UPDATED WITH ALL NOW: McLean’s Picks For Churchill Downs on Sunday, Nov. 18

(Saturday Stats To Come)

We had a really good day on Saturday, that could have been a great one. If we could have put Go Navy Go in our Pick 6 selections, we would still be rolling dice here in West Baden.


Five out of Six didn’t really pay all that much. As in zero.

We will be heading back to Louisville soon, but here is a closer look at today’s card at Churchill Downs, and what a tough one it is:

1st: 3-8-7/5-4…Applewood (3) gets a slight nod in the lid-lifter, with a drop in class to a career low price tag. The train will get to saddle this one for just the second time ever and he wins with .11% outhouse. Ran OK over the slop here on Nov. 9, and may be a touch better with the easier group and a fast track. Rider has not won here this meet, and will be up against a good group of experienced iron men in here. American Sea (8) drops from a MSW event all the way to $30,000 here, and will go from turf to dirt. Only previous try over a fast dirt track was not good. At all. But this one did run well here on the grass in September. If he can convert, he could be handy. Royal Edition (7) is another class dropper in here, and if you go back to two and three races ago, this one was right there at the end of each. The winner of the race two back did come back to win here earlier this week. Should be the one to beat. I will bet the 3-7 across the board and then key the 3-7 over/under the “all button.”

2nd: 2-6-4/5-1…Erin’s Wish (2) comes off a nice win at Keeneland last time out. The last two have been very good and this one has a win and a second in 3 tries over this track. Trainer has won with .21% of the 99 runners he has saddled this year, and this one looks to be good right now. Has the edge, for me. Patti Patti Patti (6) never really contended here in the slop on Nov. 1. But should improve with a cut back in distance and a faster track. Has raced here 7 previous times with a win, two seconds and a third. Needs to find her speed again to contend. Colonial Jill (4) won the last time out here on Nov. 11 and wheels right back in 7 days. The trainer hits with .18% of those that won the last race, and this 6YO mare has a nice 4-1-0 record in just 9 starts this year. Can she come back so fast? I bet the 2-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the top 3 over/under the 5-1 in two smaller ones.

3rd: (8)-6-2/4-7/3-5-1…This is a 5.5-furlong turf event on the card, but one should check to see if the race actually stays on the grass. If it does, I will give a slight edge to Girls Know Best (6), who is definitely a good one with a ton of natural speed. She has raced over this sod once, and found her way to the winner’s circle. Ran great at Keeneland in a G3 event last time out, before getting caught by some real good ones near the wire. Should be tough to catch here and has a win over a yielding track, too. Excessive spending (2) comes off a nice win at Keeneland in an allowance race. Ran behind the top choice in the Stakes event before that, though. Has raced three times here with only a third to show for the effort. Will likely come from a stalking position. If the raced is moved to the dirt, one must consider Cathedral Reader (8). This one has hit the board in 4 of 5 lifetime efforts.   Ran great the last two outs. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and key the 6 over/under the 2-4-7 in two exactas. I will key the 6 over (only) the 3-5-1. The 8 goes into the mix solidly if it is moved to the dirt.

4th: 7-6-(14)/4-8-10-(15)/3-5-9-1…Majid (7) drops from a MSW event all the way down to a MCL tag of $15,000. Makes the second start for one of the top barns on the backside, which hits with .23% of those making this drop, and .24% with those in claiming ranks for the first time. Like the last work at High Point. Divine Favor (6) will also make a career low drop today for the Joe Sharp barn. He hits with .29% of those making this type of drop. Ran good before tiring in the slop in the only previous start. Work OK at the training center since. Should pop out of the gate and could be tough to catch. Watch to see if the 14-15 draw into the body of the field. They figure if they do, too. I bet the 7-6 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I key the 7-6 over/under the 14-4-8-10-15 in two exactas.

5th: 7-8/6-4-2/5-3-9…Weiland (7) will make his first start for a new barn today, and the new trainer hits with .22% of those making the switch into the shedrow. Love the work at Hawthorne since the last race, and gets the same rider to get back up. Has raced twice here before and has a win to show for the efforts. Gets a drop to a career low. Charge to Victory (8) won up at Indy Grand two races back and then caught a salty group at Churchill Downs on Oct. 28. Drops way down the ladder and back into the claiming ranks today. Gets the blinkers for the first time, and the barn has hit with .31% of claimers this year in 16 tries. Should push the pace from the get-go. I bet the 7-8 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I key the 7-8 over/under the 6-4-2 in two smaller versions.

6th: 3-6/9-4-5-2/8-12-1/10-11-7…This is another 5.5-furlong race over the grass. And, it is wide, wide, wide open. If it stays on the grass, you may have to watch to see if either the #13 or 14 draw in from the AE List. If it is moved over to the Main Track, then you have to use the #s 17, 18, 19, 20 — for sure. They jumped to the top of this class. If it stay on the grass, then I will look first at Zeroed In (3) — a 2YO from the barn of Brad Cox. Nearly won up at Indy Grand on debut. Rider comes to town to stay aboard today. Was beaten a neck as the favorite in that one, and the barn hits with .32% of those making the second start over the grass; .20% getting blinkers for the first time; and is very solid with beaten favorites. I have to use. Philosophy (6) is a 2YO son of Speightstown who I have been tracking for quite some time. Ran third despite a tough trip over a soft turf course at Keeneland in only previous effort. Should improve off that effort and is definitely the one to beat. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I key the 3-6 over/under the 9-4-5-2 in a smaller version.

7th: 4-5-3/2-9…Big Iron (4) should get a slight edge in this one. Used to run on the lead and then was converted to a late runner. Don’t know what style will be employed today, but drops all the way from $30,000 tag to $8,000 for this one. Should overpower if OK. I throw out the race in the slop when never looked comfortable. Two races back ran well enough to dominate these. Fightingjoewheeler (5) drops from $20,000 to the $8,000 tag here, and this one has been right there in each of the last 8 races. Has 2 wins and 4 thirds in that mix. Def use for me. Sharp Money (3) gets a huge rider switch with the move here. Trainer hits with .08% of those moving up to face winners for the first time, but this one has been the favorite in the last 4 tries. I use under. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the 4 over/under the 5-3-2-9 in two smaller versions.

8th: 7-2-9/4-1-3-5/8…Musabaqa (7) gets the nod here in a sprint for fillies and mares. This one will be dropping for the barn of Tom Amoss, who has won with .26% of the 444 runners he has saddled this year. This one was claimed three races back and immediately moved up in class. Now, will be dropped down; will add blinkers and will get a new rider. All or any should help wake this one up today. Krissys Manicure (2) was claimed two back and immediately dropped farther down the ladder. Ran well in that one, to tire late. Now, gets elevated back to the level where she was claimed. Could improve with move to a faster dirt surface. Parking Ticket (9) didn’t run a lick last time out, but gets the drop back to a level where she can compete. Has 2 wins and 4 thirds in 11 previous runs over this track. I use under. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 7 over/under the 2-9-4-1-3-5-8 in two smaller versions.

9th: 3-1A-1/9-12-6/7-10-2/4-5…Another wide open affair originally scheduled for the turf. If moved off, then I go to the MTOs, immediately, led by East Moon (1A). If it stays on the grass, I will give Bridaled Temper (3) a clear edge. This one would be OK on the dirt, too, I think, but the connections may want to protect this well bred daughter of War Front for more grass later down the road. Simply put, this is a spread race here, and I have no clear info to help make the decision easier. Of the original horses entered, the one I like the best over the main track would be Runninwiththewind (4) — at some nice odds, mind you. Gets a top rider up, and could be a factor late. Oh My (7) would be another to figure. Ran second and third at Laurel this summer on a main track. Go figure? Right.

10th: 10/12-(13)-(14)/11-5-6/7-9…This is a key race for me with the #10 in the 10th race — Cheytac (10). This 3YO colt by Wilburn is moving down several class levels, and has 4 seconds in 13 starts against much tougher. The race in the slop two back was solid and this one has 4 seconds in the last 6 races — all with the blinkers on. Needs a good angle with a late run, but gets a top jock to take the mount here. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then key the 10 over/under the “all button.”

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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