Updated Again: McLean’s “Select” Selections for “Travers Day” — Including Pick 6 Ticket; Likes & Dislikes

Day Results13-4-6-5
2018 Overall 1250456-462-555
Win % of Top Pick36.50%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall40.00%

What a mixed bag on Friday. Really nice day at Ellis Park, which carded some really good races. Horrendous day at Del Mar, where we had the feature race exacta and that was it. Did hit a couple of nice exactas at Ellis. Hit very little at Del Mar.


We concentrate on only Saratoga today. After all, it’s Travers Day. Right?

Here we go, and in a little twist, we will work our way backwards from the “Big Race” towards the others…Trying to reverse our luck and trends, too. But I am not superstitious. Not at all. (Hey, anybody find a lucky, four-leaf clover lately?)

Saratoga Race Course:

11th: 9-3-10-4-11-2…G1 Travers Stakes…I have several key bets today, but none more than in this race today, where I will definitely key in on Good Magic (9). I have listened to all the talk about how this horse cannot get 11/4-miles, and that he has certain distance limitations. I don’t see it. Not in his past races. Not in his future races. He lost a couple of times to Justify, but then again, who hasn’t and who didn’t? That really is not much of a criticism for me. In other other races this year, he ran third on debut in the G2 Fountain of Youth on a speed favoring track and in the first race of the year — when he was, admittedly, not cranked up to his full potential. In the others, he won the G2 Blue Grass Stakes in style and easily dispatched of his competitors in the G1 Haskell Invitational. I think he is sitting on his best race of his life today, and he many need it. But if you can run second to Justify in one race and then lose by only a length when pushing him on the lead in another, then I think you have to be considered at the top of the class now — with the unfortunate departure of the Triple Crown winner. Gronkowski (3) — much to my surprise — ran a huge one in the G1 Belmont Stakes in his first try at American racing. Got both Lasix and the blinkers in that one, and he nearly ran down the great Justify at the end of the 11/2-mile marathon. He has been idle since then, but he is training quite nicely for this return. Gets a new rider in Joel Rosario in this spot, and that’s an interesting choice for trainer Chad Brown, who may sweep the top two spots in today’s G1 feature. Over the last 60 days, Rosario has ridden 9 horses for this barn. He has won once. But I have to agree with Brown in the fact that he appears to fit this horse. Will need a strong closer and Rosario surely fits that bill. If he improves any off the first American run, he will be right there today. Tenfold (10) runs his best when given a break in-between starts. He ran huge in the Preakness Stakes off a month layoff from the Arkansas Derby. Did not run as well in the Belmont, just three weeks later. But did come back to easily dominate the G2 Jim Dandy over this track six weeks after that. Now, he is about 4 weeks since the last race. That seems OK. And the distance appears no problem either, since he ran a huge one in the Preakness. And, he looks to have loved the Saratoga dirt in the last. May add up to a good run today. Is he good enough? We will find out. Bravazo (4) and Catholic Boy (11) are two other horses that I use in the mix, as well. Don’t think they can win or beat Good Magic. But I think both can contend and get part of the money. And, I toss the filly Wonder Gadot (2) — although I bet that she will get plenty of action at the betting windows. She is an outstanding filly, no doubt. But I don’t think she measures up to these colts. Not these. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the 9-3 solidly in one exacta. I key the 9-3 over/under the 10-4-11.

10th: 3-2-4-7-9-10-8…G1 Sword Dancer Stakes…This may be the most wide open race on the Stakes card today, but I really do like what appears to be the only true speed in this 11/2-mile marathon event — Funtastic (3). This More Than Ready colt is trained by Chad Brown — whom I think will have a monster day today. And, since stretched out to these endurance distance events, this one is a perfect 2-for-2 — winning an allowance at 11/2 miles over the grass at Belmont and then immediately coming back to win the G1 United Nations at odds of 23-1. I hate to go to the “funeral” if you don’t go to the “wedding,” theory, but I don’t think this one has come close to finding his apex. Not yet. He has a win over the grass here last summer, when breaking the maiden. And, he gets Jose Ortiz back in the saddle for the first time since early April, when they were second to a really nice one in Ticonadroga in an allowance at Aqueduct. My solid pick in here. Spring Quality (2) won the G1 Manhattan last time out going 11/4 miles over the firm sod at Belmont Park. Doubt that you will get a firm grass course today, and that is a worry with this one. And, Graham Motion is just 1 for 32 this meet. Not a ringing endorsement, either. But this one had all kinds of issues in the last and still won. Uncharacteristicly, he fell well off the pace in that one and came with a late rush, while going 8 wide, to get the win at odds of 18-1. Before that, regular rider Edgar Prado has kept this one close to the front. Will be interesting to see where he locates him in this spot — with very little speed to speak of. I guess he is a bit closer. Hi Happy (4) pushed the early pace last time out in the G2 Bowling Green here on July 28. Faltered late in that one as the PT favorite. The trainer hits with .25% of those returning as the beaten favorite. Caught a very soft sod that day, and didn’t seem to travel over that as well as the race before in the Manhattan. I think if he can find a little more firm footing today, this one could be difficult near the front. Channel Maker (7) won the Bowling Green here on July 28 and that was the over time he has been over this grass course. He, on the other hand, may like a little give to the ground. His closing run was impressive enough to give him some consideration in this spot. I bet the 3-4 across the board (take note) and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the 3-4 over the rest in a smaller version.

9th: 6-8-1-3…G1 Forego Stakes…I am going with an upset in this spot, led by C Z Rocket (6). This 4YO son of City Zip is coming off an impressive and easy 4-length victory in the Kelly’s Landing Stakes at Churchill Downs back in June. He will be stepping way, way up in class to face these kind today, but he has the run to do just that. Love the series of works going in, and the trainer definitely knows how to win races, and where to spot his horses. He normally doesn’t take unnecessary or crazy chances. But when he thinks his horses merit a shot, he takes it. This one has 4 wins and a third in just 6 career starts. Won the first three in impressive fashion. Looks back and ready to go on another hot streak. City of Light (8) is the 9-5 ML favorite and is definitely the horse to beat. In 8 career starts, he has a 4-3-1 record, and he will be shortening up off a 11/4-mile test in the California Gold Cup in the last. That was way back in May, and the trainer only hits with .07% of those returning from this type of layup. Love the works at Del Mar of late, but that — and the cross-country ship — could both be concerns for a heavy favorite. Does have  2 wins and a second in just three tries at this distance. Limousine Liberal (1) is a much better horse this year, and looks to be at the top of his game. He loves Churchill Downs, and maybe doesn’t prefer Saratoga as much. In three races here, he has a second and a third. But his run in the Belmont Sprint last time out was masterful, and he will try. Every. Single. Time. Can’t leave out for me. Whitmore (3) is a grizzly vet, who has raced only 2 times at this distance before, with one win. Ran second to Limousine in the last, and was beaten only a neck — when it appeared he was going to win. Will be his first start over this track. I bet the 6-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers solidly in the exacta. I key the 6-1 over the other two numbers in another.

8th: 6-5-7-9…G1 Ballerina Stakes…I am going with Lewis Bay (6) and Chad Brown, once again, in this spot. The 5YO Bernardini mare is coming into this one with a dominating, impressive and truly convincing victory in the G3 Bed o’Roses Stakes at Belmont Park in June. Easily dispatched that field by nearly 6 lengths. In 4 starts this year, she has a 1-1-2 record, and looks to be training very well for this one, too. I think she loves this 7-furlong distance the best of anyone in the field. In 5 starts at this distance, she has 2 wins and 2 thirds. She likes to close form off a stalking position, and this trip certainly looks right up her ally. Finley’sluckycharm (5) is a tremendous race mare, as well, and will try your eyeballs out every single time, too.But I think the 7 furlongs distance does push her to the absolute limit. At 6-furlongs, I would take her all day long. With the extra 1/8th mile today, I think she may have trouble holding off the top choice. In the G1 Madison Stakes at Keeneland in April,, she did manage to hang on by the hair of her chin, but today may be a different story. She does have a win and a second in two previous starts here. She will be close. Marley’s Freedom (7) may be the one that ultimately decides the fate of this Stakes event. While she has won three in a row and the last two for Team Baffert, she has done so rallying from off the pace — while going shorter. With the stretch out to 7 furlongs today, it will be interesting to see where Mike Smith places her in the race. Closer? Farther back? In three previous trips at 7 furlongs, she has only 1 second and will be making her Saratoga debut. Interesting. I bet the 6-5 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I key the 6-5 over the 7-9 in a smaller version.

7th: 1-4-5-6…G1 Personal Ensign Stakes…Most people have billed this Stakes event as a two-horse race between the great Abel Tasman (1) and Elate (6). I like one of the two. Abel Tasman (1) has been one of my favorite fillies since she was transferred to the barn of Bob Baffert in the Spring of 2017. I picked her on top in the 2017 KY Oaks — at a nice price of $9.20-to-$1. And, I have stuck by her ever since. I will do the same today. In 13 lifetime races, she has 7 wins and 4 seconds. Not as good as the filly this Stakes event is named after, but pretty darn good. Abel Tasman desperately needed the Stakes event on KY Oaks Day this year. She was bothered at the start of that one, and steadied into the first turn, and speed absolutely carried the day. But she showed her true colors when I picked her on top to win the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park in June. She dominated that field by over 7. And, I think she will dominate this field today. My Best Bet of the Day. Version 2. To the surprise of many, I will not pick Elate (6) next. In fact, I think the next two prime contenders will be Wow Cat (4) and Farrell (5). The former will be making her second start for Chad Brown and just her second start in NA, after arriving from Chile. In the G3 Shuvee here on July 29, she had a load of issues. Still, nearly won that one at the wire. That was the first start of 2018, and it was magnificent. If she improves any at all, she will be tough in here. Very tough. Farrell (5) figures to be the speed, and she may forget to stop yet again. I can’t totally dismiss this one. When she gets a little bit of courage on the front end, she gets very tough. I bet the 1 to win/place and the 4 across the board. I box those two solidly in the exacta. I key the 1-4 over the other two in a much smaller version.

6th: 2-1-3-8-9…G1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes…The Stakes formerly known as the King’s Bishop has attracted a top end, and very interesting field. And, I am going with my great friend, Ed DeRosa (Director of Marketing at www.brisnet.com) with a long shot in here — Telekinesis (2), who is 20-1 in the ML. This 3YO son of Ghostzapper will be shortening up after two long-distance tries over the all-weather surface at Woodbine. Was no match for Wonder Gadot in the last out, but I think gets to a much preferred track surface and distance in this one today. he nearly beat My Boy Jack in the G3 Lexington Stakes back in April, and this guy showed a lot of talent, guts, determination and skill in that one. Returned to Churchill Downs to train after the Woodbine experiment. Looks to be back on his game. Ready to fire. My Upset Special of the Day — along with my main man Ed. The huge favorite is sure to be Promises Fulfilled (1), and I love this son of Shackledord — trained by Dale Romans. He is a bottle rocket. And, he should zoom right from the gate today. But he will be stretching out to 7 furlongs. I don’t know if that is his best distance, or not. I guess today will show us a lot. If he can carry that speed this far, it will be spectacular. Engage (3) is a horse that is rapidly improving for Chad Brown. In the last two Graded Stakes events, he has been closing late. And, with a purpose. I think he may have a shot to get there at the end of this one if a speed duel ensues. I bet the 2-3 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the other two in a smaller version. I will key the 2 over/under the “all button” in two more.

My Pick 6 Ticket: 1-2 / 1 / 6-7 / 6-8 / 2-3-4 / 3-9 = $96.00

Biggest “Likes” Today:

  1. Good Magic — Travers Stakes
  2. Gronkowski — Travers Stakes
  3. Tenfold — Travers Stakes
  4. Funtastic — Sword Dancer
  5. Lewis Bay — Ballerina Stakes
  6. Abel Tasman — Personal Ensign
  7. Wow Cat — Personal Ensign
  8. Promises Fulfilled — H. Allen Jerkens
  9. Telekinesis — H. Allen Jerkens

Biggest “Dislikes” Today:

  1. Wonder Gadot — Travers Stakes
  2. Mendelssohn — Travers Stakes
  3. Channel Maker — Sword Dancer
  4. Awesome Slew — Forego Stakes
  5. Elate — Personal Ensign
  6. Firenze Fire — H. Allen Jerkens

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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