MCLEAN’S PICKS FOR CHURCHILL DOWNS ON SUNDAY, 5-21-17; & HORSES TO WATCH ELSEWHERE

CHURCHILL DOWNS:

1st: 5-4-3-1…Tessa’s Treat (5) drops in class and gets a huge jockey improvement for a good training outfit.  This filly brought $77K as a yearling and has the pedigree to make a nice broodmare.  Falls into a good spot here.  Lou (4) also gets a nice class relief.  Three races on dirt in career and finished third twice.  Backs up to a sprint today, but the mud may make it feel longer.  Bill’s Wealthygirl (3) does get a nice mud mark and has won two in a row against easier company.  Native Indy (1) has two thirds on an off track. I bet the 5 to win/place and key over/under the rest.

2nd: 1-3-4-5…Five Star Nap (1) moves up off the claim for a barn that does well with first timers after the nab.  She gets a huge jock change and has a third on off going.  Gets the edge here.  Arch Arch Baby (3) goes for Jinks Fires and son-in-law Jon Court (two of the nicest guys in the biz).  Is the speed here and gets back to the class level she needs.  Could run off today.  Candrasa (4) and the Louisiana-bred Naughty Little Nun (5) may have a shot, too. I bet the 1 to win/place and key over/under the rest.

3rd: 2-3-1-4-5…Star Quality (2) drops off a game effort, but hasn’t been out since last October.  Barn doesn’t normally crank them up off a layoff, but this one is the class of the field on paper.  War Union (3) is another who comes off a layoff, not having started since last November.  This barn does very well off the break, though, and the colt gets the services of the meet’s top rider.  Has faced some good ones – watch out here.  Altito (1), Hardly Seen Slim (4) and Victor Again (5) are the others to fill out the contenders.  I box the first two in the exacta and then wheel the top 2 over/under the rest.  To win/place, I go to my second selection — #3.

4th: 5-8-3…Scratches of two contenders muddy up this prediction sheet a tad, but I land on Ship Disturber (5) with a solid “dot” (must use) here.  Comes off a win for a super hot barn.  This one has a tough time winning back-to-back, but he should be able to do so today with two key scratches.  The main challenger looks to be Turn Back Time (8) for the combo of trainer Chirs Richard and jockey Corey Lanerie, who score at a high rate together.  Drops in class today may be the ticket.  Whiskey Tree (3) ships in and may get a touch at the end.  I box the top two and play the 5 to win/place.

5th: 2-6-16-8-14-3…This one comes off the grass and that opens up the field for a shoot out.  I go to Makeamericagreat (2), despite the fact that I hate the political slogan and the guy that came up with it.  The trainer had one of the game’s greats in Wise Dan, but isn’t much to write home about either.  But despite both of those loads to carry, the horse may be good enough to win today.  Ran a game second to Cowboy Culture – who is a really nice grass colt and this one also gets blinkers today. This one cost $225,000 as a yearling and could break his maiden today.  Gets a “dot” from me.  Extricate (6), who sold for a whopping $1.1 million as a yearling, may never be able to return that in purse money, but could still be OK.  Ran a good one at Keeneland in his last and any improvement today may be enough.   Mo’s Mojo (16) draws in from the AE as a MTO entry.  Gets a huge jockey change for trainer Randy Morse, who is better than his win % indicates.  Mo Mojo caught a tough pair three races back and is not without a shot today.  I bet the 2 to win/place and key over/under all the rest of them. I also box the 2-6-16 and then the 2-6-8 in the exactas.

6th: 2-4-6-3-7-5…Don’t be mislead by the number of horses I have listed here.  In my view, they are all running for second behind Golden Domer (2) today.  Bet of the Day, without a question.  This one ran a huge race in her career opener but just couldn’t catch three very good fillies.  The runner-up that day was Actress – who just broke her maiden winning the G2 Black-Eyed Susan on Friday.  Jump on board, at a short price, for the love train to the winner’s circle.  I bet 2 to win/place and key over all the numbers above, and, maybe the all button.

7th: 6-5-1-3-7…Rhodium (6) has won two in a row and five of her last 7 races.  She loves lead and wants it badly.  But new rider, Corey Lanerie, may have to wait and see what Enchanted Facts (7) is going to do, too.  She is a speedster, as well, and is shipping in for a try in KY.  I don’t know if she is good enough to win here or not, but she is four-for-four this year and three-for-four on an off track.  She may compromise Rhodium.  If so, then you have to look at some closers, like Gotit Todo (5), Mango’s Muse (1), & Crack Your Whip (3).  I am betting Lanerie wins this battle and the 6 does it again.  But I am keying the 6 both over and under the other numbers.  If I get even money, I will play to win only.

8th: 10-11-7-9-6-2-4…Another one that has lots of possibilities, but I land solidly on Treble (10) – one of my Horses to Watch.  She bit off a little more than she was able to chew by trying Sweet Loretta in the G3 Beaumont, but she is back in her comfort zone today.  Dot horse here in a very good, competitive field.  Anythingyoucando (11), Toasted (7) and Sentence (9) are all nice fillies and have a shot if Treble misses a step.  Noelle’s Mischief (6) broke her maiden impressively at Keeneland in her last and will take a lot of action today, but I side against with more experienced runners.  I bet the 10 (9-2 ML) across the board and then key over/under all the numbers above.  I also exacta box the 10-11-7.

9th: 7-10-5-4-11-15…My longshot special of the day comes here, in another race that comes off the turf course.  I go with Horse Fly (7), trained by D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by David Flores.  Flores takes off his first couple of mounts this a.m., but is still named to ride this one.  Despite four races in a row where this son of Mineshaft has disappointed, he gets an off track – which he likes – and the longest distance of his career – which he should adore.  Look six races back and you will see that he nearly broke his maiden against a horse named Hence.  Sparty Boy (10) will get all the action, in my opinion today.  This one has won two in a row for the red hot trainer Brad Cox.  Vibe (5) could be in a good spot today, too.  In his only race to date on an off track, he ran second at Santa Anita to Sorry Erik, a good one.  I bet the 7 across the board and then key over/under all the rest.  I also box the 7-10-5 and the 7-10-4 in the exactas.

10th: 2-1-5-3-9-11-7…Today’s finale is wide open, but I give a “dot” to Fat Daddy (2), who looks to be sitting on a good one for Brad Cox and Corey Lanerie.  Had the 6th path in the last and was a beaten favorite.  Shortens back up today and I think roars.  British Humor (1) gets a better number on his past performances and may be better.  Time will tell.  I bet the 2 to win/place and key with all the numbers above.  I box the 2-1 in the exactas, too.

Other Races Around the Country:

Cheekaboo, runs in the 9th at Santa Anita.  This is a horse I’ve been watching for awhile.  I will try a bit today.

Bound for Nowhere, runs in the 5th at Presque Isle on Monday.  This is a good one that I’ve been watching for a return to the races, too.

Big Bend, runs in the 8th at Pimlico on May 25.  Trainer Tom Proctor scratched out of a race at Monmouth to go here.  Love this horse.

Good luck and …
All the Best/Gene

He ran a big race again (after winning the Kentucky Downs Juvenile in his last race). This will absolutely set him up for the Breeders’ Cup.”

Mike Maker , Trainer of Henley’s Joy
  • 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