McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Friday, Sept. 14

Day Results10-6-3-3
2018 Overall 1381513-504-615
Win % of Top Pick37.15%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.39%

Another great day to finish the KY Downs meet. We had six winners in the 10 races, and hit six exactas that returned $17.40, $14.90, $12.40, $11.80, $56.80, $8.00, $25,40 for each $1 bet.

Now, we will try to carry that momentum on to Churchill Downs — which begins today at 12:45 p.m. today. Let’s get it going.

1st: 3-7-6-8-1.. Silver Soiree (3) has raced 10 times to date, and has 2 seconds and 2 thirds. Comes right back at the same level as the last time out, when bothered at the start in that one. Gets a huge rider swamp for this one and is definitely the horse to beat. Connie Ann (7) showed nice speed when running on the grass in the debut at Ellis Park on Aug. 17. Now, this filly drops into the claiming ranks for the first time and the trainer hits with .33% of those kind. The runner-up in the last race has already come right to win. If she can carry her speed farther today, she will be tough. Mine Mine Mine (6) drops down a rung in the claiming game today for a trainer that certainly knows how to win. This Mineshaft filly has been off since late June, but has been close enough in some of the previous 6 races to give some hope here. Obviously, not a sure fire thing today, but the work on Aug. 20 at Keeneland gives one some hope, too. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 in the exacta. I key the top 2 over/under the 6-8-1 in two more.

2nd: 7-2-1-4-3-5-2…Harlan Strong (7) is an Argentina-bred colt who is being dropped out of three straight Stakes events into this spot today. If you go back to the last time he was placed in an allowance race, the Harlan’s Holiday colt ran off to an impressive front-end win at Keeneland in April. The last time at Churchill, he ran second in the G3 Louisville Handicap. In 3 races over this surface, he has a win and a second. Solid pick. Zulu Alpha (2) appears to be really good right now, considering the last two races which both could have been wins. The race against Synchrony at the Fair Grounds in March was a super good one. The winner of that is a G1 type. Can’t dismiss. Applicator (1) comes from the barn of Brad Cox, and was claimed last time out. Trainer hits with .29% of those making the barn debut. The new connections bought this one for $80,000 so they must like this 5YO gelding as a racehorse. Beware. I bet the 7-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the 7 over/under the 2-1-4-3 in two more.

3rd: 1-1A-8-2-5-4-3-7…Both parts of the entry are really contenders in this high-end claimer for a top-notch trainer. But since the barn named the same rider on both parts of the entry, so one is likely to be scratched. I like Line Judge (1) just a bit more, even though he will be stretching out to a mile distance for the first time since April. He has a nice 2-0-1 record in 4 starts at this route, and he does drop out of a Stakes event for this one. Love the works her at Churchill Downs over the last month. Could be ready to pop with a top rider in the irons. Secret House (1A) was claimed two races back and this barn hits with .34% of those making the second start for the barn. Ran a bit too fast last time out and spit the bit going longer. Should like this distance much better. Rich Daddy (8) has not been close in each of the last two tries, but drops significantly in class today. If you go back to December, this one showed a lot of class. Had 8 races in a row where he hit the board. If he can return to that form, he should be tough in this spot. Like the work on Sept. 7. I bet the 1 across the board and then box the 1-8 in a solid exacta. I key the 1-8 over/under the 2-5-4 in two more.

4th: 9-10-1-8-3-7-6…This is a wide open affair with many that have a legit argument as to why they can/should win. I will go with Tres Equis (9), since he will be dropping back in class after an aggressive try at Saratoga. Love the race he had here back in May. If he can rediscover that run, he can be tough at this level. One Fine Ride (10) didn’t like the grass a little bit in his last try, and first for this barn. Now, he will get back to the dirt today, and he does have a win over this surface against much better back in June. If he can find that front-end speed today, he may be tough to catch with a huge rider swing here. Hickory Hill (1) is another who was moved to the grass last time out, and that didn’t work, either. He gets back to the dirt for this one and he really ran a huge one at Ellis Park on Aug. 5. Has a second here in two tries, and figures with this bunch for sure. Trainer scores with .18% of those making the third start off a layoff. I bet the 9-10 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. 

5th: 2-(1A)-5-8-10-1-7-6…I will focus my betting strategy on the top 3, but will include the 1A if he moves into the body of the race. If not, I lean on Ecru (2) in this spot. This 3YO gelded son of Congrats comes from a Stakes-placed mare who has a turn winner from 4 starters. This one has run two solid seconds in a row and those came after two thirds in a row. Looks to be tough at this spot today for a trainer who hits with .26% of those running for the third time off a layup. Courage and Honor (5) didn’t like the hills and dales of KY Downs last time out, but if you go two back, he was beaten just a nose at the wire at Ellis Park the time before. Ran huge closing late in that one. Love the work here on Aug. 18. Gets a top CD rider in the saddle, and that’s a plus. Somebody’s Beau (8) is yet another who didn’t like KY Downs going or company in the last out. But the three races before — including two in a row over this sod — were impressive. If he can reclaim that form, he could prove to be a tough out late. Likes to run at the wire. I bet the 2-5 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

6th: 5-6-7-1-2-3-8…I will focus on the top two here, led by Saracosa (5). This 3YO daughter of Bernardini was super impressive in running off to a near 9-length win to break the maiden at Ellis Park last time out. Has never missed the board in the first four, and really looks like she can move up to face winners with success. The trainer hits with .20% of those trying the next level up after breaking the maiden. Nice work on Sept. 7. All signs. Clever Serve (6) is a more experienced type and she will get the services of the #1 rider for the Steve Asmussen barn. The rider/trainer have teamed up to win with .21% of their last 78 races together. This one won two back and got nipped a nose in the last try and does sport 3 wins already on the resume. Could be tough in the late going. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 solidly in the exacta. I key the top 2 numbers over the rest in one more smaller version.

7th: 1-11-7-8-2-3-6-10-9…Another wide open race here, and the top four numbers all have legit arguments for running well in this spot. I will go with Ballard High (1), a 3YO Flat Out colt who has been shipped in from the barn of Linda Rice. She is one of the top trainers in NY, and must have a reason for sending this one South. Training very well at Belmont Park and has a 1-3-1 record for the first 7 races. Ran off to win by 6 to break the maiden at Laurel in May. Ready? Trainer hits with .24% of those coming back off this long a layup. Full of Run (11) comes out of the Asmussen barn and is another who will get Ricardo Santana, Jr. in the saddle. The rider has had a good year, winning at an .18% clip in 742 races. This one has not been close in awhile, but should appreciate this class drop. Dig Charlie Dig (7) is dropping in class, too, and My Eminence (8) has a 1-7-4 record in 20 starts. Both of these love to run in the money, yet not win. Smart thing is to key them both underneath. I bet the 1 across the board and then box the 1-11 in one exacta. I will key the 1-11 over the 7-8-2-3 in another smaller version.

8th: (13)-1-12-11-9-7-6-3-4…If the #13 draws in, I think you have to use today. If not, I will zero in on the first two numbers, led by Drinking Dixie (1). Our great friend and top trainer Tom Amoss has this 2YO filly looking and training very well these days and she may be a gift at 9-2 ML odds. Don’t be misled by the finish in the debut run. That was in the slop, and the runner-up that day has already come back to win. This one went very, very wide in that inaugural running and gets a huge ride switch for this one. Our Best Bet of the Day. Martian (12) will be making her fourth start, but will be equipped with blinkers for the first time. The barn hits with .35% of those getting the shades for the first time, and this one does sport a bullet work on Sept. 6. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the 1-12 solidly in the exacta. I key the 1-12 over the 11-9-7 in a smaller version.

9th: 6-5-1-3-4-7-9-8-2…Even though Dak Attack (3) has been scratched from this featured event today (and we were really looking forward to seeing that one return to the races), this is a stellar field that has the look and feel of a Stakes event. I will go solidly behind Kowboy Karma (6) and Principe Guilherme (5) in this spot. The former is coming off a near win in the Ellis Park Derby. Closed well that day to finish runner-up behind stablemate Believe in Royalty (who is a talent, in his own right). This one has 2 wins and 4 seconds in 8 starts and has faced some really good ones. Look forward to another strong finish today. The latter of the two is a pure talent, who has 2 wins and a second in 4 starts. Ran off in each of the first two races to easy, impressive wins. Finished second to Instilled Regard (4th in this year’s KY Derby) in the G3 Lecomte Stakes. Something must have happened to this one in the G2 Risen Star. Never fired and has been away from the races since. Looking forward to seeing this one back in action. I bet the 6-5 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I key the 6-5 over the 4-7 in another smaller version.

10th: 5-6-2-10-4-7-12…A wide open affair finishes the card today, and I may be prone to skip this one and concentrate on Saturday’s super card. If I must, though, I will focus on the top 3 numbers in this one — led by Artegon (5). Drops all the way to the basement for the first time today and the trainer does know how to win with droppers. He hits with .38% of those making the plunge down 2 class levels or more. My solid pick. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

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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