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: 5-4-2-1…Five Star Nap (5) is the ML favorite in this spot, and should be. Steps up in class, coming off a win in a conditioned claiming event for non-winners of two lifetime. But won so impressively and easily in last and has run two good ones in a row. A return to that form should be enough against these. Jammin Gemi (4) comes into this one off a win, but hasn’t been back to the starting gate since April. That raises a question. But has won two in a row. Buy Low Sell High (2) may be the pick if not for the rider, who has won just four times in 50 mounts this meet. Drops in class and you have to use, no matter. Northern Michigan (1) hasn’t been out since last seen in December at Turfway. Drops considerably in class today, and gets a top jock. Use. I bet the 5 to win/place and then wheel over/under the other numbers here.
2nd: 2-1-4-3-7…The Gipper (2) is a Brad Cox-trainee, who I bet last out and finished second after an extremely wide trip. Gets a new rider today, and that will help. This one gets my “dot” (must use) in this one. Because It’s Time (1) finished third, just behind The Gipper in their last out. Lanerie gets off this one to ride the preferred choice in here. This one is a deep closer and needs some racing luck to turn the tables today. Deadly Ruler (4) and Bookman (3) are not without a chance. I really like Bookman, a NY-bred coming back from the North. But I would prefer him against his home folk. I bet the 2 to win/place and then key over/under the rest of the numbers above.
3rd: 2-5-6-4-3…Rank (2) drops dramatically in the claiming ranks for this affair, and if this 5YO son of Blame has anything left in the tank, he will air these (IMO). Looks like a fire sale for Calumet here and someone is likely to dip into the claiming box and pick this one up. He ran a good one at Oaklawn in February, and anything close to that is enough here. Chipit (5) is another dropper. This one was claimed for $35K at Saratoga last year and hasn’t run since. Training OK for Mike Maker, and gets a good rider. Has run good off a layoff before. This son of Tapit should be in the mix with this bunch. Galatasary (6) is another one coming off a layoff, and that’s not a good angle for this barn – who is having a super meet in a limited number of starters. Picks up a new rider. I go with the 2 to win/place and then I box the 2-5-6 and the 2-5-4 in the exactas.
4th: 11-9-6-5-1-3-12…A dandy of a race for 2YO fillies, and I hope there’s not a lot of scratches out of here today. Want to see these run. Lil Vie (11) is parked outside, but that’s not a bad thing for firsters, sometimes. If she can break well from the gate and clear the field, she may air a very talented group. Training great for Brad Cox, and being by The Factor, she should have good speed. Dancing (9) is a well-bred daughter of Bernardini and cost $425,000 for Live Oak to purchase as a 2YO earlier this year. Be interesting to see debut. Touchdown Trojans (6) broke well enough in her first start, but tired midway through the 41/2 furlong event. Lanerie jumps off to rider the preferred one in here, but this one does have race experience and that is a key with youngsters. Pure Praise (5) didn’t like the start in her first out, but came running. Should improve off that effort. Watch both Downwind (1) and Malibu Saint (3), who are making their career debuts. Both cost some cash and are training well – especially Downwind. I bet the 11 to win/place/show and then key over/under the rest of the numbers above. I also will take a little action on the 1 across the board.
5th: 8-2-3-5-1…This one is likely to come off the grass, considering the weather and forecast today. If so, watch for the scratches and look for the ones that have run on an off track. Sportscaster (8) is my pick, but is not likely to make the gate if off the turf. In that case, I immediately move to Royal Blessing (2), who has never been better and can handle the dirt, too. Medal of Courage (3) likes an off track, having hit the board 6 times out of 9 on a wet surface. Awesome Thought (9) was entered for MTO, and has to figure in that case, too. I bet the 2 to win/place and then key over/under the “all button.”
6th: 3-1-5-4-7…Twirling Cinnamon (3) gets the “dot” in this spot. I liked this gelded son of Twirling Candy in his last, but bobbled at the start and never got into the race. Was claimed out of that race by a top trainer and now gets the drop. I go right back in here. True Ten (1) goes for a really good trainer, who most people don’t give enough attention to (IMO). Gets a nice class drop today and should figure, too. Political Justice (5) has run 10 times on an off track and has won 5 of them. That moves this one up. Notice. I bet the 3 to win/place and then box in the exactas with 3-1-5 and then the 3-5-4.
7th: 4-5-8-9-7-6…Another turf event for claimers that is likely to get washed over to the dirt today. Either way, I still like Baetykaty (4). This one will want the lead, and look at the trouble line she got in the last. Has raced 3 times on an off track and never off the board. Gets the “dot” in here. Merilore (5) beat the preferred one in their last encounter, and could do so again today. Had a wide trip in her last, and she likes an off track, as well, with a win and two seconds in 4 starts on the wet. I bet the 4 to win/place and then key over/under the rest of the numbers.
8th: 3-4-6-1-2…A really nice race could turn up here, if all stay in the game. I have always like Totality (3), ever since he won his career debut – beating a couple of good ones in J Boys Echo, Gervais and a horse that broke his maiden here last Sunday in impressive fashion – Pocket Square. I think the time off helped this one and he could be ready to pop back up. But this race has some other good ones in it, too. Singing Bullet (4) gets Lasix for the first time today off a long layoff, and that could definitely help. He ran into some tough ones after an impressive maiden win. Watch out here. Casses Story (6) got an extended layoff before coming back to run sixth against a good one in Visionary Tale. Caught a wet fast track that day and may not have liked it. Will get another one today. Hollow Point (1) is another one from the Casse barn that bears noting. This one is coming off a layoff since last December, but has hooked some good ones – including a nice third to McCracken in his career debut. Came back to beat Local Hero (a good one), before finishing fifth against some more good ones. I have to use this one, who appears to be training well for an outfit that can pop off the bench. I bet the 3 to win/place and then box in the exactas with 3-4-6 and 3-4-1.
9th: 9-2-5-7-1…The final pick in the finale goes to Fairybrook (9), a daughter of Union Rags who drops all the way from $40MC to $20MC today. This one has run twice on an off going, and ran second both times. She ran a game second to Farrell last October here on a wet fast track, too. Anything close to that and she airs this field. I bet the 2 to win/place and then key over/under the rest of the numbers.