McLean’s “Select” Selections for Saratoga, Del Mar & Arlington Park on Thursday, Aug. 16

Day Results8-4-1-4
2018 Overall 1156430-424-517
Win % of Top Pick37.20%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.53%

What a nice day we had up at The Spa on Wednesday. Handicapped 8 races. Won 4. And, we hit for exactas that paid back $3.45; $4.80; $32.50, $37.75 for each $1 bet. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Today, we will take a cross country trek to find a few races that pique our interest some. If the races we handicap come off the turf, I move on without playing. Here’s a closer look at today’s “Select” races:

Saratoga Race Course:

1st: 3-4-1-1A-2-6…Throw the Fade (3) has raced 7 times so far with 4 seconds, but will be a first-time gelding today for the barn of Jeremiah Englehart. The barn has hit for .16% of its’ starts here this meet, but the connections hit on .29% of those dropping into the MC ranks for the first time and the same percentage when dropping from MSW to MC. Nearly won at Belmont Park two back and had all kinds of trouble three back at Aqueduct. Third time off the layoff can be very good, and the trainer/jock combo have hit for 2-2-4 in the last 8 races together. My solid pick. Top Czar (4) goes for the barn of Graham Motion, who is winless in 22 races so far this meet. This one gets back to the dirt after a debacle run over the sod here on July 20. Drops in class, as well and gets the blinkers for the first time. Kitchen sink time for the barn? The entry — Mantle (1) and Union Wise (1A) — both have a chance. May tend to like the #1 a bit better, since he has started twice. Bought for $400,000. In for $40,000. Need a bigger truck. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under all the other numbers listed above.

3rd: 2-5-4-1…Swing and Sway (2) is a slight upset win play for me in this race. This one has been running against Stakes caliber an Stakes company in “Open Races.” Looks to face NY-breds for the first time — maybe ever. She has ability and it showed when she won the Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn back in April. This barn hits with .25% of those running in non-Graded Stakes events, and I love the work at Churchill Downs on July 29. Picco Uno (5) won this NY-bred Stakes event a year ago and has a win and a third in just three races this year. The lone miss was n the G3 Distaff Handicap — against open company — at Aqueduct in April. Speedster can throttle back when she needs to, and gets a nice rider switch for this one. The one to beat after the work here on Aug. 10. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the 2-5 solidly. May use a very small 2-5 over the 4-1 saver.

5th: 10-8-7-1-6-4-3…I will focus on the top three numbers in this grouping, led by Astounding (10). This 6YO ridgling is by the world’s greatest sire right now — Tapit — and figures to be either on or very close to the lead in a perfect striking position. Won the last race at Monmouth Park for a trainer who is hitting at a .32% clip in 258 races this year. Last two times on the grass have been winners and he has two wins, and a second in just 4 tries at this distance. Souperfast (8) drops a notch in class here after a 6th place finish in the last here on July 21. Appeared not to enjoy the restraint in the last one, and gets a new rider on board today. New jockey is 8-4-9 in the last 31 rides. Red hot. Look for improvement here. Lucky Ramsey (7) was claimed last time out at Belmont Park. Nearly won that day, and the new trainer hits with .17% of those running for the first time after the purchase. This trainer, though, knows this horse very well. Used to train him before he was claimed off him back in April at Aqueduct for $25,000. Won that day. In 19 grass starts in the career, he has a 5-6-1 record. Can’t dismiss. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

6th: 5-2-7-3-4-8-9-6-1…Once again, I will lean on the top 3 numbers in this sequence, led by the first time starter from the barn of Jorge Navarro. Personally, I don’t care for this barn operation, or the way they act in public. But, the numbers are what they are — despite the connections. I probably won’t play this horse, because of my personal dislike, but the trainer does hit with .18% of first timers and this one is training lights out for the debut. The odds are good at 8-1 ML, and this horse figures with this group. Chamber (2) is a first time starter for the barn of Chad Brown, and whether you like his personality — which can be a bit salty from time to time — you have to like the job that he does. He is winning with a .30% clip here this meet, and with .24% of those running in MSW ranks. This one is training very well, too, and the dam of this one has 2 winners from 4 starters. Beware. Pink Sands (7) is a 3YO Tapit filly who is trained by a true gentleman, Hall of Famer from the core out. The filly has been on my Horses To Watch list for quite some time, and she will be making her 2018 debut today. The trainer does hit with .17% of those coming off this type of layup, and with .25% of those returning to the races for the first time after being beaten as the betting favorite. Looks to be training quite nicely down at Fair Hill for the return, too. My hope in this race. I bet the 7 to win/place/show (take note) and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the top 3 over the 3-4-8. 

7th: 5-6-2-8-4-7…Another race where I will look closely at the top 3 numbers, led by a horse I have loved and supported throughout his racing career — Hollywood Handsome (5). This one gets a huge class drop into the claiming ranks for the very first time today. Trainer hits with .11% of those getting this kind of relief. He ran a nice second to Good Samaritan in the G2 New Orleans Handicap in March. But hasn’t been really close while racing against much, much better in the last four. Work here on Aug. 7 is very promising. My pick. Casses Story (6) is another getting dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. This trainer hits with .23% of those making the plunge. This one will be racing for the third time off a layup, too, and the barn hits with .18% of those types. Love the 6-1 odds here, and I think you can throw out the last — which was contested over the slop. This one has shown that he does NOT like the off going. Adulator (2) is yet another getting the class drop into the claiming ranks for the first time. This trainer hits with .20% of those kind. If you throw out the last, over a sloppy track, then this one has three straight thirds and four thirds in the last five. All of those against tougher. Could move up with the class drop. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

8th: 7-9-10-8-1-3-6-4-2…I will concentrate my betting strategies on the top 2 numbers in this sequence. Altea (7) is a 3YO filly from the barn of Chad Brown, and she has been in four straight Graded Stakes events since arriving in the U.S. from France. In her 9 race career to date, she has only one win. But she has 4 seconds and a third to boot. And, the second in the G3 Lake George in the last race — over this sod — was a good one. Made the lead late in that one before getting caught at the wire. Wore  blinkers for the first time in that one and may not have seen anything coming. Second time in blinkers can be even better. My solid choice. Cool Beans (9) — from the barn of Brad Cox — is no slouch either, though. This 3YO filly by Candy Ride has raced 4 times this year. She has 3 seconds and a third. A speedball here will try to take them gate to wire. The race I really like was the one on April 11 at Keeneland. Ran against some real good ones that day. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under the 9. I then key the 7 over the 10-8 in another. And then key the 7 over the 1-3-6-4-2 in a much smaller version.

Del Mar Race Course:

2nd: 6-8-5-2-3….My first Best Bet of the Day on the West Coast comes right here with Ayacara (6). This 3YO gelded son of Violence was claimed last time out for $40,000 after running over the grass course here on July 18. In three grass races to date, this one has never hit the board. So, what does the new trainer do? Move back to the dirt, of course. This trainer hits with .10% of those making that surface transition, but the barn hits with .36% of those making the first start for the new connections after the purchase. And, that is with 39 horses so far. Like the work here on Aug. 12. And, on this dirt track, he has a win in two starts. My solid choice. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under all the other numbers listed in the exactas.

3rd: 1-7-8-6-5…I like the top two numbers here, and I will focus on Bank Walker (1). This one was claimed last time out, as well, and the new barn hits with .30% of first timers off the buy. The big change for this one today is that he was gelded since the last race — which was July 28. A little early to bring them back on the surgical procedure, but this one trained very nicely on Aug. 10. This will be the second start off a layoff, which the barn hits with .25% of, as well. Look at the race three back. Who beat this one? Is that Bolt d’Oro? Enough written. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under the rest of the numbers. More with the #7. 

4th: 9-8-6-7-2-4…If the #12 draw into the body of this race from the Also-Eligible List, then he moves to the top of this class. If not, I go with the top 3 numbers in this group. Worthy Turk (9) might be a nice play if he sticks to the 6-1 ML odds. This one broke his maiden the lat time out — in an allowance race over the grass here on July 26. The trainer and jockey combo on this one have combined to win 6 times in their last 11 tries together, too. By Lemon Drop Kid, this one is out of a mare who has two turf winners and the dam already has a SW, too. My pick. Souter (8) nearly won last time out, losing by a head, in allowance company and as a slight favorite. The trainer hits with .17% of those returning for the first time as a beaten favorite. And, this one had a nice training session here on Aug. 9. Original Intent (6) is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who is having a very nice meet here — with .24% winners in 51 starts. This one came rushing at the end of the last to finish fourth. But was beaten only a length. That was a very promising first try over the grass. Can’t dismiss if he moves up with the second try — where trainer wins with .21% of 58 horses to date. I bet the 9-6 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

7th: 7-2-8-6-5-1-4…Liam the Charmer (7) looks to me as the top one in this field, despite running off the board in each of the last three tries. Remember all of those events, though, were in G2 or G1 Stakes. Today, he gets a tremendous relief in class, and the last time he was anywhere close to this level, he won at 11/4 miles. Will be making the 2018 debut today, and the trainer does NOT do so well coming off this long a layup. He has won with only .05% of the last 43 to do so. But…Always a but, right?…Gets a red-hot rider in the saddle today, who has won with .24% of his saddle jobs this meet. Love the move over this grass course back on Aug. 12. And…always an “and,” too, right? The last time this one had this type of layup, he came and won off the break. My pick. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-2 in one exacta solidly. I key the 7-2 over the rest of the numbers in a smaller exacta version.

Arlington Park:

3rd: 6-1-8-7-2…This race looks to be a party held for Ben Colebrook, a trainer who has a 2-2-0 record here in Chicago in only 7 races to date. It appears, on paper, that he has the top 2 contenders in this 7-furlong tilt over the all-weather surface. My top pick is Enrage (6), a 3Yo Algorithms filly owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider. This one tried the turf for the first time last out at Ellis Park. Didn’t care for that much, but the second place runner that day has already come back to win again. Now, she will get a chance at the wax paper type track. She does have a win, two seconds and a third in 10 career tries to date, and the race two back at this distance was a good one — against much tougher. If she takes to the surface, she will be tough coming late in the going. Gets the meet’s top rider today. Heavenly Hill (1), who comes from the same barn, appears to be the top competition in this spot. This one will prefer the front, and will get a rider that can put her close to the lead. But the jockey who nearly won on this one last time out, opts for the preferred choice over this one. This one will definitely be the one to beat — having two wins and a second in just three previous tries over the poly. I bet the 6 to win/place and then box the 6-1 solidly in the exacta. I key the 6-1 over the other three numbers in a lesser version.

5th: 5-1-4-3-7-6…This is a key race for me, and my Best Bet of the Day at AP comes right here with the # 5 in the fifth race (if you are into such things): Gagaoveryou (5). This one will be making her first start ever for trainer Roger Brueggemann. The conditioner is having a super meet here right now, winning at a .30% clip in 46 starts. Nice work session over the poly on Aug. 9 should set her up nicely. In 18 starts at this sprint turf distance, she has a record of 8-2-4. Not bad at all. She will be stalking the lead early on, and the jockey has a 2-1-1 record for this trainer in the last 5 starts over the past two weeks. My solid choice here. I bet the 5 to win/place/show — and love the 5-1 ML odds — and key over/under the 1-4-3.  I key the 5 over the 7-6 in two smaller ones.

6th: 1-10-3-2-7-4-5…Prima Valentina (1) will make her second career start today, and she nearly won on debut. Will get the meet’s top rider back up for a trainer who hits with .29% of those making the second career start and with .31% of those making the second start ever on the grass. Jockey has won 5 of the last 20 for this barn over the last week, too. And, this one is 5-1 odds in the ML. If that holds, I love this one. Carnival Colors (10) is definitely the horse to beat. She ran third on debut and was bet down that day to nearly even money. She will be converting to the grass today, and the barn hits with .22% of those making the sod debut. Had some gate issues before the last start, and had to be re-loaded. That could have been an issue in the running, but she should like the extra distance and the move to the grass. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the 1-10 solidly in the exacta. I key the 1-10 over the other numbers in a smaller version.

7th: 11…I just have to bet the #11 in this race. After all, the 4YO gelded son of Fort Prado is named Keen on Gene (11). Come on. How do I not bet this horse, right? Right?

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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean