Updated: McLean’s Select Selections for a Star-Studded Saturday, July 28

Day Results6-4-2-4
2018 Overall 1041388-383-459
Win % of Top Pick37.30%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.40%

We had a very successful day on Friday. What with the scratch of Reride in the Curlin Stakes, we were able to win four of six races at Saratoga, and we have now inched our win percentage to one of the highest marks all year.

We are not handicapping full cards at racetracks until the return of racing at Churchill Downs in September, but we are taking a look at select races all over the country.

Today, we will focus on the major Stakes events being held at Saratoga and Del Mar. Here’s a closer look:

Saratoga Race Course:

7th: 2-5-3-6…G3 Amersterdam Stakes: On Belmont Stakes Day, at Belmont Park back in June, I was very bullish on Promises Fulfilled (2). I thought that the cut back in distance to 7 furlongs would be just what the good DR. would order for a speedball that had been rushed into the Triple Crown trail after his dominating performances earlier this year. And, the son of Shackledford ran his eye balls out. He tired to run third that day after a brutal speed duel early on, cutting fractions like 21.1, :43.5, and 1:08.2. Today, I love him even more. I don’t see the same kind of speed able to go with this Dale Romans pupil, and I think the cut back in distance to 6.5 furlongs will benefit him greatly. My first Best Bet of the Day comes right here. And, I love the 7-2 ML odds. Strike Power (5) ran behind Promises Fulfilled in the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park earlier this year, after winning the G3 Swale Stakes in front-end fashion. He’s another one that seemed destined for good things this year, before he was stretched out beyond his comfort zone. Was parked wide in the Woody Stephens and was never able to get in a comfortable spot. Today’s compact field may allow for a better run. Engage (3) is the heavy ML favorite for trainer Chad Brown. This one has never been worse than second in six career starts, including four Stakes events (3 Graded) in a row. Ran second with a closing kick in the Woody Stephens, easily besting our top two picks. But had the perfect race scenario that day. I think tables may be turned. (Keep an eye on Brown; he is a feisty sort when things don’t go his way.) I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under all the other numbers listed in the exactas.

8th: 1-4-3-7-5-6…G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap…I love Switzerland (1). Probably the country, too. But this rail horse today, by Speightstown, has never been better and will get to face his first group of G1 challengers today. Since moving from the barn of Chad Brown over to Steve Asmussen’s care, at the beginning of this year, this 4YO colt has not lost. And, to be honest, it hasn’t even been close. In his last out, back in May, he ran away with an easy 31/2-length win in the G3 Maryland Sprint Stakes over a muddy track. The rail has been winning at an .18% rate this meet, and he has the speed to cut and run right from the beginning — best utilizing that #1 post. No reason to believe that he can’t keep the string alive. Imperial Hint (4) is the ML favorite after winning the G2 True North Stakes at Belmont Park in the last out. In 9 tries at this 6-furlong distance, this Florida-bred has six wins and two seconds. One of the losses came two back against Limousine Liberal in the G2 Churchill Downs. He was kicked that day, though, and it will be interesting to see if he hits the guns early like he did that day and tired late. Warrior’s Club (3), trained by D. Wayne Lukas, has a good year going on. In 7 starts, he has a 2-1-2 record and has a win in the G3 Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland and a head loss in the G2 Churchill Downs (where he trounced Imperial Hint). Ran third last time out, after a ill-fated run in the 1-mile Metropolitan at Belmont Park. He is a warrior, and aptly named. Likely to hit the money, and will try. The rapidly improving horse in the field, though, is Done Deal (7), who will go for my good friend Ian Wilkes. Has won both starts this year by a combined 91/4 lengths. Getting better with each start, he really jumps into the deep water today. Is he ready? I think so. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under the 4-3-7. I also key the 1 over the 5-6.

9th: 6-8-7-3-9…G2 Bowling Green Stakes…Sadler’s Joy (6), trained by Thomas Albertrani (1-2-0 in 8 starts this meet) loves Saratoga. He has raced over this grass course on four previous occasions and has two wins and a third. His earnings in those starts amount to over $613,000. Today, he is back. And, in good form. Just lost the G1 Manhattan at Belmont Park in the last start, after leading late in the going. Had a rough start in that one, as well. Has a nice 2-1-2 record in 7 starts at this lengthly distance, and will get the HOF rider Javier Castellano back in the saddle. They have been snake bitten in two previous tries, but right there at the wire in each. Today the day? I think so. Money Multiplier (8) nearly won the G1 United Nations in his last effort, closing well to just lose by 1/2-length. Was checked hard going into the first turn of that one and lost valuable position. Now, trainer Chad Brown switches riders to Irad Ortiz, Jr. Tough break for Jersey Joe Bravo, who won on him the previous time out. This one has raced over this grass course four times as well. Has a win and three seconds. I think another second today. Hi Happy (7) is having a good year with 2 wins and 2 thirds in 4 races. nearly won the G1 Manhattan, as well. Likes to be either on or very close to the lead. Gets the barn’s #1 rider up today for the first time. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the other four numbers in the sequence for the exacta plays.

10th: 3-2-4-5-1…G2 Jim Dandy Stakes…I am going with the Steve Asmussen duo in this spot — Reride (3) and Tenfold (2) — to upset the heavily favored, and, in my opinion, highly over-rated Vino Rosso (5), who has been made the even-money ML favorite. The one I like the best from the Asmussen barn is Reride. This son of Candy Ride won the Mine That Bird Stakes at Sunland Park over a good one in Runaway Ghost, who came right back to capture the Sunland Derby. Reride took a detour after his win at Sunland, though, and was rerouted to Dubai, where he ran third behind the highly-touted Mendelssohn and the filly Rayya in the UAE Derby. He was never able to muster much of a test in that one, though. Since his return to the States, Asmussen and the connections tried him on the grass in a small stakes up at Canterbury Downs. He didn’t like that at all, and now he is back on the dirt. Unconventional way to get here, but last year’s winner — Good Samaritan — switched from the grass to win this Stakes, too. I love the 12-1 odds here. My Upset Special of the Day. Tenfold (2) is the more highly touted of the Asmussen duo, and rightfully so. He ran a huge third in the Preakness Stakes, closing to give some people concern that he may just fly right past the eventual Triple Crown winner Justify in the late stretch. He faltered a bit in that one, and came back to run a non-threatening fifth in the Belmont Stakes. This son of Curlin is well bred and well built, and has the talent to be something special. Training well here, too. The one to beat, IMO. Sporting Chance (4) is a troubled soul. Has a tendency to quirk it up in the late running, like his win here in the G1 Hopeful Stakes a year ago. Dodged the left hand whip late in that one and veered sharply to his right nearing the wire, nearly unseating the rider. Has not been close since that day. But I think he likes this place, with a perfect 2-for-2 record. And, his trainer hits when you least expect it these days. Vino Rosso (5) is the ML favorite for Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole, who may still be crying over how his colt, Noble Indy, was treated in the Belmont Stakes. This one has talent. Won the Wood Memorial. But has fired two blanks in the KY Derby and the Belmont. I think the world has a higher opinion of him than I do. I bet the 3-2 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exactas. I key the 3-2 over the rest in one more.

Del Mar Race Course:

1st: 7…This will mark the debut of American Pharoah’s half sister, Chasing Yesterday (7). This one trained by Bob Baffert, as well, and will be ridden by Mike Smith — the regular rider of the recently retired Justify. The daughter of Tapit has been training lights out, and the dam has 4 winners from 4 starters, and, of course the world famous Stakes winner. Worth watching this one. No odds. Just worth watching.

7th: 1-3-10-2-8-4…California Dreaming Stakes: This is a Stakes event for Cal-breds only. I normally steer clear of these restricted race types, but I love a couple of nice ones in here, led by What a View (1). This 7YO gelding tired while setting the pace in the 11/4-mile G2 Charles Whittingham Stakes in his last out, but he was very game in winning the G3 American Stakes at a flat mile the last time out. Now, he will try 11/16-miles. Has raced the distance three previous times, with two wins. Picks up a new rider today in Kent Desormeaux, who is a much more experienced hand in these parts. I look for a return to favor. Ashleyluvssugar (3) has not been the same since winning the Charles Whittingham in 2017 and returning to run a game second to Hint in the G2 Eddie Read, a year ago. But…There’s always a but, right? Always. This one has faced restricted company only twice that I can see. He won once and was a rapidly closing fourth just two races back in the 2018 debut. May not be the same as he once was, but he may be good enough once as he ever was. (Thanks Toby Keith). So Phet (10) is now the same age as his saddle cloth. But he has won two in a row against State-breds and looks as good as ever. Has never been better than third over this course, though. Just have to love a guy like this, though. B Squared (8), Pee Wee Reese (4), and Grecian Fire (2) all have a shot in here, as well. I like the last of the three to hit the board. Goes for the team of Jerry Hollendorfer (who has a 8-5-1 record in 23 starts so far this meet), and Mike Smith. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest in another smaller version.

9th: 4-3-2-5-11…G1 Bing Crosby Stakes…On paper, this one looks to be a battle between the top two stars in the field — American Anthem (4) and Roy H (3). The former is a perfect 2-for-2 this year, but both of those have been at 7-furlongs. Today, he will have to sharpen up and be a little quicker to the punch for Team Baffert and rider Mike Smith. Does have a win over the Del Mar track, to his credit, though. That came in the debut MSW win in December 2016. Roy H (3) will be making his first start since he ran a tough-luck third to Mind Your Biscuits in Dubai back in March. Before that, though, he had won three in a row and six of the last seven. In his two losses in the last 8 races, he has been right there in both of them. Surely, he is the horse to beat with a win and a second in two starts here — including a second in last year’s Bing Crosby. He is 4-1-0 in 6 starts at the distance. Training lights out for the return and the trainer hits with .19% of those coming back from this type of layup. American Pastime (2) has five top two finishes in 7 lifetime outs and could provide some value to the mix, at 15-1 ML odds. Will be making the first start since running here in the Breeder’s Cup Spring in November. Ransom the Moon (5) won this race a year ago and has a stellar 5-7-1 record in 23 lifetime starts. Can’t dismiss fully. I bet the 4 to win/place and then box the 4-3 solidly in one exacta. I key the 4-3 over the rest in a much smaller version.

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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