McLean’s Picks for Churchill Downs on Wednesday, Oct. 31

Day Results11-3-4-6
2018 Overall 1623602-585-716
Win % of Top Pick37.12%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.08%
Top Selection ITM / CD Nov 8-1172.73%
Top Selection Win / CD Nov 3-1127.27%
“Key Horses” @ CD Nov: 3-1-2-033.33%

Churchill Downs opened its’ November season on Sunday, and it was a day that could have rocked the world for the McLean Household. We went into the final race alive in both the Pick 5 and the Pick 5. When all was said and done, the Pick 5 returned over $123,000. And…

We didn’t have it.

We ran second with our lone single of the sequence.

Oh well. We must have not needed the $.

We did have 3 winners from our top pick, but our top pick hit the board 8 of 11 races. And, we are feeling good heading into the Breeders’ Cup this week. Until then, though, let’s take a look at today’s card, which could turn soggy in a hurry. Due to the work load we are producing for BC days Friday and Saturday, and our intense review of each of the BC races, please excuse our abbreviated comments today and tomorrow.

1st: 9-3/8-2/5-7-6…Hero’s Welcome (9) gets the edge for me. This 3YO son of Street Cry ran a solid, closing second here on Sept. 30 going two turns. Today, he shortens up a bit, but should be more experienced and conditioned. Barn’s top rider gets up. My pick. Far Mauro (3) has been on the turf for all three previous races, but switches to the dirt for the first time today. Barn hits with .29% of those making this surface switch. Was put on the lead in the last out and tired late. Maybe reverts back to a more stalking try today. I bet the 9 to win/place and then key the 9 over/under the 3-8-2.

2nd: 5-4/6-1-2…I will focus on the top two numbers here, as well, led by Weneedtotalk (5). This one has been on an off track twice in the career so far and has a win and a third. Has been blanked in two starts here, but gets a significant class drop for this one and shortens back up for the sprint. Trainer hits with .23% of those making the cut-back in distance. Unprovoked (4) has been blanked on an off-going strip, but gets a huge class drop, too. Go back to the Spring, and this one hit the board  in three of five races and had a fourth to throw into the mix — all against tougher. Watch out for this bug rider. Can get the job done. I bet the 5-4 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 5-4 over/under the 6-1-2 in two smaller versions.

3rd: 6/4-3-2-1…My first “KEY PLAY” of the Day. Facilitator (6) was cut out to be a real good one. In the first four starts, he had 2 wins and 2 seconds and the runner-ups were both by a neck. Went to the sidelines after a nice third in the first try over the grass at the Fair Grounds in March. Dragon Drew won that Stakes event at large odds. Was off for 7 months before returning in an allowance race that could easily have been a Stakes event at Keeneland. Dak Attack ran second in that one, and this one was 6th. But beaten less than 5 for the win. Look for big improvement out of this one today. Has done well over a wet track, too. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the 4-3-2-1.

4th: 5-1-6/7-8…I spread out a bit here, led by Mo’s Song (5). This 5.5-furlong sprint has been moved to the main track, which I think should help this 3YO daughter of Uncle Mo. Training lights out for the barn, which hits with .10% of first time starters. Gets Churchill’s top rider in the saddle today. U.S. Currency (1) is very well bred for the grass, but now gets the dirt. None of the previous races are over a wet main track, so hard to figure. But this one has shown the ability to close in the past, and has experience edge. More Mojo (6) has been training very well of late, too. Look at the work on Oct. 17. This one has not been out in over a year, but showed some speed before. If she breaks well, she could be a factor to hit the board. By More Than Ready, who can sire a “mudder.” I bert the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

5th: 1/9-3-2/11-10-5…This is my second “KEY PLAY” of the Day. I will go to the rail and Jefazo (1), who will be dropping from a MC $30,000 price tag to half that checkbook today. If you look back, he has been very competitive since getting the plunge. The connections paid $300,000 for this one, and he blisters the track in the a.m. Should fit nicely with these. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under the 9-3-2. I will key the 1 over (only) the 11-10-5.

6th: 3-2/8-5/6-4…Awesome Times Two (3) gets the drop off a nice win against tougher company up at Indy Grand in August. That was over a sloppy racetrack, as well. In two previous runs on an off-track, this one has two wins. Has a third in only two starts here, as well, and both those tries were against much tougher that this crop in here. Should fit nicely with these. Grandpa Knows Best (2) has had a dismal year, getting blanked in 6 races so far. Does have a third in a previous trip over an off-track, and does sink to a career low price tag today. If the best hop is truly a drop, then this would should wake up today. I bet the 3-2 across the board and then box those 2 solidly in the exacta. I key the 3-2 over/under the 8-5 in two smaller versions.

7th: 7-4/11-9/(14)-8-5-12-3-6…Jazz It Up (7) will drop into the MCL ranks for the first time for a barn that hits with .24% of these downward trends. Ran with an abundance of speed in each of the first two — both on the turf. Faltered late in each, but now moves to the dirt and that should help this son of Speightstown. Watch for marked improvement here. She Love Me (4) goes for a red-hot barn since this veteran trainer returned to the track and the barn area. Ran third in his first try for the new connections at Churchill Downs in late September. Moves up the ladder for this one, and is a first time gelding. The one to beat. I bet the 7-4 across the board and box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 7-4 over/under the 11-9 in two more smaller ones. I will key the 7-4 over (only) the rest in a much smaller version.

8th: 13-1A-3-12…This one is moved off the turf, and we are left with a field of 4 only. I will go with one of the horses entered for the MTO. This is Tell Your Mama (13), who comes from the Tom Amoss barn. This trainer was red hot here in September, and this one has a second in three previous tries over an off track. Ran huge to break the maiden here on Sept. 28 and will face winners for the first time today, but the trainer hits with .21% of those coming off a win. Has faced some good ones in the past like She’s a Julia, Red Reuby and Coach Rocks. No Fault (1A) is another from the MTO list, and goes for a barn that does well with those kind. Ran a super second here on Sept. 27 when the race was moved off the turf. Has a second and a third in two previous tries over an off track. Watch out here. I bet the 1A to win (take note) and then box the 13-1A in the exacta.

9th: 6/1-3/8-9-7…I’ve been waiting such a long time for the return of Copper Bullet (6). Unfortunately, he gets an off-track, but this was one of the best 2YOs in the world last year — winning the Saratoga Special in championship style. The connections have taken their time with this son of More Than Ready — who has been away from the races since August 2017. But the works are superb in the a.m., and he looks ready for his best off a long layup. This won shined in both the first two starts of his career. Catches a good crowd for the return, but I love this one. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top three numbers — 6-1-3 — in one exacta. I will key the 6 over/under all the numbers listed in two more.

10th: To Come


The rest of the card to come soon.


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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