better trip today could be the ticket for a barn having a very good meet. Loran Holiday (7) was beaten 73/4 lengths in her career debut, but the winner was Golden Domer – who ran off by 51/2 and is very impressive. Don’t ignore this one, who is working very well for a barn that hits well with second timers. Red Dane (8) has three solid races in a row, but I have to figure that she has had her chances before and may be a “hanger.” Take a look at Brightly (1), too. Showed a nice burst in her first start and then went way wide in her second, a regression. This one, by Kitten’s Joy, cost $175,000 last year and may be better than what she has shown to date. I bet the 5 to win/place and then box in the exactas with 5-7-8 and the 5-7-1. The #7 is 10-1 ML. If she stays anywhere close to that number, I bet a smidge across the board.
7th: 2-4-9-5-10-8…Diamonds for Leah (2) gets the “dot” in here today, and not because my beautiful wife’s name is Leigh. This one takes a huge drop in class for a barn that just claimed her two starts back. Belongs here and not in the last, when she caught a good field and a tough, wet track – which she does not prefer. Likes to close with one run and the stretch out should be perfect for her today. Myositis Mystique (4) picks up a positive rider switch and drops in class, too. A return to this level may just wake her back up. Quiet Score (9) was claimed last out off a cold-as-ice barn by a sneaky good trainer. If you throw out the last one, she fits here with any run at all. I bet the 2 to win/place and then key over/under all the other numbers.
8th: 4-8-12-1-10-7…Pocket Square (4) gets my endorsement today in a very solid field. This one is by Into Mischief and bred by a good friend of mine. Looks the part in every way and has worked lights out for trainer Dale Romans. Popped out of the gate and made the lead into the stretch in his career debut – which featured Totality and J Boys Echo. Ever heard of them? Watch out. My Eminence (10) goes for a cold barn, but has hooked some real good ones and had a ton of trouble in his last. Gets a rider change after that debacle and good hit the board today. Insurgent (12) may be the horse to beat. Shortens up today, but Calumet Farm thought enough of this one to plunk down $350,000 to buy the son of Bernardini . Lost to Illinois Derby winner Multiplier two starts back after setting the pace. If Florent Geroux can manage this one’s speed, at a shorter distance today, then could be tough to catch. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key over/under all the numbers above.
9th: 10-2-7-11-5-9-4…Giada Vegas (10) comes off three straight fine performances for a barn that knows how to win races. This deep closer figures to be tough if she gets a clean trip today. Res Ipsa (2) is another closer who needs a good trip, but she likes this course with one win and two thirds in three lifetime starts here. American Cowgirl (7) had a tough, trouble trip from the get-go in her last, and gets a rider switch today. I think she will run better today, and she has a win and a second on this turf before the last race debacle. Consider. You may have to use Wolf Gourmet (5) under in the exactas. She has hit the board in 11 of 17 lifetime starts, but has only two wins to her credit. I bet the 10 to win/place and then wheel over/under all the rest of the numbers. The top three are better than the rest of the group, by a considerable margin (IMO), so I box the 10-2-7, as well.
10th: 8-6-5-7-1…Proud to Live Free (8) goes for a barn and owner that does well with this kind. Picked up for $10K last time and goes right back at the same level. Stumbled badly at the start of that race and had no chance as the favorite. I bet her right back to win/place/show at 10-1 ML and then wheel over/under the other numbers in the exactas. Looking to make a nice little “hit” in the weekend’s finale.
P.S.: Do yourself a favor and watch Timeline in the Pegasus at Monmouth Park today. This horse will not be a price today, but he has a world of talent and may just be the horse to beat later this summer in some of the major 3YO stakes. Can’t wait to see him and McCraken (winner of the G3 Matt Winn at CD Saturday night) back in the fray.
Good luck &
All the Best/