McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on “Black Friday” — Nov. 29

Day Results10/3-4-5
2019 Overall 1,4171,417/495-517-634
Win % of Top Pick34.93%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall38.72%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –931 of 1,41765.70%
Top Selection ITM / CD Nov 148-22665.49%
Top Selection Win / CD Nov 80-22635.40%
“Key Horses” @ CD Nov 26/11-6-042.31%
“Key Horses” in 2019 215-83-43-2238.60%

It was a good day to be at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving Day. We have been there the last 10 years. Food is great. People are greater. Races and horses are the greatest.

Had a chance, at one time, to have a terrific day at the windows, as well. But it all kind of slipped away on the last three events of the festive celebration.

But not to fear.

There was much to be thankful for and about.

Got to see my pal and partner, Mike Schnell, for the first time since he had a heart valve repair surgery performed a couple of weeks ago. Good to see the old fart, and hear the same round of jokes. Thankful.

Got to go to the races with Uncle Bill and Aunt Kelly. Best of the best. Thankful.

Got to hang with Ronda and Greg Schell, two of the best people in the entire world. Nothing that would not do for you or anyone else that needed a helping hand. Thankful.

Got to see Holly M. Smith and Dale Romans, and Marty McGee and Ben Huffman. Some of my most favorite horse people in the entire world. Thankful.

Got to spend the day with my lovely wife and watch some of the greatest athletes in the world compete on a canvas of green and beauty. Thankful.

Got to chat with my kids, and see my grandsons Ford and Jack on Wednesday. Got to share photos of the cutest little thing called love, John McLean Sharp, with all my friends. So very. Thankful.

Got to see my world-traveling, 89-year-old mom and have lunch on Wednesday. The woman never stops. Never stops moving. Never stops helping. Never stops. Period. Thankful.

It was wonderful.

Now, we are back for the next-to-last day of the entire racing year at Churchill Downs. Here’s a closer look at the card:

1st: 5-9-11/7/6-4-8-2-3…Cooke Brothers (5) gets the nod in the lid-lifter today. This 3YO Caleb’s Posse colt drops two more rungs down he MCL pecking order today in search of that elusive first win and has never been offered up for this low of a price tag, to date. Ran 6th last time out, but was beaten only 41/4 lengths. Finished ahead of 6 in that race. Now, he gets further class relief. This trainer hits with .24% of those dropping this much in one swoop. Gets a big rider switch, too. Dangerous. Hoboken (9) is wheeling back at the same level that he nearly won at here on Nov. 10. Lost by only a head that day, and gave up the lead right at the wire, too. This 4YO son of More Than Ready was purchased for $200,000 in the 2016 KEE September Yearling Sale. Now, you can own for a mere $15,000. Looks like the connections have found the right spot and level. Gets a huge rider switch for this one, with a move to the meet’s leading rider. Danger. Go For Jim (11) drops another two rungs today, as well. This barn hits with .26% of those getting this much class relief. Barn also hits with .38% of those that go from a sprint, to a route race, and then back to a sprint. Big shot here, with some speed to use early on, too. I bet the 5-11 across the board and then box the top 3 number in one exacta. I will key the 5-11 over/under the 9-7-6-4-8 in two smaller versions.

2nd: 8-2/3-9-10/1-6-7…Between the Hedges (8) ran a really good one over the slop here on Oct. 31. Ran 4th that day, but was beaten less than 5 lengths and that was after a wide and adventurous trip around the oval. Gets a new rider, who is adapting well to the new digs. Like the work at KEE on Nov. 21, too. Looks like this 3YO daughter of Union Rags may be ready to spike a good one in the drop to the MCL ranks. Subiaco (2) drops into the MCL ranks for the first time ever today. Barn hits with .16% of those kind. Gets a huge rider switch, too. Returns as  a beaten favorite, and the barn hits with .22% of those kind, too. I bet the 8-2 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I will key the 8-2 over/under the 3-9-10-1 in two smaller versions.

3rd: 5-6-9/3-11/7-12-1/(16)…Sunflower Rose (5) gets a drop back to the $30,000 level for this one and she nearly won at this price tag on debut here back in September. Bumped up to $40,000 last time out, and ran her second 3rd in a row. Gets a new pilot today, and he should fit this one just fine. Jock has won with .25% of the last 16 mounts for this barn. Big Boss Lady (6) nearly won at this level here on Nov. 6. Had a few freshman jitters along the backstretch in that one. Returns as a beaten favorite in this spot today, and the barn hits with .29% of those kind. Meet’s top rider sticks for the assignment. Green Monster (9) will make the second start for the barn of Brad Cox, who has won with .25% of the starters here this November. This one drops from a $150,000 claimer to the $30,000 tag today. Barn hits with .27% of those that get this kind of a plunge. Was 6th on debut, but that was over a sloppy track, too. Had troubles at the start, as well. I can dismiss that one. Chance. I bet the 5-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 5-6 over/under the 9-3-11-7-12 in two smaller versions.

4th: 7-8-9/6-3/2-1-5…Cairo Cat (7) looked to be the next coming after winning the G3 Iroquois Stakes here last September as a 2YO. But since that race, he has been out 5 times. Has 2 distant thirds to show for it. Now, he shows up today for a $50,000 price tag. Did work well here on Nov. 9, and ran 3rd at this same level last time out. Had some bumping and traffic issues late in that one. Gets a world-class rider in the irons today. Maybe that can bring him home on top once again. Wicked Indeed (8) is a son of Tapit that was purchased for $45,000 at the most recent KEE November Sale. In 11 lifetime starts, he has a 1-2-1 mark. Will start today in the claiming ranks for the first time and for the same price as he was purchased for just a week or so ago. Drop in class has to help this one’s momentum late. Treasure Trove (9) is 12-1 in the ML and could spice up the odds rack. Was claimed at this level last time out, when he ran 7th over a sloppy racetrack. Before that, was a solid third at the $30,000 level. Like the work here on Nov 17. May grab a share. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 7-8 over/under the 9-6-3-2 in two smaller versions.

5th: 1-1A-4-9/3/6-2-5-7…The entry presented by trainer Chris Hartman has Corey Lanerie named to ride on both. That would be a real treat to see, but means that one of the two is likely to be scratched before post time. I give a slight edge to First or Frippery (1), who would break from post position #7. Won the last time out and has 3 wins in the last 5 races. In 52 career starts, has 13 trips to the winner’s circle. Knows how to get there. In 20 starts here, though, he has only 2 win. Troublesome. Overzealous (1A) will be making the second start for this barn after a claim. Barn hits with .27% of those. This one has won 2 of the last 3 and a near-miss second the last time out at KEE. On a fast dirt track, this one has a 2-2-1 mark in 7 starts. On second thought, I may like the 1A better? LOL. Either way, I will bet the entry and then box the 1-4-9 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the 3 in two more smaller versions.

6th: 12-3-6/8-9-10/11-2-7…Blackjack Jedi (12) draws the unfortunate outside post, but has hit the board in each of the last 5 outings. Trainer is having a super meet here and has won with .25% of the 130 starters this year. Ran third over the slop at Indy Grand last time out. Only time out here was not good, but ran up against SW Manny Wah in that one. Look out for this one late. Horsefeathers (3) will get the saddle from a new trainer for the first time today. Barn hits with .17% of the newcomers. This speedster should prove tough to catch if no-one goes with him. Has only 1 win in 11 starts, but does have 4 seconds. Sharp work on Nov. 23 and gets the meet’s top rider up. Take note. Front Page (6) comes from the barn of Team Asmussen, and will drop from the $20,000 tag to half of that today. Connections claimed this one for $16,000 just two starts back. Won that one over the turf. Never won over fast dirt. Hmmm. I bet the 12 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 12 over/under the 3-6-8-9-10-11 in two smaller versions.

7th: 8-9-2/4-1A-5-6/1-10…Giddymeister (8) will start for a new trainer for the first time today. Barn hits with .24% of those. Will get a new rider, to boot. Shifting from the West Coast to KY for the first time, and the barn hits with .23% of the “shippers.” Works here are improving. Looks ready to try out his new digs today. Over fast dirt? Has 5-1-3 mark in 16 outs. Nice. Pat Daddy (9) has won two in a row. But…That is just part of the story. Over the last 7 starts, he has found the winner’s circle 6 times. Six. Wow. Has been off since August, but the barn hits with .30% of those away from the races this long. Interesting sort here. I bet the 8-9 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers n one exacta. I will key the 8-9 over/under the 2-4-1A-5-6 in two smaller versions.

8th: 9-6-3/2-1/5-7…Goodbye Earl (9) is my first Upset Special of the Day. This 3YO Hard Spun filly is 12-1 in the ML, and I truly think that she has a chance to upset this field. Has only 1 win in the first 7 starts, but ran very well here on Nov. 3 in her first start in 6 months. Has returned to work well. If that race helped her conditioning, she may close with a real purpose here. Love the jockey choice. Should fit her perfectly. This one cost $150,000 at the 2017 KEE September Yearling Sale. Must have looked the part. Flower House (6) ran 4th here on Nov. 6. Tired a bit in that one in her first try against winners. Rider that put her in the winner’s circle two starts back returns to the saddle today. Can’t hurt. Trainer has 2 wins in the last 4 starts. Hot. Pink Scatillac (3) won the last time out over the slop at KEE. That was in October. Did run very well at Del Mar back in August, too. Spotty record, but really good when she is good. Big chance here.. I bet the 9-3 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 9-3 over/under the 6-2-1-5-7 in two smaller versions.

9th: 12-14-6/7-10-4-2/5-8/3-13…G2 Mrs. Revere Stakes…What a nice edition of the 11/16-mile turf Stakes event. Racing Secretary Ben Huffman and his staff always do a remarkable job. This meet has been astonishing. This Stakes field is tremendous. I settle on the outside horses here, and it will not be an easy task for either. Granted. New and Improved (12) slips in from New York for trainer Chad Brown. We all know by now that the man dominates the grass Stakes races in the ole’ United States of America. This 3YO filly looks ready to embark on that mission, too. Won the G2 Sands Point last time out. Got off to a horrendous start in that one, too. Then came with the patented Chad Brown late run. Swept by that field as if they were running in reverse. Nice. The Mackem Bullet (14) has raced only 3 times this year. Has a win and a third. Last time out, she ran 3rd in the G3 Valley View at KEE. Came with a late run in that one and just missed second. This gal is an Irish-bred and should love the soft ground today. May be the deciding factor. Winter Sunset (6) is so beautiful that it is hard not to see or like her. Gorgeous filly. Toss out the last one and she has hit the board in 6 of the last 7 tries. The other was a 4th in the G3 Pucker Up. Steady gal. Look for a lot more today. Upset Special. I will be the 12-6 across the board (Take Note) and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 12-6 over/under the 14-7-10-4-2 in two smaller versions.

10th: 4-1-10/2-5-3-9/8…Scars Are Cool (4) gets the nod here. The 3YO Malibu Moon colt is trained by Stanley Hough, who is having a terrific meet with a limited number of starters. In 8 races, he has 3 wins and 3 seconds for the home team at Sagamore Farm. This one won the last time out here in the slop. Loses that condition, but may have the ability to move right up the ladder. Gets a top rider in the irons. Only bad race on paper is the 10th place finish. But…That was against Code of Honor in the G1 Travers Stakes. None of those kind in here today. Own Agenda (1) ran 4th in the G2 Fayette Stakes at KEE last time out. That was over a sloppy track and he caught the likes of Tom’s d’Etat in that one. Wow. He is likely to be the PT favorite for the G1 Clark a little bit later today. If this one can run that race back? Tough. Roiland (10) is another 3YO moving up to face olders for the first time today. This late, late, late closer has had gate issues in the past. But he has been off since July and has returned to work very well for this one. In tough. But love the 8-1 odds. I bet the 4-1 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 4-1 over/undewr the 10-2-5-3-9 in two softer versions.

11th: 2-8-9-10/11-5/1-12-4-3-6…G1 Clark Stakes…Tom’s d’Etat (2) won the Fayette by a whopping 41/4 lengths. Before that, he ran a tiring 4th in the G1 Woodward at Saratoga. Beaten less than 2 that day. Before that, he won the Alydar Stakes at “The Spa.” This guy is good. Real good. Real, real good. Has a 2-2-1 mark in 6 starts here, and gets Joel Rosario to come to town for the mount. Will have to beat this one to win. For sure. Owendale (8) ran 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but he had a world of traffic issues and a deep-butt race track to try an negotiate. Just couldn’t overcome those obstacles. I can completely toss that out. In today at 10-1 odds? Are you kidding me. Love it. Upset Special’s Special of the Day. I’m all over it. My next choice is just to the outside of Owendale — Mr Freeze (9). Another one with great odds (8-1 in the ML). Loves this place, too. In two previous runs here, he has two wins. Hard to beat that. Will stalk or press the pace. Will get the first jump. Could be a huge day for a rider having a tough time finding the circle right now, too. This trainer never forgets his friends, though. Ever. Puts him right back up. Feel good story here. Bravazo (10) returns for the first time since running 4th in the Pegasus Invitational last January for Coach D. Wayne Lukas. This guy has won over $2 million and has been training lights out. Crazy not to include him, at 8-1 ML odds, too. Great race. Great betting race. Great fun race. I bet the 2-8 across the board and then box those two in one exacta. I will key the 2-8 over/under the 9-10 in two solid versions. Then? I will key the 2-8-9-10 over/under the 11-5 in two smaller versions. Love this race.

12th: 5-2-3/11-(13)/6-4-9-10/12…Today’s finale is a MSW event for the fillies and mares going the sprint distance of 6 furlongs. Wide open affair here, too. I go to Hoppa (5) to take us home in good spirits. This 3YO daughter of Uncle Mo nearly won on debut back in April. That was over a sloppy racetrack and she ran second as the prohibitive favorite. Barn hits with .21% of them away from the races this long and with .31% of them returning as a beaten favorite. My pick. Tipazar (2) and Hands Up (3) both rate a chance, though, especially when you consider that the top choice is coming off such a long layup and will burn a lot of money at the windows. The former has 4 seconds and 4 thirds in 9 starts. Always lurking. The latter are with a huge rush late in the career debut here on Nov. 8. A better start today and this one could upset the apple cart and the windows. I bet the 5-3 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 5-3 over/under the 2-11-6 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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