McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Closing Day; Saturday, June 30

Day Results11-8-3-5
Top Pick Win %35.50%
Top Pick ITM % 228-33867.50%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks at CD39.40%
2018 Overall 935348-350-412
Win % of Top Pick37.20%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.60%

What a day on Friday! Eight winners in 11 races. That’s on the heels of five winners in eight races on Thursday. Over the last two days, we have touted 13 winners in the last 19 races. No way, I don’t think, that we can keep up that pace, but we are hoping for just one more — right? Today is closing day and I am headed to the track soon. Mandatory payouts. Great races. Warm weather. Beautiful horses.

What more could you ask for, right?

Here we go with a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 5-2-3-1…Kate’s Golden Dude (5) is a single for me in the first. This filly is 9-5 ML favorite, but should be very salty at this reduced level today. She ran here on May 12 for a $40,000 price tag and nearly won as the heavy betting favorite. Has not been seen in the afternoons since, and shows up today for half that price. Has worked steadily since May 24, though, and the morning moves look solid. The trainer hits with .35% of those dropping down this far, and .30% with a beaten favorite. I like his chances in this group. Electric Avenue (2) was claimed last time out for $50,000 and now is in for $20,000. So, what gives? This one hit the board in the first four career starts, winning two of them. Was purchased out of back-to-back races. Now, the plunge. Trainer has only one win in 34 starts this meet, but this one is worth considering. King Abner (3) is either really good, or really bad. Finds the lowest level on his race career schedule today. California-bred won the first two career starts, but hasn’t been really close in the last four tries. Drop could help. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then key the 5 over/under all the numbers listed in the exactas.

2nd: 4-8-5-3-2…Myhotrodlincoln (4) is another one worth considering a “key” on in this affair. This one is under a new roof and trainer for the first time today, and the operation has had a nice meet with .23% winners. This one has run two dynamite seconds in the first two starts and has faced some nice company in each of those. Should be tough to handle with a clean break in this one. Like the same distance, where he just lost by a head in a Stakes event on “Thurby.” A horse to watch in here, though, would be Fluminense (8), who comes from the Steve Asmussen barn. Ran a game third here on debut, after a tough start. A cleaner break could help this one chances, for sure. Nice work here on June 24. Dangerous. Ricochet Bay (5) is another from the Asmussen barn, and this one will be making the career debut today. This one is from a dam who has 6 winners from 6 starters, including one Stakes winner already. ( Stat of the Day. Go here for all of your handicapping tools. The best in the biz). I bert the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under all the other numbers listed in the exactas.

3rd: 2-3-7-4-8-1-5-6…I will concentrate on the top 3 picks in this sequence, led by Drop Kick (2). This one comes from the barn of Michael Tomlinson, who has had a super meet here with 11 winners in 41 starts — computes to .27% win. This one is coming off a race where he was dumped in too deep after being claimed two back from Asmussen. Held his own in that one, despite a wide trip, until the late going. Now gets a dry track and some class relief. Should like both. Needs a little cleaner trip, but could redeem today. Potential Danger (3) gets back to the dirt today for a trainer that hits with .10% of those making this surface switch. Has a second over this dirt track last September against much, much tougher. He could move up with the second start off a layup. Dreamzapper (7) gets a drop back into the high-end claiming ranks today for the first time since he ran a nice second at Keeneland in April. Drop should help and the show horse in that race came right back to win. This barn is having a really nice meet, and he horse is super well bred. Has a shot here. I bet the 2-7 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. 

4th: 6-1-3-5-7-4…My first Best Bet of the Day comes right here with Kada (6), a 2YO filly from the barn of Steve Asmussen. This will be the first career start and so many things can go wrong, but this one cost $100,000 this April at a 2YO Sale and has been training lights out for the new connections — who hit with .17% first time starters. The sire, though, hits with .21% with debut runners, and the work in the slop here on June 24 was very nice. I think this one could set sail early. Rumandice (1) is a filly that I certainly can identify with the name. Oh my, how I like them both. This one gets the rail, and it is golden at this distance — winning at .34% rate. Dam has 4 winners from 5 starters and a super talented trainer, to boot. The one to beat. Shacklette (3) is a Shackleford filly trained by the same guy that conditioned the sire. Dam has 2 winners from just 2 starters and this one has trained OK. A shot. I beet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the 6-1 solidly in one exacta. I key those two over the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

5th: 7-11-3-2-10-5-8-9-4…I will focus on the top two numbers in this grouping, headed by Mr. Darcy (7).  This one ran super when facing tougher last time out, and the winner of that one came back to run a huge second at Churchill on Friday. Did you get that? Bantu, winner of the last race, ran huge on Friday. And, the runner-up in that race came back to win. Now, it’s Mr. Darcy’s turn, right? Love it and 12-1 ML odds to boot. My Upset Special right here. On the far outside is Son of a Saint (11), who won the last time out when getting back to the grass surface. Did all the running in that one, but steps up in dollar value and loses the condition, to boot. Makes this one more vulnerable than what might appear. Soul Beam (3), at 8-1 odds, and Sky Promise (2), also at 8-1, both have a shot to light up the board, as well. I loved the latter in the last race, and he closed mightily to be second in that one. Was claimed out of that one, and the new barn may find the key to open up this one. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under all the numbers listed — but more on the 3-2-10-5-8…

6th: 9-3-4-6-2-5-8…I will focus on the top 3 numbers here. Fireball Shot (9) is another one aptly named, and one that I can turn to on a cold winter’s night. This one has run four straight seconds and has 5 runner-ups in 13 starts. The smart thing to do with this one would be to bet the “place” button, right? And, key “under,” correct? Maybe so, but what’s the fun in that? I will take a shot that he can find the lead late in this one. Making a Marc (3) and Love Nest (4) both could make this one interesting at the wire, though. The former has three seconds and a third in the last four outs, and will get a huge, huge, huge rider switch for this one. Dangerous for sure. The latter is getting back to the dirt, where the trainer has an .18% win rate with the surface switch and the lone start on dirt was against King Zachary. He could be the real deal. I bet the 9-3 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

7th: 9-8-4-5-7-3-1…Debuante Stakes…I will single Shanghai Rain (9) in this spot, and hope for the best since she will be breaking form the far outside. This one did break from the #6 hole last time, when she broke her maiden here on May 18. Ran away from a real nice one in Blame the Frog in that one. The runner-up has come back to win most recently, in really nice form, and I think this one has gotten better since the win. My solid pick and second Best Bet. Just to her inside is Hay Dilly (8), who ships in from Delaware Park and off a nice MSW win on June 6. This trainer has hit with .13% winners this year, and this one really worked well at Fair Hill on June 24. Looks to be primed and ready to fire. O’Keeffe (4) ships down form Chicago for today’s Stakes event, and goes for a trainer who is having a super year with .27% winners overall. This one was bet down to odds-on favoritism in the last effort and motored away on the all-weather surface without much trouble. Daughter of Munnings cost $275,000 earlier this year as a 2YO and looks to be headed for stardom. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

8th: (14)-8-3-2-11-5-10-1-9…I doubt the AE/MTO gets into this one, so I will focus on the top three numbers after that. The leader of the group, IMO, is Bridaled Temper (8) won the last time out and now must face winners for the first time. That is never an easy proposition, even though this trainer has won with .18% of those making the move up. The runner-up in the MSW victory has come back to win already, and this one has a win and two seconds in four tries to date. Daughter of War Front looks well positioned to make it two in a row today. Don’t Tell Marge (3) is another who broke the maiden last time out, and she id it in real style, running on the lead the whole way and pulling off to a near 5-length victory. First time on the grass, and for a trainer who normally takes a few races to get them in the circle. Has come back to work really well, and the trainer hits with .25% on second starts on the grass. Deadline (2) has been running against winners since breaking the maiden last November here. Last wo races have been OK, and the race two back was against a nice one. Couldn’t be a factor late. I bet the 8-3 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the 11-5-10 in s smaller version.

9th: 5-7-3-4-2-12-9-8-1…Big Dollar Bill (5) has hit the board on 9 of 12 tries to date, and has two wins and 5 seconds on the resume. Has a second and a third over this dirt track, but was running late when nipped by Irish Freedom as the favorite in the last try. Trainer hits with .28% of those returning as a beaten favorite, and this one put in a heckuva training session at Keeneland on June 26. Looks ready for this spot. Rocking the Boat (7) ran third as the favorite in the last try here on May 28. Has been running against some real good ones in the past, and ran third in a G3 event at Oaklawn three races back. Like the 6-1 odds on this one, who likes to stalk the pace. Should like the stretch out back to two turns. I throw out the last one. Too short. Hint of Roses (3) sure ran a nice one here on May 12 in just his seconds start since July of 2016 — nearly two years ago. Ran off to a 41/2 length win in the last one, and the son of Tapit has returned to train very well, indeed. Top choice handled him two starts back, but that was the first try off a long layup. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the top 3 over the 4-2-12 in one smaller version.

10th: 9-10-8-6-3-1-5-7…Kelly’s Landing Stakes…Editor’s Note: I love Warrior’s Club (6). Like the way he runs, and gives all. Love the fact he races for the Churchill Downs Racing Club. Great concept, which has caught on all over the country. And, I touted and bet him when he won the G3 Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland at 21-1 odds. Lots of love after that one. But…I am picking against in this spot today, mainly because of three things: a) the race in the Met Mile had to take something out of him, IMO; b) he has only one win in 9 starts at Churchill Downs; c) there are some really good horses in this one, too. So, I go, instead, with C Z Rocket (9), whom I love at 12-1 ML odds. This one ran a game third in his first start since last December on June 1. Was beaten by American Anthem in that one, and he has since come back to win a Graded Stakes event at Santa Anita. C Z was wide in that one and off to a rough start. I think he is much better today and is my second, and most serious Upset Special. The horse to beat, though, may be Chief Cicatriz (10), who is parked just outside of my pick. This one ran away to a 61/4-length victory in the G3 Aristides Stakes here on June 2 and that was just the second start with Lasix. This would could be a freak. I bet the 9 to win/place/show. I key the 9 over/under all the numbers listed, but more so on the 10-8-6-3-1…And, I key the 9 in the horizontal plays — Pick 3s, 4s, and so on.

11th: 4-11-9-2-1-12…G3 Bashford Manor Stakes…I’m going all in and strong on Sir Truebadour (4) in his Stakes event today. This son of More Than Ready was the easiest kind of winner here on May 17, running off to a 4-length win in the slop. Came back to run fourth — beaten just 2 lengths — in the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes undercard. That was much better than it looks performance, after a tough start. Shipping a baby from KY to NYC is not the easiest thing to do, either. Has trained OK upon his return and is plenty fit enough for this one. Toothless Wonder (11) ships across country for the barn of Doug O’Neill. Brings with him rider Mario Gutierrez. They teamed up with Pavel to win the Stephen Foster just a couple of weeks ago. This one was pure game in breaking the maiden on May 27 at SA. Looks to be getting better. The trip? Tales of Chaucer (9) goes for Norm Casse, who just left his father’s operation to go out on his own this Spring. This one is a NY-bred, but easily dusted his competition on June 1 in a restricted MSW event. Nice work here on June 22. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under all the numbers listed.

12: 4-11-8-12-9-1-2-6…A wide open affair to close out the day’s card and the spectacular race meeting. I have to really use the top 4 numbers in here in same combination and relationship. Hard to separate any of them, to be honest. Hot Zone (4) may get a slight edge, coming off a second place finish here on May 4. That was her first try in NA after racing in France as a 2YO. Daughter of War Front is certainly well bred and should be stronger with the last race under the girth. Victory Garden (11) gets stuck wide, as does Natasha Fatale (12). Both have a shot. The former has two seconds and a third in 4 starts. Should be close to the lead, but may have to use too much, too early. The later is a 15-1 outsider, in more ways than one, but ran very well in the last try here on June 10 and the dam has two winners from 3 starters. The trainer hits with .31% making the first grass start. Take note. In between those is Flat Meadow (8), who rates a chance after having two seconds in the first three starts, as well. The last race runner-up has come back to win, and Victory Garden edge this one by only a length. This one was 4-wide, too. I bet the 4-8 to win/place/show and then box those two in one exacta. I key those two over/under the 12-8 in another couple of smaller versions. I use all 4 in the horizontal plays.

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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