McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Friday, Sept. 20

Day Results10-5-2-4
2019 Overall 958958/343-333-448
Win % of Top Pick35.80%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.11%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –647 of 95867.54%
Top Selection ITM / CD 15/3050.00%
Top Selection Win / CD 10/3030.00%
“Key Horses” @ CD 2-2-0-0100.00%
“Key Horses” in 2019 167-66-34-2039.52%

Sorry about Thursday folks. I was traveling all day and was not able to post our selections for Churchill Downs yesterday. But we are back today and ready to pick up where we left off last weekend — with a couple of nice scores on both Saturday and Sunday.

Here’s our look at the Friday card:

1st: 6-2-7/4-5…Not the most exciting race to be carded at the Downs this meet, and certainly one that I would suggest bears watching and treading lightly. I will give the slight edge to Lookin At Blessing (6). Trainer attracts a top rider to take the mount again, and the duo teamed up to be 2nd last time out against cheaper at Ellis Park. Doesn’t have to beat much in this spot. Likely to be the PT favorite, and sports a 0-0-0 record in 4 tries over this track. Be careful. Bear Trappe (2) picks up a nice jockey change for this one in the first try for a new barn that hits with .25% on the first race after a claim. Didn’t run well last time out, but was steadied hard in that one and taken up. Won the time before. Look for this one to show more today. I bet the 2 — take note — to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 2 over/under the “all button.”

2nd: 3/7-4/1-2-5…My first “Key Play of the Day” will come in this spot and in the female version of the first race. Bronze Charm (3) is 2-1 in the ML and likely to be odds-on favorite by PT. But this 4YO daughter of Spring At Last figures to dominate in this spot. Drops way down the class order and won just 2 races ago against much, much tougher. Has a win over this track and gets a top rider for the assignment. My pick. I bet the 3 to win/place and then key the 3 over the numbers listed in the exacta. 

3rd: 8-2/3-6/10-4…A wide open affair for the 2YO fillies at the MCL level of $30,000. Not much to shout about in this spot, on the paperwork so far, but I will go with Bird Tycoon (8). This one is trained by Ian Wilkes for the Estate of Marylou Whitney. Drops from the MSW ranks at Saratoga to a price tag for the first time here. Trainer hits with 18% making this drop and with .11% that are stretching out to the route for the first time. Gets the son-in-law / expert rider up. My selection. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the 8-2 in one exacta. I will key the 8-2 over/under the other numbers in two smaller versions.

4th: 4-6-8/1-2-3/7-5…On paper, and IMO, I think the top 3 numbers stand out in this event. I give the slight edge to Folly (4), who drops in class and returns as a beaten favorite from last time. Barn hits with .27% of those, and with .24% of those making the 3rd start off a layup. Has not run over the dirt here, but was a nice second in the grass back in May. Gets a top rider. Drop in class is significant, and does show a single win in 2 starts over fast dirt. Should be able to adjust to the surface switch. British Invader (6) has 2 wins and a second in 3 previous runs here. Barn hits with .20% of those making the second start after a purchase. Ran well here in last, as well. Like the most recent work pattern. Has speed to make this one interesting. Cassidy Ave (8) nearly won over the grass at Arlington Park last time out. Has 2 wins in 5 tries here. Never been out for this low a price tag. Watch out. Could be a tough one. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

5th: 8-11-1/6-7-10-9/5…A totally wide open event for the MCL fillies and mares, who will travel the distance of 6 furlongs. Not much to go on here, but I will give the edge to Her Kare (8) — who cost $85,000 at a 2YO Sale last year. She has run once in the career — finishing 6th by 23 lengths here in June. Had some issues in that one, though. Bumped and bothered in the stretch, when she was still in semi-contention. Goes for a barn that has won with .24% of the 756 starters this year, so the connections know where to spot them best. And, the barn can win off a layoff, too — with a .21% win rate at this down time. Data Star (11) has not run since being at Oaklawn Park in the Spring. Now resides in a new barn, too. If she can return to the form of March 10? She is likely to air this group. Works suggest she is doing well, too. I bet the 11 — take note — across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 8-11 over/under the 1-6-7-10-9-5 in two smaller versions.

6th: 3-7/5-6-10/2-4-1…Replete (3) drops into the claiming ranks once again for the barn of Dallas Stewart. Ran well two back here when breaking the maiden. Not match up at Saratoga in the last out. Love the most recent work and the connections spent a whopping $370,000 for this one. Now being offered up for $30,000. Has enough speed to be a forward presence here. Gets the winning rider back. My pick. His Giant (7) ran a very nice 2nd at Ellis Park last time out at some nice odds. Won on debut at Churchill Downs last October. Needs to be along with the leading group, it seems, and is reunited today with Calvin Borel. Could add some price and spice to the exotics. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the 3-7 in one exacta. I will key the 3 over/under all the numbers I list in two smaller versions.

7th: 4-2/3/7-1/5-6…What a nice race has been assembled for this 7-furlong allowance event. Could easily be carded as a Stakes race. I will give the slight edge to ML favorite Line Judge (4). This one has earned the top spot by virtue of his record at CD, with 2 wins and a second in 4 tries, and his most recent race as the favorite in a Del Mar Stakes. Ran third in that one at the 1-mile distance. Has 2 wins in 3 tries at 7 furlongs and should like the cut back. Ran 5th in the G1 Bing Crosby before that one for trainer Peter Miller. Will be a tough customer to hold off late in this one. But…I have one of my favs running in this spot today, too. Dak Attack (2) will be making his second start off a layoff and he was really good in winning a conditioned allowance at Ellis Park last time out. Has returned to train very well since the win, too. Looked like he may be the real deal for the Albaugh Family Stables and trainer Dale Romans when he swept to an impressive win in the EllisPark Juvenile in 2017. Sustained a shin injury, though, and has battled on since then. When right? He’s really good. Looks right, right now, too. Like the apprentice weight assignment and the rider, too. I bet the 4 to win/place and then box the 4-2 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 4-2 over (only) the rest of the numbers in a shorter version.

8th: 7-5/12-10/4-1-(13)-2/8-(1A)-3…Comlexifier (8) ran a good one last time out when being treated with Lasix for the first time. Was runner-up to a good one in Tap It to Win It at Saratoga. Bobbled at the start of that one, too. Still rushed to the front and was able to hold on for the 2nd spot. With a better early position today, could be a tough out. Gets a hot rider — who has 6 wins in the first 12 starts to the meet. One to beat. Bigmancan (5) is 6-1 in the ML and my first “Upset Special of the Day.” May not get huge odds on this one, but I like the 2YO son of Can the Man a lot. Ran a huge second to a good one in Letmeno two back at Ellis Park. Nearly won that one and the winner came back to run very well in the Iroquois Stakes here last week. Biogmancan was stretched out and moved to the turf last time out. Didn’t like either one, it seems. Now back sprinting on the dirt. Like the work pattern. I bet the 7-5 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I will key the 7-5 over/under the 12-10-4-1-(13)-2 in two smaller versions.

9th: 3-9-8/1-1A-5/4-6-2…A very nice allowance feature for today’s card and I will give the edge to Tapit Wise (3), one of Mandy Pope’s prized possessions. Son of Tapit has only one win in 10 starts to date, but has 2 seconds and 3 thirds. Most importantly, may have caught the best field possible for this try to snare the 2nd win. Ran well in two previous tries up at Saratoga, but has only 1 third in 3 runs here. Interesting. Barn goes with a rider that it normally does not use all that much. Interesting II. Like the work pattern going in. Needs to find a way not to hang in the late running of this one. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 3 “under” the 9-8-1-1A-5-4 in another smaller version.

10th: 6-8-5/3-9/2-1-10-4…The final race on the day is a distance turf event for the MSW level. I will go with Miss Bigly (6), who is coming off three races in a row where she has had a big chance to grab the honors. Lost by a length two back. Lost by a neck last time. May be ready for the win today with a new rider up on the sod. Will be closing with an absolute rush, but will need racing room. Henley Hill (8) will get the first start here after transferring from France. Gets the Lasix for the first time and the best grass rider in the US takes the reins. Has teamed up to win 2 of 3 for this trainer in the last two weeks. Watch out at the 10-1 ML odds. My second “Upset Special of the Day.” I will also add Trish the Dish (5) to the mix, too. Rider choice is interesting, but this one has run a couple of good ones up in Minnesota recently. Barn hits with .16% of those making the first start off the layoff. But has been better since getting Lasix. I bet the 6-8 across the board, and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 6-8 over/under the 5-3-9-2-1-10 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 ...

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