Updated on Sunday A.M.: McLean’s Select Selections for Sunday, July 29

Day Results7-3-2-2
2018 Overall 1048391-385-461
Win % of Top Pick37.30%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.40%

Another solid day at the ovals around the world. We had 3 winners in 7 races, with two more seconds and thirds each. Moves us to 37.3% win percentage for the year, as a whole, in 1,048 races that we have handicapped to date. Our top three selections in those races have paid off — as if you had bet them — at a 39.40% rate. (If I pick to win and the horse runs second, I get no credit points. If I pick a horse to run second and that horse wins, then I get credit for a second — per example).

Here’s a closer look at some of my “select races” for Sunday, July 29:

Saratoga Race Course:

3rd: 8-6-2-7-4…Factoring (8) ran 7-furlongs on the grass last time out and was extremely wide in the lane for home. Never made a serious run, making up ground, due to the far outside path. Comes back today, though, and despite the last out, factors prominently here due to the two wins in a row before the last race debacle. Winner of the last race has already come back to win again and now has two wins and a second in the last three. Has a nice work since the last race, and HOF rider stays up for this one. Trainer has only one win in 12 starts here so far this meet. But has 4 seconds and 1 third, to boot. Texas Music (6) will get her first start today for a new barn operation, who hits with .12% with newcomers into the barn. Ran away with a win at Presque Isle last time out, and was second two times in a row before that. Moves up in class for this one. Angel Food (2) has not been that close in the last two, but ran two good ones in a row before that — with a win four back at Aqueduct in April. Nice work here on July 20. Rider has only one win in the first 24 rides this meet. Due? I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then key the 8 over/under all the other numbers in the exacta.

4th: 1-6-3-5-2-7-4…Merada (1) will get her second career start today for a trainer who hits with .22% of those making the second start of the lifetime. This one ran super well on debut, after being bet down to the favorite, despite having some traffic issues. Was moved up from third to second after a DQ in the early going. Daughter of Speightstown cost $100,000 last October, and the trainer hits with .26% of those returning after being beaten as the betting choice. Always Shopping (6) will get the first start of the career for a trainer who hits with .23% of these. The dam is a Stakes Winner, who has tossed one winner from one starter and that one is a SW, too. Sharp works. Will be the one to beat. Into the South (3) ran second on debut for a barn that hits with .18% of those making the second career start. Was DQ’d to 8th for interference in the early going of that affair, though. Gets a good gate rider for the ride today, and with a clean break, this daughter of Into Mischief could be a tough one while rallying late. I bet the 1-6 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I key the 1-6 over the rest in a smaller version.

5th: 10-7-4-9-8-5-1…A wide open affair for these babies, who will be sprinting over the grass course. I go to the outside here and land solidly on and behind Tapping Colors (10). Despite the wide post, this daughter of Tapit has hit the board in three in a row, and nearly won the last time out when nipped at the wire by Battle Joined. That one has come right back to win again in impressive fashion. If this one can duplicate the last run, she looks much the best in this affair. Trainer hits with .17% of those running in turf sprints. Work on July 14 was super nice. Best Bet of the Day right here at 3-1 odds. The horse that may be the one to beat is My Bronx Tail (7). This one collapsed in the last race, but that was the second try off a layup, and that can happen after a nice run off a layup. The trainer hits with .14% of those making the third start off a layup. If this daughter of Speightstown can return to the form of the previous three, she figures in this one. Alternative Energy (4) is a first time starter for the barn of Chad Brown, who hits with .19% with debut runners. Nice work here on July 16. Can’t dismiss one from this barn. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then key the 10 over/under all the numbers listed.

6th: 3-8-5-12-1-11-10-6-2…If it stays on the grass today, I will concentrate much of my efforts on the top three numbers in this sequence, led by Pony Up (3). This one has been away from the races since running a well-beaten fourth behind the speedy Ax Man in the Sir Barton Stakes over the sloppy Pimlico race track on Preakness Day. Before that, though, he had hit the board in six of seven previous races. His best performance — arguably — was the third behind My Boy Jack and Telekinesis in the Lexington Stakes. Now, gets back to the grass for a trainer who hits with .17% of those making the transition from dirt to sod. Broke his maiden over the grass last October in Florida, and has a win, and two seconds in just three grass starts. Trainer scores with .23% of those coming off a layup like this one, and he has been training OK for the return. Vegas Kitten (8) won two races back and then made a mild rally to be third in the first try against winners last time out. Was odds-on that day at Belmont, and The Chadster wins with .29% of those returning after losing a race as the fav. Looks well-spotted here. Strike Me Down (5) is a super well-bred colt by Tapit and out of the Smart Strike mare Strike Softly. Sam-Son Farms still has some great female families in Canada. This one has hit the board in 4 of 5 lifetime starts, and while still looking for the first grass win, has shown ability over the sod with two seconds in Stakes events over the grass. I will also use a 30-1 ML shot in Cullum Road (2), underneath. Has already won a couple of races, and may just light up the board a bit for trainer Mike Maker — who is very good with first timers off the claim. I bet the 3-5 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest — including the 2 — in a much smaller version.

7th: 2-4-1A-5-7-8-3-6…A wide open affair, but I will go with Mark Casse and his Souper Catch (2), coming off a layup since May 12. Didn’t race very well that day, gong very wide throughout. The previous 5 starts, though, he hit the board and had a couple of wins and two seconds to show for his efforts. Lost to Take Your Guns two back, and has shown some real speed in the past. Gets a rider who has won on him in the past, as well, and a huge improvement today. Working well for the return, for a trainer who hits with .16% of these comeback types. Almithmaar (4) is the horse to beat, IMO. This 3YO gelded son of Tapit had a win and two seconds in the first three career starts and I can toss the last one — which was the first over the sod. Has been away for awhile after that race, but the trainer can win off the bench (.19%). And, this one looks to be training super good. Honorable Treasure (1A) has won over this track (2017), and has hit the board in each of the last three tries. Super work here on July 13. May not have the extra gear to get up, but could run well at the end to grab piece of the action. I bet the 2-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

8th: I pass…No clear cut numbers in here for me. Don’t force it.

9th: 6-7-4-5-3-2….G3 Shuvee Stakes…Another wide open event, with horses that may be testing their distance limitations and a talented shipper making the U.S. debut. But I go to the outside here with my top two selections, which I prefer over the others. Pacific Wind (6) is a 4YO Curlin filly, who dominated in her first two starts this year for Chad Brown. She ran poorly in the G1 Ogden Phipps in her last start, but was beaten by some pretty good customers in that tilt. Layoff may have helped, by a look at the nice morning works. If she is back? Look out here. Farrell (7) has always been cut out to be a real good one. Had a super 2017 going on until she hit a roadblock in the muddy KY Oaks and Abel Tasman. Took awhile to recover from that debacle, but looks back on her game now. A speedball who will try to stretch the field early on, and comes in with two nice seconds in a row against some top notch runners. Wow Cat (4) will be making her NA debut for Chad Brown, after putting up 8 straight wins down in Chile. Works are very nice since arriving here, but she will be making her 2018 debut in a Graded Stakes event. Wow? Good? Ivy Bell (5) is a talented one, but I don’t know about the 11/8-miles. If Pletcher can get this one to stretch out this far, it will be a challenge. She can run, though. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the 6-7-5 (take note). I will key the 6 over/under all the numbers in two more smaller versions.

Monmouth Park:

G1 Haskell Invitational:

This will mark the return of Good Magic, runner-up in the KY Derby to Justify and winner of the G2 Blue Grass Stakes before that. He is the reining 2YO Champ, and has run well this year, despite the fact that he could never get by Justify. But, then again, no other horse did that either. He looks dominant in this spot for his return, and I think it should be his time to try to stamp himself as the best colt in the country now that the “Big Man” has been retired. I think the connections will really be trying here today. Never worse than 4th in 7 starts and has been first or second in 5 of those races. This 11/8-mile distance should be ideal for him, as a true stalker in a race void of a lot of early speed. Bravazo is an inconsistent sort, but when he is good, he is really good. Came the closest to unseating Justify in the Preakness Stakes. But that was over a sloppy racetrack, too. This one will break from Post 5 and is the 3-1 second choice. If the odds drift up a bit, I would like a bit more. The horse to beat, though, may be Core Beliefs, who is shipping back East from the West Coast base of trainer Peter Eurton. Was impressive in the Ohio Derby. Can he step it up? He will have to step it up. Lone Sailor is another very consistent sort. Likes to run at them a bit later in the going, but has been a bit unlucky. I like the odds on him better, too. I bet Good Magic very solid to win /place and then key him over/under the others named. May try a box with Lone Sailor.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene


More to come. Stay tuned.

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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