McLean’s Picks for Churchill Downs on Thursday, June 22, 2017

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: 1-2-3-4-5…Easy as 1, 2, 3 – right? May be. Manhattan Mischief (1) has won two in a row and has hit the board in nine straight starts. Hasn’t been worse than second in the last six. Trainer JR Caldwell has had a terrific meet (with 12 wins in 29 starts) and he figures to have a strong hand here. Fourth of July (2) goes for a barn that has only six starts this year (with two wins) and a rider, who has had only four mounts here this meet. But they figure to be closing from off a stalking position and the extra distance (at 7F tonight) is very handy for this one – who has two wins and one second at this tricky distance. Bad Student (3) is ultra consistent for a cool barn. Backs up from a two-turn race back to an endurance sprint, where he has 2 wins, 2 seconds and a third in 7 starts at the distance lifetime. This one has 7 wins over this track, too, with another 5 ITM finishes. I have to use. I bet the 1 to win/place and then key over “all” and then key “all” over the 1.

2nd: 4-1-2-5-6-3…I think the top three numbers here are better than the rest of the field, and I land on Awesometastic (4), who is coming out of a MC $50K event – which is not the strongest of angles. But there is a caveat. This one should have won two back at Keeneland on April 17 until she was nearly put over the rail by rider Luis Saez. Came back to win easily at CD on May 25. Now, gets winners for the first time. Hate this angle, but like this horse. Blaze Star (1) and Naughty Little Nun (1A) both have a shot to run good in this soft spot, but Lanerie jumps ship on the 1 to ride our top choice in here. Blackberry Farm (2) cuts back in distance dramatically, and that should help this daughter of Successful Appeal – who is a homebred for Donamire Farm. I bet the 4 to win/place and then key over/under with all the numbers listed.

3rd: 2-6-7-3-1-4…Wyatt’s Town (2) is a first timer for the hot barn of Steve Asmussen – who unloads the barn tonight (horses in five different races) on the heels of Gun Runner’s big win last Saturday night. This 2YO colt by the very handy sire Speightstown, cost the Winchell Thoroughbreds and partners $240,000 to pick up as a yearling. And, Asmussen and his able assistant, Scott Blasi, have this one training very well for the debut. They can get one ready to pop off the bench and they are good with youngsters, too. The other Asmussen-Blasi teammate in here, Baffin (6), is our second choice. This one cost a nifty $170K at OBS earlier this year. This son of Justin Philip had a huge work at Keeneland on June 3, and if that is any indication of how quick he truly is, the race could be over quickly. No Limit (7) appears to be training well for this one, too, and Grandpa Knows Best (3) cost $220,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton July and has trained very well for a barn that normally doesn’t have them cranked all the way up for the first out. But this assistant trainer, Jeff Hiles, has been firing at this Churchill Downs for his boss, Kenny McPeek. They had a nice weekend here. I bet the 2 to win/place and then box the 2-6-7 and the 2-6-3 in the exactas.

4th: 1-6-5-2…Indy Hill (1) and Iron Mane (1A) both have a shot to win in this heat, and the duo could, possibly, run first and second. The former is trained by D. Wayne Lukas and has been racing against some heavy hitters throughout his career. The latter, Iron Mane, desperately needed his last one, and, this son of The Factor, looks to seek the lead from the get. Angelo’s Ashes (6) broke her maiden in the last and now gets to face winners, and COLTS, for the first time. Big ask by new trainer Eddie Kenneally. Mistake Present (5) was nominated for this year’s Triple Crown series and was so highly touted early in his career that he brought a final bid of $335,000 in Keeneland September as a yearling. This son of Kitten’s Joy won his last out and may be ready to reel off another one tonight. Started his career against two very nice horses. Watch out. I bet the 1 to win, place and show – despite the low ML odds of 8-5. I’m trying to hit the board with both of them so that we can get two solid payoffs.

5th: 5-1-2-10-6-7…Steve Asmussen may have a night to remember. And, Winchell could benefit greatly. Another tough one to pin-point a winner out of a field of many heads and more contenders. But I finally land on Swordfish (5) – who cost the Winchell Thoroughbreds $330,000 to halter at OBS in March of 2015. After his much improved try last out at Churchill Downs, this one could be sitting on his top race – once again. Meet’s top rider sticks for another try on this one tonight. This “True Closer” has been closing late off a mid-pack bid, but seems to hang when he gets to within 2 lengths. This trainer/jockey team (Asmussen-Lanerie) may be the best. They teamed up to run second in the Derby with Lookin at Lee. Arodg (1) figures to improve off a good run in his last out. He was beaten then, losing the lead near the wire, by Caniform. Should benefit from that effort and will make career start #3 tonight. Scamp (2) has had 10 tries at this level, but will make it 11 today. Can close off a hot pace and may be lucky enough to get one in this heat. How’s My Bud (10) is one of the few stalkers in a heat loaded with speedsters. Has enough back class to beat these. I bet the 5 to win/place and key over & under all the numbers used above in our exacta plays.

6th 8-6-1-3-4-2-5….Laney (8) is my top pick tonight. Lanerie gets off this one to ride the highly-touted filly Golden Domer, but trainer Eddie Kenneally gets the meet’s hottest jockey right now, BJ Hernandez, to climb into the saddle. Laney is the quality closer in a field chalk full of ones that would prefer to either be on the lead or close to it. She ran a huge one in the Eight Belles Stakes here on Oaks Day, losing by 11/2 lengths to the likes of Benner Island and Union Strike. Golden Domer (6) lost her career debut back in March of this year to a field chalk full of nice fillies. The second-place finisher that day was Actress, who won the Black Eyed-Susan at Pimlico. Came back in April to run at Keeneland, and, this time, Golden Domer catches Awestruck – who went on to win by a whopping 7 lengths in a race that only lasted 7 furlongs. Marcy Darcy (1) and Noelle’s Mischief (1a) will start side by side in the starting gate, but may separate quickly. Marcy Darcy wants to be a little closer to the pace, and Noelle’s Mischief may close from a bit farther out for trainer Mark Casse. Both have a legit chance to hit the board in this one. KEY RACE ALERT. Noelle’s Mischief ran second to the very talented filly Sentence in her last race, on May 21 here – finishing 81/4 lengths behind. Sentence runs a little later in the card and will be salty, too. I will use Champagne Problems (3) in this one, to some degree. Love the way that trainer Ian Wilkes is bringing this one into the race, and she has faced some very talented runners in her past. I bet the 8 to win/place and then box the 8-6-1 and the 8-6-3 in the exactas. If the 3 stays close to the 10-1 ML price, I may bet her across the board, as well.

7th: 1A-6-7-1-9-2…The 1A is Sentence, mentioned above. If Noelle’s Mischief runs good in the previous race, I think you can load up in this one – which has other talented runners in it, too. Sentence is a 4YO daughter of Blame and is starting to really put her career together. She has won two of her last three starts, and had a huge excuse in the one loss. Should be tough today with a good break from the gate. Fuhriously Kissed (6) gets a HUGE change in trainers, moving from the barn of Red Hartlage and rider Joe Johnson over to Ian Wilkes and new rider Julien Leparoux. This one makes her 2017 debut tonight, and “Kissed” may be ready to rock from well off the pace in a contest loaded with front end speed. Watch out for this one. Adore (7) is very talented daughter of Big Brown trained by Asmussen-Blasi and comes in off a nice second to Ivy Bell. She will be making her third start of the year and may be ready to rock. The other part of the entry, Care (1) would come running from off the pace with the meet’s leading rider in the saddle, Corey Lanerie. Tough race, but I go with the 1 to win/place & show – hoping that both hit the board and you get paid twice. Then I key the 1 over / under the rest of the numbers. The 6 is 8-1 ML and is worth a little “across the board” action, too, if she stays at those odds.

8th: 1-5-4-3-2-7-10…Lucky Number One’s (1) gets a tepid nod in a wide open race with many contenders and not many finishers. But someone has to win, don’t they? This one is a deep closer for the barn of Dale Romans and picks up the recuperating rider, Robby Albarado. Any luck at all with the trip and she may graduate tonight. Forty Christina (5) and High Street (4) could upset if they get better trips. Big Sigh (3) could bring some value to the table, as well, with 8-1 ML. I bet the 1 to win/place and then hit the “all button” over / under the 1 in here.

Good luck &
All the Best/
Gene

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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