McLean’s Select Selections for Saratoga on Thursday, Aug. 9

(Updated Stats From Wednesday’s Selections forthcoming)

We had a solid day on Wednesday. We had two winners in six races at Saratoga. But squeezed in between our first race selection and the last race selection was four straight races where our top selection ran second. As a result, we hit for exactas that returned $14.30, $24.60, $18.40 for $1 each. Not a bad day.

Here’s a closer look at today’s “select” selections:

Saratoga Race Course:

1st: 6-1-4-2-8…This is a 11/16-mile event over the inner turf course for NY-bred fillies that are 2 years old. I am lead to the mudpack and Molly’s Party (6). This one is trained by my old friend John Kimmel, who used to train a horse for Rob Murphy and me. John is having an OK meet with a 1-2-1 record in just 10 starts at The Spa. This one ran third on debut here back on July 20, closing from near last to finish a game third at odds of nearly $34-to-$1. Had a leisurely work over the grass here on Aug. 3, and looks plenty fit to stretch out from the 51/2 furlong sprint, where she closed so nicely, to this route of ground for the first time. Kimmel hits with .17% of those stretching out to this distance for the first time and with .21% of those running over the grass for the second time. I like her chances, although the ML odds are now 3-1. Jot (1) is a first timer from the barn of Linda Rice, who normally tears these kinds of races all to pieces. This daughter of Shackleford has been training very sharply of late, and should love the route of ground. Trainer hits with .15% of firsters. Time Warp (4) didn’t run any at all the first time out, but was bet down in the inaugural running. Now switches to a top end rider and to the grass. Trainer does hit with .24% of those routing for the first time, and the dam of this one has 4 winners from 6 starters and 2 turf winners. Can’t dismiss. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top three numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 3-1-6-2…A high end MC event for fillies will be the calling card here. I go with Malarkey (3), who is trained by Woody Stephens’ former assistant, David Donk — who has certainly carved out a nice career training horses in New York. this 3YO Maclean’s Music filly has run two seconds in three previous starts and is a beaten favorite from last time out. This trainer hits with .16% of those returning to the starting gate after that and this one has been training well by going short in the a.m., as well. Looks fit enough to hit today. Free Kitty (1) has raced 13 times to date. And, is still a maiden. That’s not very lucky 13. But she has hit the board on 9 of those occasions — including 7 of the last 8 races. One day, she will stumble into a win, but I have to play her underneath for sure. Brooklyn Gerty (6) will be making her first start of the year and first start ever for the barn of Jorge Abreau. This trainer is having a solid meet so far and the filly showed some promise a year ago. Was beaten by Holy Helena in the last go. If she has any of that talent still left in the tank, she fits here. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then I box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the 1 under the 3-6-2 in a smaller version.

3rd: 8-1-5-6…This is a grass sprint for NY-breds only, as well. I go with The Mason Factor (8), who is 5-2 odds in the ML. This one ran second last time out in a start improvement off the first three races. But it was the first time that he was shortened up to a grass sprint. Went 7 furlongs that day at Belmont Park, and will go even shorter in this spot. Did show a bit of speed in that one, though, and the trainer does hit with .27% of those in the MCL events. Gets a solid rider switch and will need to break well from the gate to have a shot in here. Dove Shoot (1) will break from the rail in this one, and that has been a death nail so far this meet. If drawn any better, this one would probably be the heavy favorite in this spot — and still may be. This one is trained by former Pletcher assistant, Jonathan Thomas, of Catholic Boy fame. He is 0-for-4 here this meet and looking to get off the duck, but he hits well with second career starts (30% in 20 starts) and this one showed a ton of speed in the first start before tiring late. Should be the one to catch. I bet the 8 across the board and then box the top 2 solidly in the exacta. I key the top 2 over the “all button” in a smaller version.

4th: 3-5-6-9-1-10-2…My first key race comes right here with Congruity (3). This 3YO son of Graydar has been on my Horses To Watch List for quite some time, and has put up some solid numbers so far. In 9 starts to date, he has a 2-1-3- record. Won over the grass at Belmont Park in his last start and has hit the board in 5 of 8 turf races so far. Since the addition of blinkers five races back, he has two wins and a third. Will try to go right to the front here today, and may be able to take them gate to wire. Trainer does well here and hits with .22% of those trying to win two in a row. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under the 5-6-9 in the exactas. I key the 3 over (only) the rest of the numbers listed.

5th: 6-9-x…I normally would skip this race on my “select” selections, but I love these two numbers in this spot so much, that I figured that I would try to grab a winner and solid exacta, if I could. Desert Lights (6) is 5-1 ML odds, and if I can get anywhere close to that, I will be grateful. This one is trained by the red-hot Brad Cox and is coming off a disaster race last time out when he wasn’t close at any point. Go two back, though, when the race was moved to a sloppy dirt course and this one won easily while wide. Gets back to dirt today and drops down significantly in class. Trainer hits with .32% of those making this kind of drop, and with .26% of those going from turf to dirt. My pick. Potomac (9) is the even-money choice in the ML, and you have to figure he will be right there. Claimed last time out at $20,000 when he roared to a 4 length victory at Belmont Park. Trainer scores with .15% of those making the first start for the barn after the purchase. Drops off the claim, too. Interesting. Could be good. Or…I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the 6-9 solidly in the exacta.

6th: 4-7-6-5-8-2…I will focus on the top two numbers in this sequence, led by Ticonderoga (4). Despite the fact that this son of Tapit, who is owned by the Woodford Racing Team led by Bill Farish, is 6-5 ML favorite, I think he is a value at that price or anything north of even money. He should have won last time out as the favorite, but got caught down on the rail in a closing move that day. This one has repeated history in Graded Stakes races and will get the saddle from Chad Brown, who is having a solid meet again. It is hard to come from the clouds and run away with a grass race. But this one has that potential. Aquaphobia (7) may be the main competition. This one ran third behind the top choice in the last one. This one was 5-wide in the upper stretch and had to overcome some traffic issues of his own. Has hit the board in 6 of 7 grass races at this distance, and 13 of 18 overall on the sod. Consistent sort for a trainer that does well here, and is doing so again. I bet the 4 to win/place and then box the 4-7 solidly in the exacta. I key those 2 over the rest in a smaller version.

7th: 5-6-4-2-1…This is another race where I single, and I go to Pink Twist (5). This is another low-priced horse, but I hope we can get even money or better. Either way, this daughter of Malibu Moon is definitely the one to bat. She ran second as a beaten favorite last time out and this trainer scores with .37% of those kind returning to the races. It was her first start in two months, and if she improves any, she will be tough in this spot. In 5 starts, she has a win and three seconds. time to move up the ladder. Salty Smile (6) is 6-1 in the ML and may add some value to the exotics here. She was claimed three starts back and had since not run overly well. But she will get the one-time blinkers off after a disaster last time out, and this one has a 2-4-2 record in just 9 starts before that. Hard knocker who tries every time out. Pas de Deuce (4) won two starts back to break the maiden and ran OK while facing winners for the first time on July 11 at Belmont. Ran behind our top pick in that one, but had a wider trip. Any improvement at all, and she may be a bit closer. Very well bred. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key the 5 over all the numbers listed.

8th: 2-9-1-3-5-7-6…Once again, I will focus on the top two numbers in this segment, led by Goodbye Brockley (2). This one ran a super race in a NY-bred Stakes event last time out in June. Nearly won that one, and, an argument could be made that she should have won that one. Went 6-wide in the upper stretch and lost considerable ground. The last two races she had the addition of blinkers and she has run lights out. I think she gets up today. Mentality (9) has hit the board in 5 of 8 grass races to date and that includes three in a row. Won three races back and has been beaten no farther than a length in three of the last four. This one likes to stalk the pace and get a jump, but has a tendency to hang just a bit. Will need to overcome that bad habit, but has the talent. Gets a nice rider switch for this one , and that could prove to be a plus. Myself (1) has never been the distance, or on the grass, but the trainer knows what he is doing and this one could provide some real excitement on the lead in this spot. The dam has had 6 starters, 6 winners and 1 Stakes winner so far. No turf winners, though. Today? I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top three numbers in the exacta. I key the 2 over/under the 1-3-5-7 in two smaller versions.

9th: 7-3-6-1-2-5…Mama Mary (7) will get the saddle from Kentucky’s own Joe Sharp today, and he is having one super meet right now. Had another winner on Wednesday and now has 6 trips to the winner’s circle in just 12 starts. This one ran very well on the grass as a first timer on June 8 at Belmont Park. Had to wait for an opening that day, or could have won. Came back to run over a sloppy track here on July 23 when the rains washed it off the turf. Didn’t fare as well in that event. If it stays on the sod today, I load up on this one. Rider is teaming up nicely with this barn this meet. Something Joyful (3) is the horse to beat, perhaps. This one nearly won going 6 furlongs on the grass at Belmont last September. Has been away from the races since then, but the trainer hits with .21% of those returning from this kind of layoff. Made the speed that first race and figures to try the same today. Trainer hits with .34% of those returning after losing as the favorite. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box with the 3 in the exacta. I key those two over/under the rest of the numbers in a smaller pair of exactas.

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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