McLean’s Select Selections for Saratoga on Friday, July 27

Day Results9-4-4-4
2018 Overall 1035384-381-455
Win % of Top Pick37.10%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.30%

On Thursday, we had a good day, picking four winners in just nine races from around the country. Plus, we had an exacta to pay $20.20 for $1 and another pay $27.70 for $1 at Arlington Park. Here is a look at  six select races at Saratoga this afternoon, led by the Curlin Stakes.

Hope you have fun and enjoy.

2nd: 6-1-2-7…Beach Waltz (6) will be dropping out of four straight Stakes events — including two Graded — into a $50,000 claimer for the barn of Mike Maker and for owner Ken & Sarah Ramsey. They like to try and “buy” a win or two at some of the bigger marquee meets, and this looks like one of those efforts today. While not close in the last three, this one ripped off four super performances to begin the career. Has a win and a second at this distance and should love the relaxation of the competition. After all, this one facd the “Champ” in Rushing Fall and lost by less than 4 just three starts back. The Best Bet of the Day comes early. Night Owl (1) comes into this one off a win for the super grass trainer Chad Brown. Has hit the board in three of four lifetime, and gets a HOF rider, to boot. The horse this one beat last time out has already come back to win. Radiant Beauty (2) goes for a trainer who hits with .20% of those away from the races this long and with .20% of those dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under all the other numbers listed. 

4th: 2-1-3-6…Shangroyal (2) is the 2-1 ML favorite, but looks every bit the part in this turf sprint event. Goes for the barn of Wesley Ward, who excels at these types of events, and despite the fact that he has not been out since May 21, looks the best of these by virtue of four straight ITM finishes, and the the fact that he ran third in a Stakes event at Presque Isle in the last effort. In the lone try on the grass, at Gulfstream Park back in February when all the good horses were there, he ran a game second in another Stakes event. Works at Keeneland indicate that he may be ready to pop for a trainer who hits with .20% returning from this type of layup. Canadian Flyer (1) has not started since last July here at Saratoga. In that one, he failed to menace, but in 11 previous starts, he had a record of 2-2-1 and winnings of nearly $100,000. If he can return to previous form — when he was good enough to face the great Disco Partner — then he should fit with these. Trainer hits with .23% of those dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time ever. The Queens Jules (3) is another from the barn of Wesley Ward, and comes into this event off a win in the last try. That was at Belterra, a far cry from Saratoga, though. This son of Scat Daddy has posted a couple of wins in just three outs and on paper has never faced these kind before, but this trainer is a little unorthodox when it comes to preps. Gets HOF rider Johnny V in the saddle and I like the 8-1 odds. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

5th: 11-1-5-9-3-4-6…This is a NY-bred only event and I normally stir very clear of these kind of restricted races from a handicapping perspective. However, I love a horse in this tilt. It is Candy Zip (11), who ships in from Illinois for trainer Larry Rivelli. If you don’t know this guy, get to learning. He is killing the meet at Arlington Park, in a runaway style, and has a winner here at The Spa in just two starters already this meet. This one is coming in off a win at Belmont Park last October when he got off to a very poor start. Went wide throughout and just surged in the late going. The runner-up in that one came right back to win the next out. This son of Sidney’s Candy must have shown this trainer something over the poly to warrant a trip East. Watch out. Charlie McCoy (1) has a win and a second in the last two at Belmont, and looks to be holding form in the a.m. Sharp work in last morning prep. Stoney Bennett (5) will be making the first start for new trainer Linda Rice. She wins with .26% of those making the barn debut. And, the first time gelding looks to be the class of the field, coming in off four straight restricted Stakes events. Rider hits with .20% of the mounts for this barn in the last 10 tries. I bet the 11-5 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest in a smaller version.

6th: 3-2-1-7-6-4-5…Another State-bred restricted race, but this one will be contested over the turf — which I love to handicap. In this one, I go to the Brad Cox-trainee Out of Trouble (3). In the last five starts, this one has not been worse than second and has two wins in the mix. Has posted a 3-3-1 record in 12 starts on the grass, and popped a bullet work in the last morning prep. The trainer has hit with two winners in the first three starts here this meet. Adds up for me. Second Best Bet of the Day. The ML favorite, though, is Broken Border (2), who will start for the barn of Jason Servis. This guy is a perennial favorite trainer among the “learned handicappers,” and why not? He is winning at a .33% clip in 221 starts this year, and has a win and two thirds in four starts here, so far. Good reasons. This mare has hit the bard in 10 of 20 starts and has a 4-4-2 record on the turf. But here is the kicker for me. She is 0-0-2 in 8 starts at this distance. I go to my top pick immediately. Conquest Hardcandy (1) has seven starts this year with 3 seconds to show for her efforts. This 4YO daughter of Candy Ride, loves to be on the lead, though, and from the rail should show early pace. The post has a poor winning position, but she may hold on for a piece of the pie. Love the rider, who will get his second trip aboard today. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under all the numbers listed.

8th: 4-2-1-7-6-8-3-5…Uncle Mojo (4) didn’t offer much resistence after setting the fractions against Pavel in the G1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in his last start. Spit the bit hard in that one. But the race before, he kept his running shoes on for the entire race and ran off by 12 lengths. Gets back to that level of competition today, and the Todd Pletcher pupil looks to be training good again. Speedster has faced some good ones in the past and has a win in one try over this track surface. Look out here. Casses Story (2) will be making his second start off a layup, and the trainer hits with .19% of those. Ran a nice second in the first trip out in nearly 6 months on June 30. Works have been off the charts good, and unless this one bounces a bit, he could be a pressing factor. Has a win and a second over this track in just two tries. Sir Ballentine (1) won two in a row recently, and was way wide in the last trip. Gets a new rider for a trainer that normally does well at The Spa. Conditioner hits with .25% of those returning from this type of layup. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under all the rest of the numbers in the exactas.

9th: 6-1-2-3-5-4…Curlin Stakes…All the talk in this one is the return to action of the highly-touted Hofburg (1). The son of Tapit was the “Hot Horse” for both the KY Derby (where he finished 7th to Justify), and then the Belmont Stakes (when he was a well-beaten third to Justify). And, of course, the colt — who has just one win to his name — is the “Hot Horse” for this one, too. I’m not buying it. In a race that is void of any true, front-end speed, this guy will have to make a run earlier than normal, perhaps. And, I think this race is nothing short of a tune-up for the G1 Travers Stakes a little bit later in the meet. So, instead of falling into this trap — at 1-2 ML odds — I look elsewhere. And, I find. My pick will be Reride (6). This one trained by Steve Asmussen looked impressive in winning the Mine That Bird Stakes at Sunland Park earlier this year over a nice runner in Runaway Ghost. That one came right back to dominate a nice field in the Sunland Derby. On the other hand, Reride was shipped to Dubai to run in the UAE Derby — where he was never able to get in touch with the runaway winner Mendelssohn. Came back to try the grass, and that experiment just didn’t work. This one has speed and is likely to go to the front for a very heady, aggressive rider who gets the call for the first time. Love the 6-1 ML odds. My Upset Special. In fact, I don’t think that the prohibitive favorite has to run second, either. Although I will proably use Holfburg — who made his name by running second to Audible in the Florida Derby — I will also use Madison’s Luna (2). This one won his first two starts very impressively, and then fell apart. He ran 10th in the slop on Derby Day in the Pat Day Mile and then returned to run another 10th in the G2 Woody Stephens. Never a threat in either one of those. Looked to wake back up with a grass run in the last. This one is still very, very green. But thee son of Tapit may be better that the highly advertise “other Tapit” in here. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the “all button” in two exactas. I key the 6 over the 1-2-3 in another.

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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