McLean’s “Select” Selections for Saratoga on Monday, Aug. 27

Day Results14-7-4-5
2018 Overall 1270464-468-562
Win % of Top Pick36.53%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.21%

We had a big day on Sunday, especially on the Left Coast. In five races at Del Mar, we picked the winner in four of them. Of course the one that I bet the most on was the last one — the one that did not win. Hmmm.

But we are looking forward to kick starting this week with a bang as we finish up the two summer meets at Saratoga and Del Mar and we head toward the September race meeting at Churchill Downs.

Here’s a look at today’s “select” races:

2nd: 4-5-9-2…Winter Union (2) has raced five times in his career to date, and he has managed to post three seconds — including the last two. Nice work at Fair Hill on Aug. 24, and the trainer is known for patience, and endurance. Conditioner is 0-0-0 in four starts here this meet, but it may be time to get off the duck today. Gets a top rider in the saddle for the move North today. Sergeant Drive (5) is certainly the horse to beat. This one is 8-5 ML for the barn of HOF trainer Shug McGaughey, who is having a really nice meet with .24% winners from 29 previous starters. This one has a couple of seconds to his credit in 7 starts, being moved up after some late traffic issues in the last at Belmont Park on July 4. Been off since then, but the trainer hits with .21% of those away from the races this long. I have to use. Midnight Tea Time (9) was claimed out of the last try by a trainer having a super meet (.27% in 22 starts this meet). Ran second in that event, beaten just a length. Now, gets a new rider. Trainer hits with .21% with first timers after the purchase. I bet the 2-5 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

3rd: 1A-1-2-4-5-3-7-8…The entry looks mighty tough in this spot today. I will give the slight edge to Merger Arbitrage (1A), even though she will be making the 2018 debut for the barn of Chad Brown. This daughter of More Than Ready (the sire of Catholic Boy, mind you) really looked like she had turned the corner last Fall when the blinkers were added. Has been training well down in Jersey for the return to the races. Interesting that the trainer picks the spot — but he is a .40% winner when dropping them into the MCL ranks for the first time ever. Hits with .29% of those off the race schedule this long, as well. Supercommittee (1) is owned by the same group, but is trained by Richard Violette. He can get a good horse (Diversify), but is winning at only a .09% clip this meet with 11 starters. This one has run second twice in a row and has 3 runner-ups and a third in just 5 starts. Has to graduate some time, right? Maybe. But could be tough with a closing kick in here. Big Mischief (2) is another from the barn of Chad Brown. Will be getting over to the grass for the first time after a 6-furlong dirt try. Rallied late in that one back in July, but despite the iffy pedigree for grass, the trainer does hit with .23% moving to the sod for the first time. Mambo Dancer (4), who comes from the Todd Pletcher barn, should be closing late, and with a clear run could have a chance to upset. I bet the 1A-1 across the board (hoping that both land in the money) and then key them over/under the 2-4-5 in one exacta and over (only) the rest in a much smaller version.

6th: 6-9-8-3-4-1-10…I will key on the top two numbers in this group, led by Bam Bam Blu (6). This 6YO gelding never made a start until this year. Wow. Now, that is being patient on one, for sure. But he seems to have found his way. Two starts back in May, he ran off to a 10-length win at Monmouth Park. In July, he returned to the races for the first time and he won on the grass for the first time. Does not appear to be the most sound horse in the world, but when he is right? Well, he is right. Trainer is having a great meet (.25%) and an even better year (.33%). Pagliacci (9) may be the one to surprise in this spot. He has raced 10 times, and won only once. But he has two seconds and two thirds on the report card. Nice training sessions leading up to this one, and he looks like he has closing ability. Like the 6-1 ML odds. Thunder’s Honor (8) broke the maiden last time out when getting on the grass for the first time. But…There’s always a but, right? That win came back in January. Trainer hits with .12% of those away from the races this long. Nice training session here on Aug. 20. Dam has one turf winner from three starters to date, but has one Stakes winner, to boot. Gets a rider on a real roll in the saddle for the first time. Can’t dismiss totally at 8-1 odds. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest in a smaller version.

8th: 5-1-7-10-8-3-2-6-9…Better Talk Now Stakes…This is a tough Stakes event over the inner turf going a mile. This race has been playing to speed and the rail all meet long. In fact, the rail position has won at an amazing .34% clip, and the horse that has drawn that spot today is both speedy and talented. Strike Power (1). He will be moving over to the sod for the first time for trainer Mark Hennig, one of the most popular and progressive trainers in the Northeast. yet, he wins with only .09% of those making the grass for the first time — and that is with 35 horses to date. He ran fourth to Promises Fulfilled in the G3 Amersterdam here on July 28, and he has to be flattered by the fact that Promises Fulfilled came right back to dominate in the H. Allen Jerkens on Saturday. But this is no small task. Still, all in all, I’m going to definitely put him on top and hope for the speed materializes on the sod, as well. Showed his ability in the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February. Let’s hope for more of that today. Rose’s Vision (5) will be making his Saratoga debut today, after shipping in from Woodbine. Ran behind a good one as the beaten favorite in the Toronto Cup on July 28. In 7 turf tries to date, he has 2-3-1 record. Look for this one to stalk and pounce once they get to the real running. IMO, the one to beat. Have At It (7) is coming out of a G2 Stakes event over a yielding grass course. Went wide in that one, as well, when facing a real strong group. Gets back to more friendly terms today, and the shorter distance could be a help, as well. Training session here on Aug. 15 was solid. I will also consider Prioritize (10) and Combatant (3) in this spot. The latter was on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year before being switched over to the sod last time out. Caught a yielding track then, as well, and the same tough group as Have At It. If it firms up for today, this son of Scat Daddy could move way up at 8-1 odds. Upset SpecialI bet the 1-3 (take note) across the board and then key the 1-3 over/under the following: 5-7-10-8-2. I will bet the 1-3-5 in a box, as well.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

We were second best today. I wouldn’t change anything. I have no complaints and unfortunately, we were second best today. He felt great, perfect. He felt good, and did everything the right way. He broke well out of the gate and unfortunately we were running against the best horse in the country. I told Mick that it was a very good race. The best horses in the country showed up today and gave a great performance. This was Justify’s game plan and it suited him, his ability to be able to go to the lead. I had to try and catch him today. I think it will be interesting in the Derby because I think there will be more speed, it will be interesting. It will suit my horse, he’ll be able to sit off that faster pace but I’m still very satisfied with today and my horse’s performance. It was emotional turning for home because I’m trying to catch the best horse in the country and I’m thinking, ‘I’m happy. I’m very pleased.’ Justify has the ability to go to the lead, has a lot of speed and he took it easily today.”

Javier Castellano, Rider of the runner-up Bolt d’Oro in the Santa Anita Derby
  • 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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