McLean’s Selections for Breeders’ Cup Saturday & Churchill Downs

Day Results5/2-2-1
2019 Overall 1,2251,225/426-440-552
Win % of Top Pick34.78%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall38.59%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –803 of 1,22565.55%
Top Selection ITM / CD Nov 24-4158.54%
Top Selection Win / CD Nov 14-4134.15%
“Key Horses” @ CD Nov 8/5-1-062.50%
“Key Horses” in 2019 197-77-38-2239.09%

Well. Well. Well.

Here we are. Breeders’ Cup Saturday. Championship Day.

And, the handicapping is now all done. The brain drain has been completed. And, it is time. Time to count the wins. Time to count the excuses. And, at the end of the day, time to count the money. After all, you do know by now that you never count your money while you are sitting at the table. Kenny Roges would whip some serious butt if he caught you doing that.

So…here we go…

Here’s our Picks for the Breeders’ Cup and…

For Churchill Downs, as well.

Whew.

Burned a lot of the midnight oils getting this wrapped up:

Breeders’ Cup Saturday: 

BC Fillies & Mares Sprint: 1/4-6-9/7-5-2…It is mighty tough to find, locate, discover, bet and cash on a “single” in the Breeders’ Cup. But we are beginning the day with our first Key Play of the Day — Covfefe (1). This 3YO daughter of Into Mischief will be gearing it up to face older fillies and mares for just the second time in her life. The first time came in the Roxelana Stakes back in June at Churchill Downs. She lost that day to Mia Mischief — who won the Dream Supreme Stakes at Churchill Downs on Friday. But there are a couple of things to consider before you toss her out and land on Come Dancing (4) or someone else in this event today. First, Covfefe is better and has improved since that late beat by Mia Mischief. She has come back to run twice at today’s distance of 7 furlongs and she has won each of those — including the G1 Test Stakes against Serengeti Empress and the Dogwood Stakes by a whopping 8 lengths over Bell’s the One. That runner-up just came back to win a Stakes event at Keeneland in her last outing. The other thing to consider is that Mia Mischief is darn near impossible to beat at Churchill Downs. She won the G1 Humana at Churchill Downs this Spring and has been a monster under the Twin Spires. Third, New York-based horses have always struggled a bit when they transferred West to Santa Anita, in the past. Especially in these “Sprint-like” distances. History is against the NY-based runners — which would include the heavy favorite Come Dancing. Covfefe has drawn the rail and must motor from the gate break. But if she can leave the device in good order, and get her position, she will be tough in this spot. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under the numbers listed.

BC Turf Sprint: 10-3-7/1-8-5/6-12-11-2…Eddie Haskell (10) is a locally-based, California-bred son of Square Eddie and trained by Mark Glatt. More importantly, though, he is a veteran on this course. Of the last 5 races he has spun up, all of them have been at this quirky 5-furlong distance — which is ultra short for even a sprint. And, 3 of them have been here at Santa Anita. Of those 5, he has 3 wins and 2 near-miss seconds. In the 3 of them at Santa Anita, he has 2 wins and a second last time out when beaten just 1/2 length. Joel Rosario — a top rider — is back in the saddle. This 6YO gelding looks to have the experience edge here, for me. Imprimis (3) is a closer-type who will be making his 3rd start off a layoff after he returned from Royal Ascot. This 5YO son of Broken Vow ran well in England, but that trip has a way of zapping some spirit. Has returned to run 4th in the G3 Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs, which is a difficult ask. Came back to run 2nd to Stubbins (5) in the G2 Woodford Stakes. Gets a new rider today. Frankie Dettori, which I really like. In 10 career races at this distance, this one has 7 wins and a third. Could be sitting on a huge one here, at a nice price. I use. Leinster (7) is the lesser-know and lesser-accomplished of the duo that will be saddled by Rusty Arnold. But since getting blinkers added to his equipment 6 races ago, this one has 3 wins, 2 seconds and a  third. Ran a huge second to Stubbins in the Woodford. Had to circle 5 wide to even have a chance in that one. Look for this one to be motoring late. In 4 tries at this distance, he has 3 wins and a second. Upset Special. I will be the 10-3 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 10-3 over/under the 7-1-8-5-6 in two smaller versions.

BC Dirt Mile: 4-5/2-7-9…What a race. Truly, what a race. This appears to be a true matchup of two of my most favorite horses — Mr. Money (4) and Omaha Beach (5). The former is shortening up after a tough-beat second in the Pennsylvania Derby last time out. Before that, though, he had won 4 races in a row for trainer W. Bret Calhoun, and, seemingly, got better and better each time out. This one has not faced older horses in his career, to date. Will today. But that doesn’t faze me a bit. This 3YO son of Goldencents is a talent. A real talent. And, he can run. Omaha Beach (5) came back from a 6-month layup to defeat the rapid-fire Shancealot in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 5. Now, he will try to become the first — perhaps, we are researching this — the first 3YO to ever win a G1 Stakes at 6 furlongs, 11/8-mile and now, perhaps, a mile. This is a true superstar. If not for the entrapped epiglottis that caused his scratch from the KY Derby, this one may have been a real threat for this year’s Triple Crown. Improbable (2) has been highly touted by Bob Baffert leading up to this event, too, but if the top two run their best? I think they are the best. Still, hard to dismiss a Baffert tout, right? I bet the 4-5 across the board and then box those 2 solidly in the exacta. I will key the 4-5 over/under the 2-7-9 in two smaller versions.

BC Filly & Mare Turf: 9-2-3/7-10/1-12-8/11-4…This is the 11/4-mile event for the fillies and mares and, for many, this is the domain of none other and none better than America’s own Sistercharlie (2). Undboutedly, the 5YO Irish-bred will be a tough out in this spot. After all, she is a perfect 3-for-3 this year and has won 6 straight G1 Stakes. And, she has 3 wins and 2 seconds in 6 starts at this distance. She enters this one off an impressive win in the G1 Flower Bowl in her last start, too. But…Villa Marina (9) may be the filly that can give the grand Champ a run for her money today. This 3YO daughter of Le Havre has raced against older ones in the last two and has a win at Longchamp in her last start at this same distance. The race two back was at 11/2-miles and can be forgiven (at least by me). In 5 starts at this distance, she has the same 3-2-0 mark. But the last 3 races at this distance? She has won them all. I look for an upset here. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 9 over/under the “all button” in two smaller versions. And, then I will key the 9-2 over (only) the 3-7-10-1-12-8 in a smaller yet.

BC Sprint: 4-6/1-7/9-5-3-2…What a race this figures to be. Wow. Don’t miss the start. Don’t miss the finish. It won’t take long for either. Mitole (4) has raced 6 times this year. Won 5 of them. The only loss came to Imperial Hint (9) in the G1 Alfred G Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga (The Graveyard of Champs, by the way). And, Mitole hit the gate at the start of that one. Hit it hard. Had to take a bit out of him. Came right back to absolutely dominate the G1 Forego Stakes the next time out at Saratoga. I think he is a real man. Shancalot (6) is a freak. Simply put. The horse ran off to a record-smashing 121/2-length win in the G2 Amsterdam Stakes three races back. Lost the H. Allen Jerkens the next time out, when stretched out to 7 furlongs. But came back to run a whirlwind second to Omaha Beach here in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship. Look at the time of that race? Wow time. That was at 6 furlongs. Today is at 6 furlongs. To me? This is a showdown between these 2. I bet the 4-6 across the board and then box those 2 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 4-6 over/under the 1-7-9-5-3-2 in two smaller versions.

BC Mile: 9-11/6-8-13/14-1-3-12-10…Circus Maximus (9) is another shipper from across the pond, and these types have a harder time traveling to and winning at Santa Anita. But this 3YO son of Galileo is coming into this one off a very nice Group 1 win in France and has 3 wins and a second in 6 starts this year. Toss out the endurance race two back — when stretched out too far for his liking — and this one has won 2 and run second in the last 3 races. Good right now. Gets Aidan O’Brien’s go-to rider in Ryan Moore. Look for this one to be motoring late, and will need some racing luck. Uni (11) is a filly who will be tackling the boys in this one, like she did two races back in the G1 Fourstardave at Saratoga. That one was won by another gal — Got Stormy (6), and she will be a tough out in this spot, too. But the race at Keeneland in the G1 First Lady was a monster performance and should set this daughter of More Than Ready up perfectly for this run. in 7 races at this distance? She has 6 wins and a third. In the loss to Got Stormy, Uni had to alter her run at the 1/8th pole and try to split rivals. She will need better luck than that, but she is a runner. A stone-cold runner. I definitely use her. Definitely. I bet the 9-11 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I will key the 9-11 over/under the rest of the numbers listed in two smaller versions. More over/under the 6-8-13 than the rest.

BC Distaff: 5-4/6-9-3-11/1…Remember Songbird vs. Beholder? Remember that run? Remember that finish? Remember that feeling? It could be more of the same today. The world will be betting Midnight Bisou (4). And, why not? All she has done this year is win all 7 of her starts. All of them have been Graded Stakes races. All of them have been impressive. And, the Hall of Famer Mike Smith gets back in the irons today. It all makes sense. This should be her coronation, right? Her right to greatness on the world’s best stage? It should. But it may not. Dunbar Road (5), IMO, is sitting on a monster performance. A monster. Her race in the G1 Spinster, when she was third behind both Blue Prize (11) and Elate (who will face the boys today in the Classic) was so much better than it looked. She got trapped on the rail in that one. Never, ever, ever once got to run in a clear path. Never, ever, ever once got free to show and strut her stuff. Never. Today, I think Dunbar Road — if given a cleaner path — could be a monster. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the 5-4 in one exacta. I will key the 5-4 over/under the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

BC Turf: 9-10-5/11-1-3/7-12-6…The 11/2-mile Turf has become one of the most challenging and best turf events in all of the world. In such a short time, it now rivals some of the greatest, most historic, most significant Stakes around the globe. And, today’s event, could be just as significant. And, I will stick with America’s Best in this one — Bricks and Mortar (9). Although it can be said, written and argued that this distance is not in his wheelhouse, not one word can deny that this 5YO son of Giant’s Causeway is not one of the best grass runners of all time. Going into today, he is 10 for 12 lifetime. The only 2 misses were third place finishes. And, he is a perfect 5-for-5 this year. The thing that encourages me is that B&M has finished strong in each of the last two tries — and both of them came at the 11/4-mile distance. He was simply the best in both the G1 Manhattan and the G1 Arlington Million. The best. I think he is The Best in here today, as well. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 9 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller versions.

BC Classic: 6-8-11/10-7-5/4-3…This year’s Classic may not have the superstar that some of the other great races of Breeders’ Cup Past. This year’s Classic may not have that stud muffin, who everyone relishes to join their stallion barn and complex. But this year’s Classic just may be one of the most challenging handicapping contests in the entire world. In a way, you can make a case for so, so many of these. And, if any one of them run their best? Any one of them can win. Any one of them will win. But in a year where we have celebrated the great race mare Zenyetta for all she accomplished and did, I will give a slight emotional edge to the 5YO mare Elate (6) in this year’s battle royale. The mare has raced 6 times this year — all against the girls. She has a 2-3-1 mark. She has hung late against some of the best — like Midnight Bisou. But at this 11/4-mile distance? Elate is a perfect 3-for-3. She came back out of her loss in the G1 Spinster and worked at Churchill Downs. She went 3 furlongs in a wow time of :34.30. What? Really? You just don’t see these connections do crazy things. Not this group of people. When they take a shot; when they take a different path; when they gamble? I look and take note. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over (only) the rest of the numbers listed. I will also key the 6 over/under all the numbers listed, too.

Churchill Downs (Abbreviated Comments, Hope You Understand):

1st: 10-12/9-7-11/4-2-3…Girls Got Track (10) will be making her first career start for the new barn operation, which plunked down the $20,000 to claim this one last time out at Del Mar in August. Moves East. Moves to the barn of Peter Miller, who has been doing very well here of late. Ran well for the first half of the debut, before giving up late. Drops in class for this one for a barn that hits with .28% of those making the debut for the new connections. Gets one of the best rides on the grounds to take the reins, too. My solid pick. Punish (12) ran well against much tougher here two starts back. Bumped up in class for the last one, and didn’t show up against those. Now, drops way back down. I have to use this one, too. I bet the 10-12 to win/place/show and then box the 10-12 in the exacta. I will key the 10-12 over/under the rest of the numbers in two smaller versions.

2nd: 2-4/5-6/1-3…Third Day (2) drops considerably in class for this one today. Barn hits with .12% when dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. Ran in 4 straight Stakes events just a few minutes ago, and 3 of them were Graded. Didn’t threaten in there, and now is offered up for $32,000. Probably a huge claim prospect in here. Like the work her on Oct. 24. Take note. Kurilov (4) is the 2-1 ML favorite, and figures here, too. Ran against much tougher at KEE last time out. Ran OK, too. Comes back as a beaten favorite. Barn hits with .31% of them. Drops into claiming for the first time, too, and this barn hits with .31% of those, too. I bet the 2-4 to win/place/show and then box the 2-4 in the exacta. I key the 2-4 over/under the rest of the numbers in two smaller versions.

3rd: 3/7-(8)-1/2-6/4-5…The first Key Play of the Day comes right here with Unapologetic Me (3). This one has only 1 win in 11 tries over the sod, but does have 4 seconds and 4 thirds, too. This will be the 3rd try off a layup, and the barn hits with .20% of those. Has been facing so much tougher and drops into the claiming ranks for the first time. Barn hits with .19% of those. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under the rest of the numbers listed.

4th: 10/4-8-11-6/7-3-2-5-1…A horse that I used to own and I bred is in this one — Seek N Justice (1). His half-sister — Miss Jacqueline — won here on Thursday. And, I will be rooting for this guy, too, who was claimed off me back in March at the Fair Grounds. He is now in the barn of Nevada Liftin. He hits with .05% of those making the first start for the new operation. Don’t know how he will do today, but I will be rooting. After all, I own two half-sisters to this one, too. On the betting side, I have my second Key Play of the Day here, too. Super Terrific (10) comes into this one off a nice, fast-closing 2nd at KEE. If this 5YO gelded son of Super Saver can duplicate that effort, he will be tough in here. Love the work here on Oct. 27. Looks like the return of blinkers helped last time out, too. Making the 3rd start off the layup, where the barn scores with .15%. I will be the 10 to win/place/show and key the 10 over/under all the numbers. One of those numbers will be the 1, too.

5th: 7/4-5-3/6-1/2…My third straight Key Play of the Day comes right here with Pioneer Spirit (7). This 6YO son of Malibu Moon comes in off a 9th in the last out. But that was in the G3 Lukas Classic — and against some real good ones. Now, he drops into a high-flying claimer and will be making the 2nd start off a layoff for a barn that does great with these types. Look at the races before. In 8 starts this year, he has 2 wins and 3 thirds — against much, much, much tougher. Love this one today. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under all the other numbers listed.

6th: 11-7-3/2/8-9-1A/5-12-4…Bango (11) will be making the 4th career start today and is coming off a third against some good ones. The runner-up in that effort has already come back to win since that outing. Gets a new rider for this one today. Gets blinkers for the first time. And, has trained well since the last race. Must use, for me. Clifton Park (7) is a 12-1 ML choice and is my Upset Special of the Day. Ran up against some real monsters in the career debut. That was in the slop, too. But look at the work here on Oct. 3. Has some talent. Could be real talent. Little Menace (3) is a first timer for the barn of Steve Asmussen. Connections paid $460,000 for this 2YO son of Into Mischief. Working well for this one, for a barn that hits with .18% in the first start.

7th: 1-1A-5/10/4-8/7-6-9…Both parts of the entry — Chief Executive (1) and Executive Branch (1A) — both have a real shot in this spot, a 1-mile run over the main track. Both of them come into this one off 2nd place finishes. The former looks like he wants to be closer to the pace, while the latter looks to close. They may team up for a formidable finish here. I bet the entry to win/place/show and then box the 1-5 in the exacta. I will key the 1 over/under all the other numbers.

8th: G3 Chilukki Stakes…1-2/5-6/7…I will go with Sally’s Curlin (1) in this spot today. This 3YO filly is owned in part by my great friend and partner, Mike Schnell. But, more importantly, she is coming off two great performances here at this one-turn, flat mile distance. She is a powerful closer. Will need some speed to materialize up front to help set it up. But she can run. And, she can close. Love the rider switch here, too. Steps up in class, but she can do this. I bet the 1-2 across the board and then box these two in the exacta. I key the 1-2 over/under the others in two smaller version.

9th: 7-10/6-5/8…Originator (7) gets my edge here. Comes out of a Stakes event at Laurel Park in the last outing. Bumped at the start of that one, and had issues the rest of the way. Look for more. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-10 in the exacta. I key the 7-10 over/under the rest of the numbers in two smaller versions.

10th: Bet On Sunshine Stakes…6-8/9-10-2-4-1-5…Recruiting Ready (6) has never been better than right now. Seriously. Caught a monster crowd in the G2 Phoenix Stakes last time out, but look at the race here the time before. When spotted in the right spot, he has been spot on of late. Has a 1-1-1 record in 3 starts here. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the 6-8 in one exacta. I key the 6-8 over/under the rest in two smaller versions.

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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