McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Friday, June 8 / Bonus Coverage on Belmont Park Stakes Today

Day Results8-1-4-4
Churchill222-73-71-114
Top Pick Win %32.80%
Top Pick ITM % 139-21465%
Top 3 Picks ITM %38.70%
2018 Overall 795291-299-351
Win % of Top Pick36.60%
ITM% of Top 3 Picks39.50%

Only one winner in 8 races at Churchill Downs on Thursday’s twilight card, but we had a productive day/night thanks to our exacta plays. We had four races in a row where our top pick ran second. While I tell my lovely wife that it is not going to be good day if we run second, we were able to salvage the day and limit the damage. Actually, we had one exacta that returned $21.40 for each $1 dollar placed. So…we salvaged.

Now…

Another beautiful day in the Bluegrass, and another great Friday to spend a little time watching, wagering, wandering the beautiful grounds, sights, and horses that are all found at Churchill Downs — a national treasure and a wonderland of sports.

Here’s a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 6-3-2-4-5….A tough race begins a tough sequence of races to kick off today’s activity on the track. There is a reason that the favorites are winning less at Churchill Downs this meet than any other track in the country that has 150 race days. It’s because the competition is so tough, and comparable. This is another example. I finally settle on Jan One (6) in this spot. She was claimed last time out by Mike Maker after a near-miss second and at odds-on prices. She bumps up in class for this one, but looks to be training well for the new connections, and, perhaps, the drop from MSW to $30,000 last time was a bit too drastic. Gets an aggressive rider who has hit with .40% of his rides for this barn over the last 60 days. Pretty Owl (3) is a well-bred filly who cost $250,000 at a 2YO sale in 2016. Has never seemed to reach her potential, but will race for the barn of Steve Asmussen for the second time after being shifted over from the Bob Baffert team. Loses the blinkers for the first time ever in a race, and the new barn hits with .24% of those losing the glasses. Nice training session here on May 28. Does the light go off today? Fancy Fox (2) drops into the MC ranks for the first time, and the trainer hits with .25% of those making this move. She had a super work here on May 23, and that indicates that she may be ready to fire at this level. Top notch young trainer, who can get one ready off this kind of layup. Hits with .22% of those off the races for this long. I bet the 6-2 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

2nd: 2-4-3-5-1-6…Summer Luck (2) has always seemed to be in the “super talented” category, but she has a tendency to run second and third rather than win. Is that because the level of the competition — which has been extremely tough for much of the time? Or because she doesn’t like to get past horses late? Maybe a little of both. She is dangerous to put on top with a record of 1-5-4 in 15 starts, but should fit with these today. Princessof the Nyl (4) is 15-1 ML odds, and I love this 3YO filly. Sold for a bargain basement price at a 2017 sale I’ve never heard of before. But she strung together some impressive runs down at Oaklawn Park — where she hit the board in five straight. I think you can absolutely toss out the race here on May 13. She hopped at the start of that one and was dead last in the early going, and lost all chance in that one from the get-go. My “Upset Special.” Auntie’s the One (3) had a string of 4 straight top 3 finishes in a row snapped last time out here in the same race that my “upset special” ran in. Auntie’s ran fourth that day, beaten 9 lengths. She was tardy in the early stages and had the 5-patch around the track. Gets the meet’s top rider in the saddle for this one, and I think you can expect a much better performance today. I bet the 2-4 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the top 3 over the others in a smaller version.

3rd: 4-3-6-2…Lou’s Chardonnay (4) was my solid pick at $6.50-to-1 odds last time out, and she nearly pulled off that win, losing at the wire by a 1/2-length. She set all the fractions that day, and just tired at the end. Now, she cuts back to 5.5 furlongs, which should aim her stamina, too. Nice work here on May 5, and the trainer hits with .22% in the claiming ranks, and is having a very nice meet here. I look for this one to go gate-to-wire today. My first Best Bet of the Day. Santino (3) takes a significant drop in class for this one, and the trainer hits with .27% of his tries in the claiming ranks. Ran third against tougher last time out in the first try back on the dirt. This speedy type should like the cut back in distance, too. Sohni (6) is a horse that I have on equal footing withe my second choice. This filly has run two nice races in a row, and had some traffic issues before getting through in the last. Looks good right now and trainer hits with .20% with those making the third start off a layup. Can’t dismiss. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under all the numbers listed. I box the top 3 in a saver exacta, as well.

4th: 3-7-4-6-2-5…I key on the top two numbers in this spot. Toy Moon (3) has run two thirds in a row to start her very young career, but she has gotten off to horrible starts in both of those previous races. Gets her third different rider in her third start, and the barn goes to a veteran who knows how to get one out of the gate and into the race quickly. This one had a super nice work here on May 26. If she can flash that kind of speed immediately? Goodbye. Miss Imperial (7) will get to see the starting gate officially for the first time today. Comes from the barn of HOF trainer Steve Asmussen, who hits with .17% with those making the career debut in the MSW ranks. The sire of this one hits with .20% of first time starters. My www.brisnet.com Stat of the Day. Go to brisket.com for all your handicapping products. The best in the business. Dam of this one has two winners from two starters, as well. Nice works both a Keeneland and Churchill. Could be tough on debut. Vegas Strong Baby (4) has California-based trainer Richard Baltas listed as the trainer of this one. She will be making her career debut today, as well, and comes in with some nice works. The trainer normally does NOT fare well with first timers (.06%), but this one figures to add some value if she can figure it out quickly. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the 3-7 solidly in one exacta.

5th: 3-5-8-1-6-7-2…Cape Time (3) gets a slight edge in a “hard to figure out” event. This daughter of Cape Blanco drops from MC20 all the way down to MC10 for this one today, and the trainer scores with .40% of those that make this type of career plunge in price. Nice work over at the Churchill Downs training center on April 11, but no published works since the last run on May 13. Gets a new rider for this trip, and he has been hot. The trainer and rider have teamed p to win all three of their mounts together over the last two weeks. Blues Corner (5) ran at his level here on May 11 and spit the bit pretty early in that one. But that was at a mile distance. Today, she returns to the 6 furlong sprint and she figures to be able to carry her speed farther with that cut back. Trainer hits with .19% of those going from a route to a sprint, and .20% in the MC ranks, too. Gets the meet’s top rider aboard for the first time today. Watch out. Devious Wish (8) is a first timer for the barn of Tom Amoss. He hits with .22% of those making the debut run and .24% of those making the debut run in MC ranks. But this one is a Missouri-bred filly. Really? Missouri? I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the 3-5 over/under all the other numbers in two more smaller versions.

6th: 2-3-7-4…Emmport (2) will get the saddle today from Louisville’s own Brad Cox’s assistant, since the head man is probably in New York already getting ready to lead over KY Oaks winner Monomoy Girl for the G1 Acorn Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park. That is one great filly right there. But this filly is not too bad either, although not that kind. Emmport nearly won last time out going a mile on the grass down at the Fair Grounds. But that was on Jan. 1, and she has not been seen in the afternoons since. The barn hits with .22% off this type of layup, though, and she has been training quite nicely. Nearly won on the grass at Saratoga on debut  last August. So, she can run well fresh. My solid pick here. I Remember Mama (3) is a nice one, too, sired by the grand Ghostzapper. But she is coming off an extended layoff that is even longer than the one our top pick has. This 4YO filly has not races since closing strongly to be third here in September, in her first try against winners. She has only three career starts with a win, a second, and a third. Goes for a top young trainer, and gets the meet’s top rider aboard. Look for her to run a good one — again. Killay (7) is the 9-5 ML favorite for this race, and why not? In her first NA start here on May 4, she was dynamite — running off to a convincing 33/4-length victory to break her maiden. In 5 career starts now, she has never missed the board. She could develop into any kind, really, and it will be interesting to see how she handles winners for the first time. She is impressive, though. I bet the 2-3 across the board, in hopes of beating the 7. I box the top 3 in the exacta, though.

7th: 5-1-2-8-4-6-3…I key the top number in this spot. And, we may be able to score a nice price, to boot. Catauga County (5) is 8-1 ML odds, and he may slip a bit from there, but still should offer a square price. This one was 6-wide in the last effort, and still ran a solid third. Had traffic issues the time before that, as well. Now, drops even farther down the claiming ranks. Gets a new rider for this one and could be a tough out if he can finally get a clear and free path in the lane. Allthewrongreasons (1) drops from MC30 to MC20 for this one today. Should help. The cut back in distance may assist, as well. The trainer/jockey have combined for a 3-1-1 record in the last 7 trips over the past two weeks. Captain Cade (2) is another one that offers a solid price. Comes from a super barn operation, who is winning at a .29% clip here this meet. Stretches out for the first time, and the barn scores with .19% of those, too. Class drop could help, but this is the second trip after an extended layoff and the barn hits with .21% of those kind. I bet the 5-2 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I key the 5-2 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller versions — trying to hit a number.

8th: 5-12-10-1-8-4-2-3-7-9-11…As the long list of numbers may suggest, this is a wide open one. I will focus most of my attention on the top 4 numbers here. I really like Sapphire Jubilee (5), who is dropping out of a tough allowance venture here on May 2 all the way to $30,000 for this one. She had hit the board in the previous three tries before the last one, and she was toast after half way through that affair at some brisk running times. Gets a new rider today, who has hit with .40% for this barn over the last 60 days, and this one is trining quite nicely since the last race. This trainer hits with .21% of those making the third start off a layoff, and with .17% of those making the debut int he claiming ranks. Has the look and feel of a Mike Maker sneak attack. Looks Super (12) ran well under the guidance of Steve Margolis down at the Fair Grounds this winner. Made three starts for him and had a win and a second. Now returns to the barn of Daniel Peitz, who has a nice meet going here with limited runners. This one has been off since March, but looks to be training OK for the return. Barn hits with .13% of those returning from this type of a layup. Gets a drop in class for this one. Paddy’s Class (10) and Front Row Debbie (1) are both trained by Dale Romans, and each has a shot in this one, as well. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then I box the 5-12-1 in one exacta and the 5-12-10 in another.

9th: 2-1-9-3-4…Valiant Lady (2) is both owned and trained by a lady that knows how to do both and win races. She has a .17% win rating out of 139 starters this year, and most of them have come against tough levels of racing. This one surely looks like she fits in this spot, and had a nice training session up at Arlington Park on May 24. She could have kept this one up there to run, where she made the last start, but, instead, ships to Kentucky today for a bigger purse allotment. I like this one. Union Obsession (1) goes for the barn of Mike Maker, who drops this one all the way from $50,000 claiming to $10,000. Fire sale. Does the move wake her up, or does she simply lack the talent/desire? Good question. If she has any ability, this drop should put her closer in the hunt. Miss Leah Dee (9) is a first time starter. We don’t know much about her, at all, but the trainer hits with .21% of those debuting in the MC ranks. Worth a shot in this spot. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers.

Belmont Park Stakes Today:

3rd: 2-5-6-1-3…G3 Bed O’Roses Stakes…American Gal (2) was an impressive winner of the G1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on KY Derby Day. That was her second start off a long layoff, and she looked tremendous on the front end that day and comes back at the same distance for this one. Training well here, too, in New York. Speed was playing big on Derby Day and she loved that track. Can she carry this field the whole way today? Divine Miss Grey (5) could possibly take some gas out of the top pick, as she likes to be on or near the lead, as well. Has 3 wins and a second in her 4 races over this track. Steps up in class for this one, but she looks to have the speed to try. Lewis Bay (6) couldn’t keep up with the top choice in Kentucky, but she likes this Belmont dirt, too, with 2 wins and 2 seconds against the absolute best here. I use. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under all the numbers.

5th: 6-4-7-3-2…Tremont Stakes…Sir Truebadour (6) looked like the real deal in breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs on May 17. The son of More Than Ready ran off to a 4-length victory and didn’t show any sign of slowing down. Now, has to handle a plane ride, and a new track. But I love the way this one looks. The dam was Stakes Placed, and has 4 winners from 7 starters and 1 SW, too. Bred to run. Outshine (4) won easily on debut here for Todd Pletcher as the favorite. This one cost $625,000 as a Keeneland September Yearling, and the connections may have a runner to help recoup some of that investment. Mae Never No (7) is a filly going against colts, but that has never stopped or deterred trainer Wesley Ward. It will be interesting to see how she handles the outside post in this one, though. She broke in at the break of the debut run. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the rest.

8th: 5-8-2-3-4-1…G2 True North Stakes…Limousine Liberal (5) will be making his Belmont Park debut today in this 6.5-furlong test. He loves Churchill Downs, but now will have to take his game on the road. And, I think he can do it. He has the look of a different horse over the last few races, including the impressive closing win in the G2 Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Jose Ortiz sticks on board and he has been training super. Whitmore (8) is another shipper who has done his best running somewhere else. He has one try at Belmont Park, and that was a third in this very race a year ago. Lost then to Roy H, who went on to Breeders’ Cup fame. Had serious traffic issues in the Churchill Downs last time out. Will close. Joking (2) has not started a race since Oct. 1, 2016. Long time ago. But has a startling 6-3-0 record in 9 starts at Belmont Park. Has run well off layups before. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box with the 5-8 solidly. I key them over the rest.

9th: 5-2-6-8-9-7-3…G2 New York Stakes…Sistercharlie (5) was simply spectacular in winning the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in April for trainer Chad Brown. She was coming off a layoff from July 2017 to April, and she dusted a very talented field by a drawing off 21/4 lengths. Wow performance. This one is for real. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then key the 5 over/under all the rest in the exactas.

10th: 1-4-6-5-10-8…G2 Belmont Gold Cup…A 2-mile jaunt over the grass at Belmont. No problem. I just look for the Europeans first. Call to Mind (1) ran a solid third in a Group 2 race at York on May 18. He is a son of Galileo, and now gets HOF rider Javier Castellano. Has many tries over a distance of ground, and I don’t think the 2 mile distance will bother him at all. Likely to enjoy this spot, which is he is third try off a layoff. Funny Kid (4) is another European invader, and this one captured a Group 3 event in France his last time out. Has two wins and a tough-beat second in three starts this year. Jockey comes with this one. I bet the 1-4 across the board and then key the 1-4 over/under the rest.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

She’s matured a lot and she’s starting to grow and she has been working great. I saw her get away third and for three horses this was a tough race. There’s nothing easy about the races in California. She’s only run one bad race and that wasn’t her fault. I sent her back east when I should have kept her here for the Debutante. But hey, sometimes you call the play and it’s a fumble.”

Bob Baffert ,
  • 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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