McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Closing Day — Sunday, Nov. 25

Day Results11-4-1-8
2018 Overall 1798661-641-790
Win % of Top Pick36.76%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall38.78%
Top Selection ITM / CD Nov 113-17763.84%
Top Selection Win / CD Nov 60-17733.90%
“Key Horses” @ CD Nov: 29-9-7-231.03%

It is closing day for Churchill Downs. Today is the last day of the Fall 2018 meet. Today is the last day of the 2018 racing calendar for the track under the Twin Spires. And, what a great year it has been.

The track kick started Justify on his way to the Triple Crown this spring. It also was the home of Monomoy Girl — who undoubtedly will win the 3YO Filly Championship and should be the Champion Filly & Mare, period. After all she dominated the female class all the way from the KY Oaks to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The track opened its’ first and newest Historical Racing Machine facility, over at the former Louisville Downs location. The beautiful and distinct Derby City Gaming is creating new purse money for the track in 2019.

And, now the track will joint venture with Keeneland to construct a new Standardbred facility in Oak Grove, KY. That new location will add to purse structure of both Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds throughout the Commonwealth.

The list goes on and on. But for one last day, we will concentrate on the living racing at Churchill Downs. Here is a look at today’s card:

1st: 8-1/6-9/4-2…Mo’s Song (8) ran a solid second on debut here on Oct. 31. Ran second over a sloppy track that day, and was in tight early in the proceedings. The barn hits with .21% of those making the second career start, and retains one of the hottest riders on the grounds right now. Over the last week, he has punched out a 10-7-5 record over 40 rides. Tipazar (1) will get the blinkers off after a one-try experiment went awry. Ran super two races back, without the shades and while sprinting. Gets back to those same conditions today. And, gets a top rider up. Barn hits with .21% of those returning as a beaten favorite. I bet the 8-1 across and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 8-1 over/under the 6-9 in a smaller version.

2nd: 2-6/(10)-(11)/7-3…Over Thinking (2) won the last time out going a route of ground over at Keeneland. Barn has a real tough time trying to tie back-to-back winners together (.06%), but this one returned from the win to work great over at Keeneland. The races 2 and 4 back were against tough customers, and she had no chance in either of those. Looks good right now. Echo (6) is one of the most consistent runners to come along for this young trainer. She tries every time out, no matter the condition or the surface. Gets a top notch grass rider in the saddle, and figures to be closing well at the end. Nice work on Nov. 17. Watch out here. I bet the 2-6 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 2-6 over/under the 10-11-7-3.

3rd: 4-7/10-9/1-11-8-3-6…Promissory Note (4) will drop another notch in the claiming ranks today to a career low level. Comes in with three nice races out of the last 4, with the only miscue coming against much, much tougher. Barn hits with .13% in the claiming ranks, and this one has speed to use. Almafuerte (7) won at this level here over a sloppy track on Nov. 9. In 4 tries over an “off track,” she has a win and a second. The last three have all been over a sloppy surface, and she has done well in each. Claimed three starts back and the new barn hits with .17% of those trying to repeat trips to the winner’s circle in these types of races. I bet the 4-7 across and then box those 2 solidly in one exacta. I key the 4-7 over/under the 10-9 in two softer versions.

4th: 10-12-(13)-2-(14)-(15)-(16)/1-7-9/11-4-6…Extremely hard to handicap these types of races, when there are so many horses on the AE List that figure to have a shot if they draw in, and the vast number of scratches that have been popping up of late. So, here’s a stab: Storm Stride (10) figures to be the top of this crop with the drop back down into the MCL class. Ran a solid third here in September at this same level for a barn that hits with .31% of those making the drop from MSW to the MCL ranks. The runner-up in that one has finished 2nd four times in a row, now. Rider is having a super meet, and it would be nice to see him go out on a high note. Change of Control (12) is 10-1 in the ML, and will make her first start for a new barn today. This one will be dropping back into the MCL ranks, as well, after being claimed at Saratoga back in the summer. Has been working well for this one, and gets a top rider in the irons. Dragon Dragon (2) will be making the career debut today, and the barn hits with .28% of the 25 horses that have started the career this year in the MCL level. The dam of this one has 3 winners from 6 starters, and the work here on Nov. 18 was spot on. Contender. I bet the 10-2 across the board and then box the 10-12-2. Keep an eye on the AE list horses that I have mentioned. Any or all of them could figure, as well.

5th: 3-10-(15)/4-8/2-7-12/1-9…Destiny Awaits (3) will drop farther down into the claiming ranks for this effort. Ran very credibly until the late going when routing for the first time last out over the slop here on Nov. 9. this will be the second start off a layup, and he may improve with the cut back in distance, too. Looks like a cull for this barn, but could be a useful claim pickup for others, and may be a value play at this price. Mine My Time (10) has hit the board in 3 of 10 previous starts and ran a solid second at this same level last time out here on Nov. 11. Had a bullet work going into that effort, and this will be the second start off a short layup. Likes to stalk and pounce, and should be close enough to make a difference today. I bet the 3-10 across the board and then box those two in one exacta. I will key the 3-10 over/under the 15 (if it draws in)-4-8 in two smaller versions.

6th: 8-5-(12)-1-7/3-4-2-9/6/11…The second grass race of the day, if the track decides to stay on the sod. Pico Entry (8) won the last time out over a soft surface at Keeneland on Oct. 5 to break the maiden. Now, moves up to face winners for the first time. Barn hits with .20% of those kind. Has worked OK since the win, and this one does have plenty of speed. Look at the race two back. First two finishers in that one are really good, and the runner-up just won. Go Away (5) has raced twice in the career to date with a win and a second. Will close late, and nearly got that job done in the last out over at Keeneland and a soft course. Barn scores well with these types, and hits with .21% of those returning for the second time off a short layup. Works good. Tough out here. Speedy Solution (1) and Dabo (7) both figure to have a big shot here. The former ran in a Stakes event last out, and held his own and the latter gets Lasix for the first time. Wide open affair here. I bet the 8-5 across the board and then key the 8-5 over/under the 1-7 in two exactas. I will box the 8-5 in another.

7th: 1-8-5/4-3-2/9-6-7…Nocturnal Mission (1) has run two very nice seconds in a row and draws a golden rail today. The rail has produced .20% winners at this 6.5-furlong distance, and the barn scores with .27% of beaten favorites. Will get the blinkers for the first time today, and the trainer hits with .12% of those. Adds up for me. Run Wrightaway (8) is 10-1 ML and may add some real value to this mix. comes in off a win and two seconds over the last three races, and the rider has had a really nice meet. Figures to stalk from the early going. Dictate Cool (5) was bet down to favoritism in her last out, and came up short. Has switched barns since that effort at Gulfstream Park in March. Working well for this return for a barn that hits with .22% off this kind of a layoff, and with .32% returning as a beaten favorite. Could be a tough one today. I bet the 1-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

8th: 9-1-11-4/5-6-3/10-8-7…I will concentrate on the top 4 numbers in this one, led by Beach Bum (9). This one is 6-1 odds in the ML, and could go up from there. I played this one hard last time out here on Nov. 1 and didn’t fire a lick as the favorite that day over a very wet and sloppy track. Was claimed by a top notch barn that day, too. Now, if he can grab a fast track, he could move way, way up for a new barn that hits with .17% on the first off a claim. New rider is very solid and have a super meet, as well. My first Key Play of the Day & Upset Special, as well. I will bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key over/under the 1-11-4. I will also key the 1 over/under the 5-6-3 in a smaller version.

9th: 3-9/12/5-6-8-11-(14)-(15)/4-10…Proud as Punch (3) will get my top nod in this MSW event, and he, too, is 6-1 odds in the ML. Has run two thirds in a row for a barn that normally does not crank them fully up to begin the career. Goes from turf to dirt, and the barn hits with .18% of those making the surface switch. This sire line, although young, does not like to throw “off track” runners. If the surface is dry and fast, this one could move way up today. Captain Von Trapp (9) will get the saddle from HOFer Steve Asmussen today. Comes in off two straight seconds and off two straight loses as a prohibitive favorite. Likely to be the betting choice again today, off those two solid runs here in September and November. They paid $290,000 for this 2YO son of Trappe Shot, but the winner of the last out race didn’t fire on Saturday here. Questionmark for me. I bet the 3-9 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I will key the 3-9 over/under the 12 in a softer version.

10th: 7-1-8/6-4/3-2…Happy Like a Fool (7) comes into this one off 7 straight races in Graded Stakes company. Has won two of those, with a second in another. Ran well in the BC Filly & Mare ?Sprint in he last out, until tiring late, at 61-1 odds. Will appreciate a lighter group today and should be the PT favorite. Mines and Magic has raced here 9 times with 3 wins, 3 seconds and a third. Has been second in each of the last two, where she could have won each with a little luck. Can’t dismiss. Sister Nation (8) ran a fast-closing third last time out at this distance, and will be making her second career start for this barn — who hits with .16% of these. Could move up today. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 7 over/under all the numbers I list in two smaller versions.

11th: 3-1-5/8-2-10-7/12-4-6…Share the Upside (3) hails from the Steve Asmussen barn, and has been training quite nicely for this try. Has hit the board in 4 of 5 lifetime tries, and comes in off two seconds and a third in the last 3 outs. May improve with a drier track today, and figures to be the one to beat. Nuclear Option (1) catches the hot rail and has won two in a row. Will move up in class and will face tougher, for sure, but is doing well right now. Tapit Wicked (5) will be making the second start off a layup, and the barn hits with .21% of those kind. Returns as a beaten favorite, too, and the trainer hits with .25% of those. Has hit the board in 5 of 7 tries at this track previously — but without a win yet. Take note. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 3 over/under the 1-5-8-2-10-7 in two smaller versions.

12th: 8-14/11-2-3-5-1/7-10-4…Whew. The. Last. Race. Of. The. Day. What a card to finish up the meet and the year, and plaudits to Racing Secretary Ben Huffman. This has been one heck of a September-October-November run for this young man, who does a tremendous job every single day to fill the races in KY. I will go with New Row (8) in this MSW event. This 2YO filly by Dominos nearly won the career debut before tiring in the final strides for a top young trainer in the Commonwealth. Figures to improve off that race, and the barn does hit with .29% of those making the second career start. Will be stretching out today for the first time, and the barn hits with .38% of those kind. Adds up to a solid pick. Bossy Bride (14) must draw in from the AE List and does have an extremely wide post, but this one comes from the barn of Todd Pletcher, and will be getting blinkers for the first time. Barn hits with .22% of those. Will be making the second route race, and the barn hits with .27% of those. And, this one caught a monster in the last out. Look for improvement out of this one today. I bet the 8-14 across the board, if the latter draws in. I will box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 8-14 over/under the 11-2-3-5-1 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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean