McLean’s “Select” Selections for Saratoga & Del Mar on Sunday, Sept. 2

Day Results17-6-7-7
2018 Overall 1309482-481-581
Win % of Top Pick36.82%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.32%

Off to a great start on Saturday, only to putter home with an OK day. We did have 6 winners in the 17 races we selected, and we hit for exactas that returned $32.25, $20.70, $13.20, $47.00, and $13.90 for every $1 invested at Saratoga. We hit for two exactas that paid $10.20 and $12.20 for each $1 bet at Del Mar. And? Well, despite hitting three winners in just five races, we only hit one exacta at KY Downs, which returned $10.10 for $1.

Hoping for better today. So, here we go:

Saratoga Race Course:

3rd: 5-1-3-2…Almithmaar (5) is my first “Best Bet of the Day” at The Spa. This 3YO gelded son of Tapit cost $625,000 as as 2016 Keeneland September buy. It took him until this year to make the races, but in five starts so far he has a win, two seconds and a third. Only time he was off the board was when he was fifth behind Graded Stakes winner Raging Bull on the grass. (And, that one won a big Stakes here on Saturday.) Tired in the last out, but that was the first race in a month. Shortens up to 6 furlongs today, and that should help. Plus, he gets a huge rider switch. Low odds, but if I can get even money, I will be happy here. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key the 5 over/under the other three numbers.

4th: 7-1-6-9-3-4-10…I will focus on the top two names here, led by Off Topic (7). This is a first time starter for a barn that hits with .22% of these types. This 2YO filly by Street Sense is working so well that it is silly. Bullet work here on Aug. 26 was spectacular, and it certainly appears that she has plenty of speed. Dam has 2 winners from 2 starters. My pick. Horse to beat may be Dance Club (1), who will get the saddle from HOF trainer Shug McGaughey — who is having a super meet. He has .22% winners from 32 starters to date, and this one could add to that tally. Will stretch out to 7 furlongs today, and that should help this daughter of Candy Ride. Also, the trainer moves way up on the second career start. Hits with .19% of these. Love the work since the race on Aug. 26. Should be better today. I bet the 7-1 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I key the 7-1 over (only) the 6-9-3. 

7th: 9-4-8-10-6-7…Once again, I will focus my betting strategy on the top two numbers in this sequence. I go with Stand for the Flag (9) on top. This 2YO Super Saver filly cost $125,000 as a 2017 Keeneland September Yearliing and will be making the career debut today for a barn that hits with .19% of firsters. Love the work pattern — with speed going a half and more endurance going 5/8ths. Jockey/trainer combo have combined for 8-5-2 record in the last 22 starts together. What’s another win for the record-setting trainer Chad Brown, right? Takecharge Mirella (4) has a race under her girth, running second on debut here Aug. 12. Trainer hits with .22% of those making the second career start, and with .20% of 2YOs overall. Look for improvement today. I bet the 9-4 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I key the 9-4 over/under the rest of the numbers in two smaller versions.

8th: 7-x-x-x…I would normally skip this race, but I just love Killeen (7) in this spot today, and I think the 3YO son of More Than Ready would be a great claim for this price of $40,000. Barn loves to win races, and it has done a lot of that this year — winning with .29% of 594 starters to date. But this one is dropping down to the lowest level since breaking the maiden at the Fair Grounds this March. Ran off by 6 that day. May expect something like that today at this level. I bet the 8 across the board and then key the 8 over/under the “all button.”

9th: 8-3-2-6-9-1…Mighty Scarlett (8) is named after the beautiful, softball pitcher and gran d nursing student Scarlett Murphy — daughter of my great friend Rob Murphy. Disclaimer. This filly is not named after her, but it would be a tribute to both if she was. Both are really, really good at what they do. The 3YO filly version is my “Best Bet of the Day,” at Saratoga. She is coming off a fifth place finish in the G1 Belmont Oaks, but was beaten less than 4 by Athena, a really nice import from across the pond. And, the time before that, Mighty Scarlett nearly won the G3 Wonder Again Stakes at Belmont. This daughter of Scat Daddy stands out in this field of study. I bet the 8 to win/place and then box with the 3. I key the 8-3 over the 2-6-9-1 in case of an upset.

10th: 4-8-5-7-3-6-2-1-9…G2 Prioress Stakes ..This is another race where I will key on a single horse. This time it is Mia Mischief (4) — who I think could be one of the best 6-furlong filly sprinters in the world today. She has lost the last two, but those races were the G1 Test Stakes going 7 furlongs and the G3 Victory Ride, which was contested at 6.5 furlongs. Today, she shortens up to the 6 furlong distance, where she has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 4 career starts. But this daughter of Into Mischief is truly an amazing running machine, and if she can get away to a decent pace scenario, she will be mighty difficult to beat in this spot. But…there’s always a but, right. It won’t be easy. This is one heckuva field. Dream Tree (8) is an undefeated Uncle Mo filly that many considered to be a tremendous candidate for this year’s KY Oaks before she was injured and sidelined. She returns today for Team Baffert, and gets the services of Mike Smith. The filly has not run since February, but she has been training very nicely in the a.m. and she beat Midnight Bisou in her first two career starts. Beware. Dream Pauline (5) is another grand looking, acting, running filly, as well. This daughter of Tapit returned to the races for the 2018 debut here on Aug. 2. In an allowance race, she easily pulled away to win by 2. She is an undefeated 2-for-2, and is another super talented runner. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under the 8-5-7-3-6-2…I will also bet the 5 across the board and then box the 4-5 solidly in another exacta. Great race.

11th: 5-4-7-10-1-2-3…This is just an OK turf event, especially for Saratoga standards. If you want/need to bet it, I will caution one to spread out here. I think the top 4 numbers are all about even. Modest lead may go to Transaction Tax (5), who is trained by Gary Contessa — who sprang a huge upset on Saturday here. This one has two wins and a third in three tries at the distance and has a win and a third over this course. Jockey is winless for this trainer, though, in the last 13 tries going into today’s activity. Jaunt (4) may be the best bred filly in the race, but she really detests to win. In 16 starts, she has only one trip to the circle. She does have 4 seconds and 5 thirds, though. So, I need to use. Miko (7) has 3 wins in just 11 starts, on the other hand, and has 2 wins in 3 starts over this surface. But, there’s always a damn but…She has been facing much weaker crowds. So…Go bet Del Mar.

Del Mar Race Course:

3rd: 9-7-1-2-3-8-4…“Best Bet of the Day” cranks it up early in this day, and comes right here with Luminoso (9). I love Quality Road as a sire, and he is having a super good year at stud. This 3YO daughter is out of an unarmed A.P. Indy mare — but she has already thrown 2 turn winners from seven starters. This one has hit the board in 6 of 7 lifetime starts to date, and with just a little luck could have several more wins in the resume. I look for her to graduate from this condition today. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key the 9 over/under the 7-1. I also key the 9 over (only) the 2-3-8-4.

5th: 9-2-3-7-8-10-6-4…Another race where I will key on the #9 horse. This time it is Lady Dude (9), a 2YO daughter of First Dude and a Florida-bred. In two previous starts, she has a third and a second. Showed vast improvement in the last and now will be making her first start for a new trainer and a new Coast. Was beaten as the favorite last time out, and this trainer hits with .10% of those kind. Super works since moving West, and has a ton of natural speed. Stretch out to 6.5 furlongs could be the only concern here, for me. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key the 9 over/under the 2-3. I then key the 9 over the rest.

6th: 7-4-8-5-1-2-3-9-6…Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes…This is a more wide open affair for me, and I will try to focus on the top 3 numbers in this grouping. My top pick is Owning (7), and at 6-1 ML odds I will make the 2YO Flashback colt my mild “Upset Special.” This guy won on debut, mowing down his competition at Los Alamitos, pulling away easily in the long stretch drive. He came right back and ran in the G2 Best Pal Stakes here on Aug. 11. Ran 4th in that one, but was beaten by 13. Oh yeah. There was a horse named Instagrand in that one. Heard about him yet? Now, this one gets to the grass for the first time for a trainer that hits with .19% of those making the sod debut. The conditioner also hits with .20% of those routing for the first time. I like this one to do both with conviction. Rijeka (4) has run over the grass before, including a win last time out when he got both the Lasix and the blinkers for the first time. Ran off in that one, going a mile. Certainly, on paper, the one to beat. The dam of this one has 4 turf winners from 6 starters already. King of Speed (8) may be another long price to hit the board in here. This one, to be ridden by HOFer Gary Stevens, is 20-1 in the ML, but was favored over our second pick last time out as a MSW. This one has not won yet, but has closed nicely in the last two tries and could be tougher today with a little racing room and luck. Worth a shot for me. I bet the 7-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the 5-1-2 in another.

8th: 3-8-11-6-9-10-7-4-5…G2 Del Mar Derby…I will focus on the top two numbers in this grouping, led by River Boyne (3). This 3YO Irish-bred son of Dandy Man comes into this event off two straight wins and five in the last six races. Wow. Now, that is impressive — especially when the last four outs have all been in Stakes company and two of them have been Graded Stakes events. This one likes to stalk the leaders and pounce late. Two for two at the distance, and has a win and a second in two starts here. Tough. Ride a Comet (8) will be shipping West for the first time and comes in with some impressive credentials of his own. Son of Candy Ride ran third to Raging Bull in the G2 Hall of Fame Stakes last time out. Raging Bull was super impressive in winning a major Stakes event at Saratoga on Saturday. Two races before that, Ride a Comet won easily at Woodbine. Watch out here, with Drayden Van Dyke getting the mount. I bet the 3-8 across the board, and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I key the 3-8 over/under the 11-6-9 in two more.

10th: 11-5-8-6-1…If the #11 draws in from the AE List, then I get after it. If not, I wait for the holiday.

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