McLean’s “Select” Selections for Saratoga On Monday, Aug. 20

Day Results19-6-7-10
2018 Overall 1211447-445-542
Win % of Top Pick37.00%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.50%

We handicapped 19 races all over these great United States of America on Sunday, and we finished with six winners. A bit below our expectations and anticipations. For sure.

But we did land some nice exacta prices, along the way — particularly at The Spa yesterday. For each $1 played, we hit exactas that returned $18.30; $33.25; $11.80; $58.00 and $7.60.

Go back and take a look, if you wish, but we had Petrov over our top pick in 8th on Sunday. Nice.

At Del Mar, we hit two exactas that returned $12.20 and $23.20 for  each $1 played. And, at Ellis Park, we had one that paid $15 and another that returned $7.10 for each $1.

All in all? Not a bad day, although we had the first three in the mammoth Pick 5 at Del Mar only to disappoint on the way home to riches.

Que sera sera. (That was the name of a horse entered yesterday, as well.)

Here is a closer look at the Saratoga card today:

Saratoga Race Course:

3rd: 5-2-4-6-3-1…Point to Remember (5) is returning to a route race for only the second time in his career, and he nearly got the job done at first ask last time out — running second by only a length, despite going 3-wide in both turns. This trainer hits with only .06% with the 16 horses he’s had this year to route for the second time, but he also hits with .31% of those that return to the races as a beaten favorite. And, that has happened 67 previous times. In 4 career starts to date, he has two seconds and a third. Time to graduate. Big Muddy (2) will get to stretch out for the very first time today, and the trainer of this one hits with .27% of those kind out of 328 to fit the category. Got off to a horrid start in the muddy sprint race on debut. But closed from 19 lengths back at one time to run fourth to a couple of good ones. This guy cost $850,000 as a Keeneland September Yearling in 2015. Still waiting for him to produce on the track, but now may be the time. Chateau (4) is a teammate of Big Muddy’s, and he actually has run better in the past. Is coming off a second place finish at Pimlico in his first try ever for this barn. The trainer owns this one, as well, and despite the 13 previous starts, one can measure a lot by the last out. Should be competitive today. I bet the 5-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

4th: 1A-1-5-10-8-6-4-2…My top pick here, Jo Jo Air (1A) is on the Also-Eligible list and will need a scratch or two to draw into the body of the race. But if this 2YO daughter of Scat Daddy can do that, she will be the one to beat, IMO. Goes for a trainer who hits with .26% of first time starters, and .18% with those debuting on the grass. This filly has been working lights out, and cost $325,000 last September at Keeneland. Looks the part, and if the morning works are any indication, then she very well may act the part. Today. If Jo Jo can’t race today, then I will go to her roommate, Timely (1). Despite the number, she will break from the #3 post, and that’s a benefit to get off the rail. This one is another first timer from the barn of Wesley Ward, who is having a solid meet here with .19% winners from 21 runners. While working only on the dirt here, it appears that she can muster some speed. Connections paid $575,000 for this one at Keeneland September last year, as well. Super Simple (5) actually won her race last time out, when the rains washed the race off the turf and over to a muddy track. She was disqualified from the winner’s circle performance, though, for some minor bumping in the stretch. Game as hell in that effort, and has to be the one to beat. Miss Hanna Jo (10) is a daughter of More Than Ready and trained by Chad Brown. Enough written. I bet the entry and the #5 across the board and then box the 1-5-10 in the exacta.

7th: 4-6-8-9-1-10…This is a nice Optional Claimer on the grass, and attracts a quality field led by Black Canary (4). Trainer is struggling a bit this meet to make his way to the winner’s circle. Has only 2 wins in 44 starts. But does have 10 seconds and 9 thirds. This is one of the seconds, when she ran runner-up last time out over a sloppy racetrack when rains washed it off the sod. Led the entire way until the wire in that one. Gets the same rider back today, and this one has hit the board in each of the last five tries. A little better luck today and this daughter of War Front may carry her trainer into the circle. Quality Time (6) is another who nearly won last time out. She ran at Belmont back on June 29 and led much of the way before tiring late and running third. That was her third good finish in a row, and she should appreciate a cut-back in distance for this one. Trainer hits with .18% of those away from the races for this type of layup, and the dam has a turf winner from two starts. Fairyland (8) comes from the Wesley Ward barn, and he specializes in these types. Another daughter of Scat Daddy, and this one cost $375,000 at the Keeneland September Sale in 2016. She has not run since Turfy Park in February, but not to worry. This trainer hits with .22% of those returning from that long away, and this one has been training terrific — including a work over this Saratoga grass course. At 8-1 she becomes my Upset Special. I bet the 4-8 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest in a smaller version. I will take another 4-8 box, too.

8th: 3-7-1-6-5-2-8-4…Evan Shipman Stakes…A nice field of horses have been assembled today for this Stakes event, which is restricted to NY-breds only. I will focus much of my attention on the top 2 numbers, led by Twisted Tom (3) This 4YO son of Creative Cause once ran in the Belmont Stakes for trainer Chad Brown. Didn’t muster much of a challenge that day to eventual winner Tapwrit. But he has come back to face only NY-breds since then, and he has been a threat there. In the last four races, he has three wins. The last time out, which was his 2018 debut on July 13, he never got into the race and ran a disappointing and non-threatening fourth. Looks to be training much better since the race, and gets a rider back who has won on him twice before. Look for a big move forward from this one today. Trainer does hit with .30% of those returning as the beaten favorite. Pat On the Back (7) is the ML favorite at 2-1, and rightfully so. In the last three races, he has two seconds and a win. Ran off to an impressive win in the Saginaw at Belmont Park in the last, easily beating our top pick above. Likes to talk the lead, but this one can kick it on when asked. Trainer hits with .27% of those returning after a win, and with .23% of those routing. Jockey isn’t having a very good meet (.07% win rate), and that may play a part in this one. Control Group (1) is a speedball who has never lost at Saratoga in two starts. Has five wins and a second in 7 starts at this distance, too. Will be moving up in class today, though, and will need to have his running shoes on. Some other speed in the race could take the muster out of this one, as well, but the trainer hits with .22% of those returning off a win. And, this one did capture the G3 Discovery Handicap last November against Open Company. That’s a nice win right there. I bet the 3-1 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I key the 3-1 over/under the 2. And, then I key the 3-1 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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