McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Friday, Nov. 23

Day Results12-5-4-4
2018 Overall 1776654-635-777
Win % of Top Pick36.82%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall38.78%
Top Selection ITM / CD Nov 97-15462.99%
Top Selection Win / CD Nov 53-15434.42%
“Key Horses” @ CD Nov: 23-7-5-230.43%

It was a glorious Thanksgiving Day. Glorious sunshine. Glorious food. Glorious time with friends. Just a glorious day to celebrate all the things that we normally take for granted, and, even if it is just for a second or even a day, give back thanks to those that make it all possible and happen.

On Thursday, we had 5 winners out of 12 races over the Churchill Downs racetracks. Our top picks hit the board in 10 of 12 races. And, we scored exactas that returned $11, $34.40, $10.40, $7.60, $27.40, $31.20, and $16 for each $1 invested.

Not a bad day.

Not a bad day, at all.

A day to be thankful for and rejoice therein.

Now, we will take a look at Friday’s card:

1st: 3-6-3c/7-1-8/4-5…Jay Vee Bee (3) as run two in a row, the last one at this same level. Came with a deep rush late, but flattened out nearing the wire. Gets another 1/8th of a mile today, and that may help — but so, too, would a better start. Goes to a veteran rider to maybe try that in this case. Barn hits with .18% with 2YOs. Mr. Midtown (6) will get the blinkers for the first time and the barn hits with .16% of those getting the new equipment. Has faced some real good ones in the first three tries, and now drops into the MCL ranks for the first time. The barn hits with .23% of those making this kind of drop. Trashtalkinyankee (3C) moves up a bit in class after trying the sloppy going over at Keeneland in the last. Ran third in that one, closing late. Gets more ground here, too, and the rookie rider sides with this one after being on both. I bet the 3-entry and hope like heck both of them can hit the board. If they do, we collect twice. I will box the 3-6 in the exacta, and then key the 3-6 over the 7-1-8 in a smaller version.

2nd: 1/5-7/4-3-2…Copper Bullet (1) was one of the most talented runners I have seen in a long, long, long time a year ago. He was absolutely brilliant. No doubt. He should have won the Bashford Manor here in June and did win the G2 Saratoga Special in style. Has been off every since then. Gets a new rider today, and I — truthfully — think that is a very good thing. This one is training lights out, but this is no gimme, either. If he is ready, I would love to see him run like he did a year ago. The game could use another racing star and this one has a chance to be just that. The next Gun Runner? Maybe that is asking too much. Maybe not. My first Key Play of the Day. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under all the other numbers listed in the exactas.

3rd: 7-6-5/2-9-1/8…Karma Delight (7) will drop all the way to the $10,000 price tag today, and that’s a career low level — as far as I can tell. This 5YO gelded son of Medaglia d’Oro cost $400,000 at a 2YO Sale in 2015, and has returned $124,000 to various coffers in a spotty race career. Love the work back in September, and I can toss the last one out. If he can return to the level that he had back in the Spring? He can trounce this field at some nice odds. Mutation (6) ran at this level last time out and simply ran away from the competition from the get-go. Won by nearly 4 on Nov. 8. Now, wheels right back for a bar that hits with .14% with claiming repeaters. Gets a nice rider switch here, too. The one to beat. Coleman Rocky (5) was claimed last time out for $5,000, and now moves up the ladder. Won easily at the cheaper price, though, and the barn hits with .13% of those making the initial start for the new connections. Has won three of the last four races. Knows how to get to the wire. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 numbers over the 2-9-1 in a small version.

4th: 4-9-5/1-2-7-6-3…Istillgotit (4) will bump up the class order today after a near miss second in the last out. Won two starts back for a lesser amount, but showed he can run closer to the pace at the 7-furlong distance. Barn is red hot right now and one of the Midwest’s best gets the irons today. I put on top. So Caught Up in U (9) is 20-1 in the ML, and is one of my Upset Specials on the card today. This one is an Indiana-bred who will move out of the confines of Indy Grand to face “open company” for the first time, as far as I can see. Love the work up at Turfway Park on Nov. 17 in prep for this one and he has some class to him. I definitely use. Southsider (5) is dropping in class for a barn that is struggling this meet with a .06% win rate. Gets a top rider to take over the irons, though, and I like the 8-1 odds here, too. I bet the 4-9 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 4-9 over/under the 5-1-2-7-6-3 in two smaller versions.

5th: 6/2-7-5-8-10/1-1A-9-11-3…My second Key Play of the Day comes here with Florida Boys (6). I hate to lay a lot on this level of runner, but this 3YO son of Stormy Atlantic looks the best in here and is coming off a nice win here on Nov. 8. This trainer is having a great run of things — both at the end of Keeneland and here at CD — with these kinds of horses. And, the barn hits with .27% of those returning to try to win again in the claiming ranks. This rider may surprise you, but has hit with .24% for this barn in the last 25 rides for the trainer. Take note. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the 2-7-5-8-10 in two exactas, and then key the 6 over (only) the 1-9-11-3. 

6th: 1-10-8/9-6-12/3-4-5-11-12-7-(15)-(16)…If the 15-16 draw into the race, then I think you have to figure out how best to use them. If not, I will go with Hawt Mess (1) on top in this spot. This 2YO filly by Girolamo comes from the barn of young trainer Norm Casse. Ran second on debut in the slop over at Keeneland on Oct. 27. And, that was after a horrible start at the break. If she improves from that experience at all, and she exits the gate along the rail in a straight shot, she could be tough out. Ban hits with .23% of those making the second career start. Headland (10) will pick up a huge rider switch for this one, and the barn scores with .17% of those going from a route race to a sprint. Drops farther down the claiming ladder here today, and was second at this level three starts back. Could be tough in this spot, coming off a stalking position. First to Dance (8) will get the saddle from Ben Colebrook, who is really struggling here this meet with just .05% winners. But this one ran third in the slop last time out when getting the Lasix and the blinkers for the first time. If she improves off that last performance, she fits here. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 1 over/under the 9-6-12 in two smaller versions.

7th: 2-11-12-9/6-7-3/8-4-10…This is the first grass race on the card today, and it shapes up to be a wide open affair with a ton of possibles. Markitoff (2) catches my eye, though, dropping out of two straight tries at the G1 level. The race two back was terrific, and if he can run with that verve here, he will be tough in the late going. Will get a world class rider up in the saddle for the first time. Has a win in two tries at this distance. Dubby Dubbie (11) is 12-1 ML odds, and just loves this track. In three runs over this sod, he has 2 wins. The last out, I can toss. That was moved off the grass and to a sloppy track. He didn’t like. Go two races back and he caught a monster winner, who has returned to win here again. Vigilante (12) is 10-1 ML odds, and I think this 6YO by Tiznow has a real chance here. This one ran over a sloppy track at Keeneland in the last out, too, and ran OK. But in 4 trips over this grass course in the past, he has a record of 2-1-1. Loves it here. Could shock at a price. I bet the 2-12 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 2-12 over/under the 9-6-7-3 in two more smaller ones.

8th: 3-1-4-9/6-1A-7-8/5…Another wide open affair, and I will spread out and use at least four numbers in my horizontal plays. I will give Mineyerownmalone (3) a slight edge in my vertical (exacta, W-P-S bets). This one has hit the board in three in a row and does have 4 wins in 7 starts here at CD. Love the work here on Nov. 12, and this one looks sharp right now. Jerrid (1) won easily while going longer last time out. Was claimed out of that one and off the barn of Brad Cox. The new connections hit with only .08% of the newcomers to the barn. But this one should fit in this category and if he runs like he did last out, he may be tough to catch with the shorter distance. Drunken Fridays (4) and Hickory Hill (9) both have a shot in here, too. I will bet the 3 across the board and then box the 3-1 in one exacta. I will key the 3-1 over/under the 4-9 in two more, and then key the 3-1 over (only) the 6-7-8 in a smaller version.

9th: 9-8-1/10-7-5/4-6…Amiral (9) ran off to an easy victory over this track on Sept. 22. Came back and overcame a lot of trouble to run fourth at Keeneland on Oct. 27. The runner-up that day was Silver Dust — who has already come back to win. And, do so impressively. This one will go a route for the first time today, and the barn hits with .14% of those. Watch out here. A strong contender at a nice price. Mo’s Mojo (8) has run 8 times already, with a win and 2 seconds. The last out here was a near miss and the winner was Tiz Mischief — who is already a Graded Stakes winner. The winner two back — M G Warrior — won easily and impressively on Thursday — Thanksgiving Day. So, if he can duplicate either of those runs, it may be enough. I bet the 9-8 across the board and then box those two numbers solidly in one exacta. I will key the 9-8 over/under the 1-10-7-5 in two smaller versions.

10th: 10/3-6-5-8/10-12-2-4-7…G2 Mrs. Revere Stakes…This one is scheduled to be run over the grass course, going 11/16-miles. If it stays on the course, and I think it will, then I will make Stella di Camelot (10) my third Key Play of the Day. This 3YO, Irish-bred filly has seen plenty of soft, heavy, giving grass courses in her many runs over in France before being shifted here. In her first try in the States, she ran off to an impressive win in the Pebbles Stakes over a soft track at Belmont Park on Oct. 13 for trainer Chad Brown. Won’t get much in the odds department, but this one looks very tough in this spot. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then key the 10 over/under the 3-6-5-8. I will key the 10 over (only) the rest of the numbers listed.

11th: 3-1-5-6/4…G1 Clark Handicap…One of the toughest things to do in racing is win the same G1 Stakes race in back-to-back years. Damn near impossible. But that is exactly what I think will happen today when trainer Dallas Stewart saddles Seeking the Soul (3) for today’s G1 Clark Handicap. Many handicappers around the country have cried that this race has turned up really light and should not be a G1 event. I think they are wrong. I think it is one helluva a nice crowd for this time of the year. Seeking the Soul has run 5 times this year, with a win and two seconds. His run in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile to City of Light may have been one of the best performances by any horse this year. And, he won the G3 Ack Ack here for fun in September. Love the recent work and I think John Velasquez fits him perfectly. Watch out here. Prime Attraction (1) may not be Accelerate — who was dominant in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic here back on the first Saturday in November — but this 5YO son of Unbridled’s Song ain’t bad. He has run up against Accelerate four times this year — without much success, mind you. But he ran second to him in the G2 San Pasqual in February, and third to him in the G1 Pacific Classic in August. If he can run the same race he ran — while making all the lead — in the G2 Fayette last time out, he may be real tough. I don’t think this one wants the lead, necessarily. But I think he can lay close. If he can stalk the pace, he may be real tough in this spot. Leofric (5) is highly underrated — like many from the Brad Cox barn are. If his horse was in the barn of Bob Baffert, he would be getting touted all the way from Coast to Coast. This guy has hit the boar in 11 of 13 races lifetime. He has a 4-1-1 record in 6 starts this year. He is coming in off a really nice win in the Fayette, which proved his grit and grind, He is very good. Period. And, then there is Bravazo (6) — maybe the grittiest and most gutty colt in the world today. He has not missed a single dance all year. And, his second to the great Justify in the Preakness Stakes was one of the best races of the year. Bar none. Looks like a pretty good G1 to me. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then I will key the 3 over/under the 1-5-6-4 in the exactas. I will box the 3-5 solidly in another.

12th: 7-8-6-9/1-3-5…New Colosssus (7) began this year as one of the most highly touted sons of Curlin in the entire U.S. of A. There were no secrets. The connections thought this one was going to be a terror. Going into this race, he is still a maiden after 5 starts. Has 2 seconds and 2 thirds. Today the day? Maybe. But it won’t be easy, either. Presidential Tweet (8) ran a deceivingly good second at Keeneland on Oct. 18 for a barn that normally gives them a race or two to crank themselves up to race fit. Expect this one to run much better today. I bet the 7-8 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 7-8 over/under the 6-9 in two smaller versions.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

First off, thanks to the owner and Kelly for the opportunity to ride such a nice horse,” said Toledo. “He gave me everything he had. I think he needed the couple of races off the layoff. Kelly did a great job to get him ready for this race, and we got the job done.”

From Jevian Toledo, rider of the winner Diversidero, Rider of the winner Diversidero
  • 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