McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Friday, June 29

Day Results8-5-1-2
Churchill335-115-115-163
Top Pick Win %34.30%
Top Pick ITM % 218-32766.70%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks at CD38.30%
2018 Overall 924340-347-407
Win % of Top Pick36.80%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.50%

Five winners out of 8 races on Thursday, and it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and Churchill Downs has planned a super card for today and Saturday to wrap up this spectacular Spring/Summer Race Meeting. Have yourself some fun and take in some live racing action before the traveling show moves down the road. Churchill Downs is primed for a celebration the last couple of days.

1st: 1-4-6-2-3…What What What (1) is something my grandson Ford got used to saying back about Christmas time, and it was hilarious for an old grand pops. But this one certainly figures to be a factor in this spot, or, at the least, on paper. She is being dropped considerably off an easy win, and the trainer is having a super meet here with .38% winners. He hits with .50% winners on repeaters in the claiming ranks and with .18% of those that win the last time out. One may have to question why the drop after such a convincing win, but this barn puts them in spots to win. Ritzy Lass (4) will get a slight drop today after being shipped back to KY from Belmont Park by the Team Asmussen. Ran OK last time out before tiring late. Was claimed just three starts back by the trainer himself, and may be looking to win one on the lead today. Can’t dismiss for the top spot. Katie the Cutie (6) is another class dropper, but the interesting thing here is that the trainer hits with .43% of those returning to the races for the first time after being beaten as the favorite. Trainer has 2 seconds in just 4 starts here this meet, and may sneak part of this one today. I bet the 1-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 1-2-3-4-6-7…A wide open affair here, and I will key on the top 3 numbers. I go right back to the rail, which has been golden at this distance all meet (.22% winners). One Fine Ride (1) has the speed to move out of the gap and hold a nice running position, and won the last time out while coming from a nice stalking position at a distance similar. Has only 2 thirds to show for 6 previous starts at 7 furlongs, though, and that is alarming. This one is a bit of a head case, too. Likes to duck and weave at the start, which led to a disqualification the last time out and had similar issues three back. Can run, when he runs straight. Meet’s leading rider gets up today. News Box (2) won two races back to break the maiden and ran OK while facing winners for the first time last out. The runner-up in that race is a lifetime runner-up, but does have some class. This one should fit very nicely with this class drop today. Doctor Lee (3) is another dropping in class today. This will be the gelding’s second start for the new trainer, and he hits with .33% of those making the barn’s second appearance. Had a very wide trip last time out, but could be handy with a rail-hugger like the jockey prefers. I bet the 1-2 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

3rd: 1-4-6-5-7-3…How about a third straight “Ace” on top to start the day? Once again, I go to the rail for my top pick, with Sugar Included (1). The trainer hits with .22% of those making the second start off a layoff, and this one really mean well at this level last time out. The winner of that race has already come back to win again. Rider having a nice meet and this one looks well suited here. La Fee Verte (4) is a well-bred filly getting dropped back into the claiming ranks today. If you have a spare $40,000 laying around, this one could be a nice claim prospect. Throw out the last start — when she was in tight and checked hard at the start — and this one certainly fits with these. The previous two runs, when against claimers, she performed admirably with two second place finishes. Rider choice is interesting, but this one fits here. Claire’s Kitty (6) is another that could be a nice claim pickup for someone. This daughter of Ghostzapper ran two straight thirds before a fourth while stretching out around two turns for the first time ever last time out. Now, she backs up to a flat mile again, and that should fit her better. Very nice work before the last race could have taken a bit of starch out of her for that one. Can’t dismiss. I bet the 1-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

4th: 4-5-2-3-8-7-9-10-1…A wide open affair, once again, which makes for a nice betting scenario — if you can find the winner. I will go with a first time starter from the barn of Steve Asmussen — who looks like a sure winner to wrap up the Trainer’s Title for this Spring/Summer Meet. Merada (4) is a daughter of the highly regarded stallion Speightstown, and has been training lights out at both Keeneland and Churchill Downs. Sire hits with .16% of those making the debut run. Kristizar (5) is a stablemate of the top choice, and has been working alongside her teammate for much of the Spring. Rider selection is interesting, but this one has popped some speed over at Keeneland in preps for this one. Capable. Lady T N T (2) is a first timer for the barn of Joe Sharp, who has 6 winners in 29 starts this meet. This one cost $335,000 at a 2YO Sale earlier this year, and that was the top price for an off-spring of this sire at that venue. Must have impressed. Dam has 8 winners from 10 starters and 1 SW so far. I bet 4-5 across the board and then box the top 3 choices in the exacta.

5th: 6-7-1-1A-5-3-4-2…Krampus (6) is a horse that we touted last time out, and despite the awful, wide trip, he did close very late to only get beat by less than 2 lengths. Has run against some real good ones in the last two, and should fit in this spot nicely today. Great, great rider switch to the meet’s top jockey, and with a clear run could be salty at the end of this one. Vigilante (7) is another from the barn of Asmussen, and this one has won each of the last two tries. Will step up in class today, but looks really good right now and has two wins and a second in just three runs over this course. Look out. The entry of both Kitten’s Karma (1) and Creative Courage (1A) have a shot in this one. The former is coming off an extended layup, but the trainer can win with these types returning to the afternoon action. Nice work on June 23 and is a deep, deep closer stretching out to the longest distance of his life today. The latter won three starts back and has been beaten just two lengths in each of the last two tries. Another one stretching out today, and the son-in-law jockey has been on fire for this barn — what with 3-1-1 record in the last 9 starts over the past two weeks. Alert. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under all the numbers listed in one exacta. I team the 6-1 up in another exacta box, at a smaller rate.

6th: 1-6-10-11-4-3-7-8-9…I will key on the top two numbers in this sequence, led by another rail horse in National Pride (1). This one gets a top rider up for the first time today after he was claimed last time out by a master claiming trainer. Trainer hits with .17% of those making the barn debut and with .24% of those running in these ranks. Both the winner and the show horse in the last race have already returned to be winners. This one’s turn? Like the work on June 23. Makes me think, yes. Got Gold (6) is a 3YO from he barn of Brad Cox, and this one will get a significant drop in class for his second career start. Ran 5th in the debut run, but was bumped and bothered at the start of that one. This one may want to go two turns, which he will get today. Jockey and trainer have teamed up to win 2 of the last 3 and have won at a .29% clip over the last 24 mounts together. Bodie Tap (10) gets a nice drop in class and the trainer does well with this type of plunge. Has been facing much tougher in the past, like Preakness show horse Tenfold — four races back. The previous race he hooked the freakish sprinter Mitole. Should like this class much better. I bet the 1 to win/place show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

7th: 3-6-4-2-1-5…Nice race here with well-bunched group. I go with Triple Dog Dare (3), a 3YO from the Cox barn, on top. This one won easily last time out for MC $30,000, and now must face winners for the first time. But the barn hits with .29% of those returning to face tougher, and with .32% in the claiming ranks overall. Solid work on June 17 indicates this one is ready for the challenge. Dreamer’s Point (6) could offer some value to the mix, with 6-1 ML odds installed. This one has not been close in the last four — but has been running against much, much tougher. Last fall, he really loved this track and he does show a nice work at Keeneland on June 26. I take a shot. Long on Luck (4) is another getting a nice class drop for this one. Trainer having a super year (.29% winners), and this one won over this track last May. I also use Teletap (2), a son of Tapit who finally broke his maiden in race #15 last time out. Light bulb moment? I bet the 3-6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I also box the 3-6-2 in another one.

8th: 10-5-11-3-1-7-8-4-6-9…Once again, I will focus on the top two numbers in this grouping. Princesse Rafaela (10) gets an unlucky draw to the far outside in this 6-furlong sprint for 2YO fillies, but she does appear to have the speed and class to get away from the gate quickly and get to a good running temperature early. She nearly won at odds-on favorite in the first start here on June. 1. Beaten just a head in that one while making the lead late. Has returned to work OK since the start and is certainly the one to beat. But highly competitive field, and I think trainer Buff Bradley has a talented filly that could give the top choice a real run for her money today. Somewhere (5) is a Quality Road filly who cost $260,000 as a Keeneland September Yearling, and she was right on the top one’s heels early in that previous start. Tired late in that one, but turned in a spectacular work here on June 24 — which we noted in our Works Report. Take note. This barn could hit with a good one here. Saved at Dawn (11) is a first timer who is stuck far on the outside. Sometimes that is not all bad for those making the debut. This one has been training lights out over at Keeneland and may push the pace early on. I bet the 10-5 across the board and then box the top 2 numbers in one exacta solidly. I key the 10-5 over the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

9th: 7-10-4-5-11-12-6-8-1-3-2…Again, I focus on the top 2 in here. Hot Springs (7) was a top tout for us last time out when he won easily at odds of $7.60-to-$1. He was our “Upset Special” that day, and he comes right back to face winners for the first time and we think he can do it again. This one was annihilated in the career debut at the Fair Grounds back in March. Ran like a demon last time out. And, we are looking for the same. Best Bet of the Day for us. First Spring (10) has never been worse than second in his career to date, which spans four races. Broke the maiden here last time out on May 19. Did all the work on the lead that day and now shortens up to a mile for the race against winners. They will have to catch this one to be successful. Bantu (4) is a winner of two races already and has an addition 3 seconds. More experienced than the top two, obviously, and has some nice run to him from well off the pace. Will need clear running late, but has a punch. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under the 10-4-5-11. I key the 7 over the 12-6-8 in a smaller version. And, then I key the 7 over the 1-3-2 in a lesser amount. Love the 7 here.

10th: 8-6-5-7-3-4…Another race where I key two horses. This time the top one is Princess Warrior (8), who comes into this affair with 4-1 ML odds. She has been running against a lot of Graded Stakes company (5 of them) in the last several races. She has three races in a row where she has not been close, but I like the way that she has run here in the past and the thought that she will stretch out to two turns once again — where she has done her best running. A top rider gets the call. I am looking for much better in the spot today. Bo Peep (6) has faced Graded Stakes company in the last three starts, as well, and now gets back to allowance rivals. Like the work here on June 19, and this one could be the one to beat at some nice odds, as well. Good Creation (5) has hit the board in 3 of 4 lifetime tries and comes in off two thirds in a row over this track. Could make it three in a row. I bet the 8-6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. 

11th: 4-3-12-5-8-6-9-2…Valycove (4) is a 3YO Lemon Drop Kid gelding, who got the ultimate equipment change after his last race, and only one to date. Since the operation, he has come back to work super — which may be an indication of good things to come in the afternoon. The trainer will add Lasix for the first time today, as well, and the combination could be a good thing for this runner. Thunder Moss (3) will get his first start of his career for Mike Maker today. The barn hits with .16% of those making the barn switch for the first time. This one has trained very nicely for the debut, especially over at Keeneland on June 14. Like the race two back when got to the grass for the first time, and the last two have both been very wide trips. Needs a better route today, and gets a hot rider to do it. Yondering (12) is another form the barn of Ian Wilkes, and another who got an “equipment change” since the last race, and will run as a gelding for the first time. Well bred gelding will get back to the grass, where he performed very nicely here last September. May wake up a bit today. I bet the 4-3 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest in a smaller version.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

This was a steppingstone and that’s all we needed. He’ll come back good. We wanted to run a good race. I don’t think the fans and everybody else could have had a better finish from the two horses they thought were going to run like they expected.

“Bolt hadn’t run in a while. I had one three-quarter work in him; this wasn’t the race we were looking forward to. We’re looking forward to the Santa Anita Derby (April 7) and then that next race that I won’t mention yet (Kentucky Derby May 5).”

Asked is this was the best he ever felt in defeat: “Oh, yes. Coming into this race, (he dragged them)

from the receiving barn to the paddock. In the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Nov. 4), his head came down a little bit, he didn’t have as much life. The horse is good right now. Hopefully, we’re moving forward and he’ll be at his best in a couple months. This horse has the heart of a lion. Nine weeks ago he was undergoing a nuclear scan and here we are today. Just being within a nose of Baffert, I’m happy.

“I wasn’t even thinking about the inquiry the whole time. I was just so proud of Bolt, and if he got moved up, he did. This wasn’t the race we were really pointing for. We want to go to the Santa Anita Derby, but getting moved up is awesome; we’ve got enough (Kentucky Derby qualifying) points (50).”

Mick Ruis, Bolt D'Oro Owner/Trainer, Winner San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita
  • 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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