Gene McLean gives his selections for Ellis Park’s Opening Day card, and looks forward to traveling to Henderson, KY for some live racing later this meet.  The old “pea patch” is one of the best, “fair-like” Thoroughbred meets left in the world.  And, is pure fun.


1st: (13)-2-6-3-5-11…Proud to Live Free (13) is the top choice if he draws into the field from the Also Eligible List. He has bombed in three straight events, but drops in class for a top claiming outfit. Dusty (2) drops, as well, for a good trainer. Nearly got the job done in his last out at Lone Star. Fits here. Alabama Son (6) will gun from their start and may be tough to catch. Where’s Lew (3) hasn’t shown much, but you have to respect on the drop for this outfit. I bet the 13 if he draws in, but if not, I go with the 2 to win/place and then key over/under the rest of the numbers. Tread lightly.


2nd: 2-6-5…Confederate Rags (2) is taking a huge drop after two aggressive tries against much better. Should like this crowd much better, and gets the slight nod. The Last Prophet (6) will likely be the post-time favorite after being nabbed for $8K in his last try. This barn does well with firsters off the cliam. Primal (5) broke his maiden in the last and moves up. I bet the 2 to win and then box the 2-6-5 in the exactas.


3rd: 8-4-6-7-3…More Than Shirl (8) shortens back up to a sprint in here and that should help this one immensely. The race two back at Churchill is a winner here, if he can duplicate. Oldwick (4) goes for the barn of Steve Asmussen, who just so happens to double as the owner here. Gets class relief, too, and will likely be the favorite. Two If By Sea (6) is an Indiana-bred, but picks up Lanerie – and the top rider in the Midwest must have a reason. I bet the 8 to win/place and then box the 8-4-6 in the exactas, with one small exacta key with 8 over (only) all the numbers listed.


4th: 9-5-7-3-10…Cantcatchchanneled (9) was broken to the saddle by a friend (Mary Midkiff, who does a superb job) and is owned by another friend, Ann Bakhaus. This one got a learning experience against much tougher at Churchill and has worked well since that race. If she can show a bit more speed to put herself in the race, then she has a good shot in here. But with all due respect to those connections, In Focus (5) goes for Stephen Lyster – one of the top, young trainers in this country and he’s like a son to me and has trained horses for me for years – including one now… So…what to do? I box the 9-5 in the exactas, right? Yep. And, I wheel the 9-5 over/under the rest of the numbers, too. Good luck friends. Editor’s Note: I think they are the best two choices in this race any way, outside the conflict of heart.


5th: 2-9-6-1-3-5…Knight of Dreams (2) gets a class drop in here and that may be enough to help this one to the circle. Also, shortens up a bit and that may help, too. If he gets back to the two previous races after the last one, then he will be tough to handle here. Hat of Jacks (9) goes for a top barn. He had some gate issues in the last, but a return to his previous form makes him dangerous here. I bet the 2 to win/place and then key over/under the rest of the numbers listed.


6th: 1-7-9-8-2…English Affair (1) is a deep closer and has been facing softer competition at Belterra and Indiana Grand. But this one is well-bred and should fit in this group. Kupuri (7) has faced tougher at Churchill Downs and could rally from off the pace, too. I Remember Mama (9) is a first-timer, but goes for a good trainer. Gulf View (8) switches barns and cost a lot of money to purchase. I think you have to use. I bet the 1 & the 8 to win/place/show and then wheel those two over and under the other numbers.


7th: 5-6-7-2-4…Make Noise (5) is 3-1 ML and I think will drift up in odds. Threw out the parachute in his last, but his run against Mo Diddley in his debut was impressive and that one was a big contender for the Bashford Manor before being scratched. I am looking for an upset here. Shakedown (6) is 2-1 ML and will likely go down in odds for the connections of Asmussen and top jock Corey Lanerie. Training good at Keeneland for this debut. Bo Tee (7) goes for a barn that is pretty good with 2YOs. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key the 5-6 over/under the rest of the numbers.


8th: 8-7-11-9-2-5-4…My Best Bet of the Day is Giant Payday (8), who faltered late on a yielding track in the G3 Arlington Classic. Beaten by a very good one in that race. No Cowboy Cultures in here. This one should find a perfect stalking spot and be tough to beat, backing up to a 1-mile event. Derby Champagne (7) has 5 ITM finishes in his last 8 starts with 2 wins and 3 thirds. Comes from off the pace and will have to find some space. Fire for Effect (11) backs up off an endurance try and may come running, as well. Ran 4th, beaten only 41/2 lengths, by Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming just 3 starts back. If he can run that good against that competition, he should be good in here. I bet the 8 to win/place and then key over/under all the other numbers in here. I also key the 8 in the Pick 3s and the Doubles.


9th: 9-12-6-7-10…The Opening Day finale is a wide open affair, but I settle on Caberneigh (9), who should be low odds after being installed as the 9-5 favorite at ML. But don’t see anyone else in here that can contend on paper. If I can get any where close to even money, I take and run. Carolos Dangerous (12) has run 2 straight seconds at Indiana and may like the switch back to the turf. I bet the 9 to win (only) and then box the 9-12 in the exactas. I take one, small 9-12 key over the rest of the numbers – just in case.


Good luck &

All the Best/