McLean’s “Select” Selections for Saratoga & Del Mar on Friday, Aug. 30 / Wednesday Was Amazing

Day Results5-5-3-2
2018 Overall 1279473-471-567
Win % of Top Pick36.98%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.38%

Well, I have to write that Thursday was one of my best handicapping days ever. As in? Ever.

And, it sure didn’t start out like it was going to be. Not so much.

I was in D.C. on Thursday for a major meeting of beer executives. (It’s just what I do.) And, I suddenly discovered that I could not access the PPs from my account. Just before panic set it, I emailed my great friend Ed DeRosa — the Director of Marketing at the fine institution. And, with a magic wand, he made them available to me.

So, as my meetings were about to commence, I started to handicap. Readily. Quickly. Fashionably. But steadily. And, my great friend — Marc Carmichael (who happens to be from Indiana, but let’s not hold that against him) — leans over and tells me that he doesn’t think that this will be my finest work product.

Oh contrare, one of such little faith.

We handicapped five races at Saratoga yesterday, and gave our picks. We won all five. Straight up. We had three exactas cold, as in 1-2. And, in the second our picks finished 1-2-3-4 — in order.

Over the five races, if you had played just $2 across the board on our top pick — you would have gotten a return of $20.56 on average. That’s a profit of over $14 per race.

Over the five races, if you had played just a $1 exacta on our selections, you would have gotten a return of $40.77 per race. We had a $146.50 return on a $1 exacta; a $4.55 return; and $17.60, $21.90 and $13.30.

It was such a good day that my #1 fan on Twitter announced that I was “awesome.” Awesome. Really? Now, that is a really nice feeling. Don’t think I’m awesome, as the fickle hand of Lady Luck normally brings one back to reality in a very quick order. But I do think we had an awesome day.


To Be Determined.

But here we go:

Saratoga Race Course:

2nd: 1-1A-2-10-11-8-4-6…The entry is a heavy favorite, and may even dip below even money, but I still think some cash is to be made with this logical duo from the barn of Chad Brown. Especially if the two of them can find their way to both hit the board — which I definitely think is possible in this spot. Frontier Market (1) gets a slight edge of the two, for me. The 5YO gelded son of Lemon Drop Kid has raced 6 times in the career to date, and has 5 seconds. He came off a three month layup to nearly hit last time out. with any improvement at all, he should be very tough going the 1 mile distance again. Trainer hits with .23% of those making the second start off a layoff. Strategic Outlook (1A) looks rtf provide the main competition, and may get the jump on his roommate. While the top choice likes to come from farther back, this one should lay in a stalking position. Closed well to be second on debut and the trainer hits with .24% of those making the 2nd career start. Has trained well since the last race, and the show horse in the last out has already come back to win. Looks solid. Bail Out (2) goes for a HOF trainer, who is having a superb meet (.23% winners from 30 starts). This one had a rough go the last time at Churchill Downs, faltering late. Cuts back in distance today, and that should aid his cause. The rail post is winning at .31% rate this meet, and if you look two back, this one was a near winner, as well. I bet the entry to win/place/show (hoping to get them both in the money) and then I box the entry with the 2 in a solid exacta. I will key the 1-1A over the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

3rd: 1-4-3-5-2-6-7…Another grass event, and I will go right back to the #1 position. Naples Legacy (1) has been made 10-1 in the ML, and I think this one could be our Upset Special of the Day. The 3YO Medaglia D’Oro filly was claimed last time out by a top claiming trainer, who hits with .16% of those making the first start for the barn after the purchase. He also hits with .19% of those switching from dirt to turf. This filly is a beaten favorite, as well, and the trainer scores with .25% of those kind. Today, the filly gets a huge rider switch and stretches back out to a distance and surface that she should prefer. If you look at the MCL win, despite being on dirt, it was impressive and dominating. the next out, against winners for the first time, was difficult, and a wide trip. Looks like she could be better spotted for this one. Bramble Queen (4) is an Illinois-bred, but she has run well against open company in the past. In fact, the connections thought enough of her to enter in the Boiling Springs Stakes at Monmouth back in May. She led that one until tiring before the end. Now, she drops into the claiming ranks after a win and a second in state-bred company. Looks good right now, and could add a price, as well. Fast Track Kathern (3) looks to be the horse to beat, and is 9-5 odds. She will be making the first appearance for new trainer Michelle Nevin (who is having a solid meet with 5-12-4 record in the first 43 starters). She picked the one up off a nice win last time out, but nows moves up in class after losing that condition. Also, moves up in the price category, as well. Think she will run well, again, but might be a bit vulnerable against these types. I bet the 1-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over the rest in a smaller version.

9th: 1-7-10-4-5-2-6-9…P. G. Johnson Stakes…Dogtag (1) is another with the #1 designation that I like at “The Spa” today. This 2YO daughter of War Front will be making her second career start for Chad Brown, and she was odds-on favorite in the MSW event to start her career here on Aug. 5. That one was moved off the grass to the dirt track, and she was troubled throughout the stretch in that one. Moved up to 3rd after a DQ situation. Now, she gets a new rider who has hit with .23% in the last 74 rides for this barn. And, this one has put in a nice series of works since the last race. Trainer hits with .29% of those routing for the first time, and she should love the surface switch. I like the 6-1 ML odds, too. Another Upset Special for me. Mintd (7) — another from the barn of Chad Brown — looks to be the one to beat on paper. This filly just shipped over to N.A. from Ireland and will be making her first start on this side of the pond. Trainer hits with .29% of those making the first start for the new connections, and with .23% of those getting treated with Lasix for the first time. Will be stretching out from a short sprint distance, but the trainer does well with these types too, and the works appear to be sustaining. Chocolate Kisses (10) is a nice Candy Ride filly who has a second and a win in two previous starts. The last one, she got to move over to the sod and she rolled form the get-go. Impressive in victory. The barn is ice cold here, though, with just 2 wins in 52 starts. This is one of them. Nice works since the win, and she should be a presence on or near the lead. (I had a half-sister to this one at one time. So, I have a rooting interest of sorts.) I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 1-7 over/under the 10-4, and then key the 1-7 over (only) the 5-2-6-9.

Del Mar Race Course:

1st: 8-5-2-1-6 (10-12)…If either of the AE horses (10-12) draw into the body of this field, I have to use. Especially the #10. But, if not, here’s how I go: Town Champ (8) came off a 6-month layoff to run a nice third here on July 22. Pushed the pace in that one, before tiring. That was to be expected with the long down time. But this trainer now moves to the grass, where he is .11% winner with first timers on the sod, and wins with .22% of those making the second start off a layup. Breeding is top notch, as the dam was a Stakes Winner and has thrown three turf winners to date. Sire is spectacular. Nice work here on Aug. 24. Adds up for a good performance for me. Concur (5) is another from the same barn, and this one tired when routing on the grass last time out. But that was in late February. Has been training lights out for the return, and the trainer hits with .22% of those coming back off this type of layoff. In 5 previous starts, this brand-new gelding has two seconds and two thirds. If the “equipment change” helps, he could be tough on the lead today. Kris’ Wild Kat (2) is another coming off a long layoff, having not started since Santa Anita in January. Trainer hits with .17% of those making the comeback and is having a solid meet. The thing that intrigues me  the most about this one is that he moves over to the grass for the first time today, and the trainer hits with .18% of those — but, he ran against the likes of Nero, Curly’s rocket and Core Beliefs in that debut effort. Those are 3 tough customers there. I bet the 8-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

4th: 4-8-9-6-1-10…This looks to be a nice MSW event for 3YOs & Up, led by Pleasant d’Oro (4). This 3YO son of Medaglia d’Oro is coming off two straight hard-fought seconds against some nice company. The two back second was up against Regulate, a nice one from the barn of Bob Baffert. Has trained well since the last race, when he tired late in the proceedings as the heavy favorite. Trainer hits with .30% of those returning to the races as a beaten favorite. Air Strike (8) will be making his first start West of the Mississippi and for new trainer Phillip D’Amato. Trainer hits with .16% of those making their first start for the new barn, and this one has some nice credentials to boost his chances today. Ran second at Ellis Park in his last try on July 22, and the winner of that one came right back to win the next out, too. That was the first try at going a mile, and this trainer hits with .24% of those making the route for the second time. Look out here. Stonegate (9) goes for the red-hot barn of John Sadler (.26% winners from 57 runners here to date). This one ran very well at Los Alamitos two back, but bobbled at the start and went way wide in the last here on Aug. 1. Lost all chance in that one. Look for improvement today, especially off the work here on Aug. 25. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top two numbers over the 9-6 in another.

7th: (11)-5-2-8-6-4-3-1…If the #11 draws into the body of the race from the AE list, then I have to put on the top. If not, here is how I go: Eric the Trojan (5) is a horse that I touted last time out. He ran second — beaten a dirty nose — as the favorite. And, he came from next-to-last to just about win. A little better trip today, and with the winner of that last one on the AE list, this one figures to be the one to beat here. In 7 tries at this specialty sprint distance, this son of More Than Ready has a 2-3-1 record and has never been off the board in six tries over this sod. Trainer hits with .18% of those returning as the beaten favorite. My pick. Tina’s Exchange (2) has hit the board in each of the last four tries and has finished “in the money” in 9 of the last 10 outs. Consistent. Has two wins in that mix, though. Training lights out and should really push the pace from the start, although he can stalk when asked. Rider has been right there in only two starts with this one. Can’t dismiss. Little Juanito (8) may be able to add some value to the mix, at 6-1 ML odds. Son of Exchange Rate comes into this one off a win. Loses that condition and now moves up to face tougher today. But is 2-for-2 at the distance and this track. Have to like that. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the 5-2 solidly. I key the 5-2 over/under the 8. I then key the 5-2 over (only) the rest of the numbers listed.

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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