McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Friday, Sept. 28

Day Results6-1-1-1
2018 Overall 1457540-530-637
Win % of Top Pick37.10%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.10%
Top Selection ITM / CD: 53-7669.74%
Top Selection Win / CD: 27-7635.53%

After winning the first race on the card Thursday evening, we went into the tank again. But there was a saving grace — sort of. Due to the fact that the turf races were washed off the sod, there was only 6 races on our list. So we managed to scrap out a 1-for-6 day at the ball yard.

I feel a momentum switch coming today, though. A great weekend of racing ahead and we are already cranking it up for one of the “Super Saturday’s” of the Year. Huge races dot the schedule at Churchill Downs, Belmont Park and Santa Anita — all with implications for the Breeders’ Cup.

Excitement is in the air, and not rain. Thank goodness.

Here’s a closer look at today’s card at Churchill:

1st: 4-2-3-1…Alito (4) has raced at Churchill Downs six times in his career to date, and has two wins and two seconds to show on the resume. Should improve a bit returning to the dirt, where he is best suited, even though he only lost by a head at KY Downs in the last out. This one has hit the board in the last six outs, and has two wins in that mix. But he has three seconds and each of those were close enough to give him a shot at the wire. Trainer is having a cold year, but the rider is red hot — with a 8-2-4 record over the last 26 mounts. Top pick. Nominal Dollars (2) will get the saddle from Mike Maker, who had a terrific meet at KY Downs. Not so much here, so far. This one he claimed two starts back and the trainer hits with .21% of those making the second start for the barn after the purchase. Was beaten as the favorite last time out, and the trainer shifts this one back to the dirt today — and should like that. Going into the last out, he had four straight seconds. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under the other three numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 8-6-5-1/4-2-7-9…A wide open affair here, and little separates the top 4 numbers in my opinion. I will go to the outside and a first time starter for my selection — Storm Stride (8). This 2YO Shackleford filly sold for $50,000 earlier this year, but does sport some very strong works for a trainer who hits with only .05% of first timers. The dam has 6 winners from 6 starters, though, and this one picks up a solid rider for the debut. Like the 10-1 ML odds. Shacklette (6) is another daughter of Shackleford, but this one has been out four times already. Really picked it up last time out when dropped into the MCL ranks for the first time. If she can duplicate that effort, she will be tough to beat in this spot. Arch Avenue (5) and Headland (1) both could warrant some attention and respect in this one. The latter ran well at a $30,000 tag last time out, but moves up today. I bet the 8-6 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I key the 8-6 over/under the 1-5 in another.

3rd: 6-5/1-2-3-4…A nice race right here, and I will give a slight edge to Annathela (6) in this spot. Especially at the 5-1 odds line. Gets a good rider back in the saddle today, after trying a very nice group in a Stakes event here last time out. In 9 races over this track to date, she has a 3-4-1 record. Loves it here, and seems to be working very well of late. Trainer hits with .10% coming off this type of layup, but looks ready. Treble (5) is another who has raced in Stakes company, and this one has been trying the Graded ranks, as well. Ran second to Miss Kentucky in the G3 Winning Colors here back in the Spring and does have 2 seconds in 3 starts here to date. Love the work over at the Churchill Downs training center on Aug. 4, and the last out at Saratoga was no disgrace. Could kick home late in this one. Nineteenth Street (1) has been on my “Horses to Watch” list for some time. Didn’t care for either the all-weather or the Stakes company in the last out, but before that she had three straight nice races and two wins. I can toss the last. Our top choice beat this one four races back, though. I bet the 6-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

4th: 7/1-3-9/5-4…My first key play of the day comes here with Drop Kick (7), who gets a definite “dot” (Must Play for Me) in this one. My first “Best Bet of the Day.” The 3YO colt has raced three times here so far with a win and a second. Was beaten as the favorite last time out, and now gets a nice class drop. Had a nice second here back in June against much, much tougher. Anything close to that race, and he will be tough to hold off late. Love the rider selected here. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under the 1-3-9. I will key the 7 over (only) the 5-4.

5th: 3-2-5/10-9/4-8…Flight Risk (3) is the ML favorite, and figures to be the PT favorite when time comes around to load them in the gate. This one drops way down the pecking order for this try, and the trainer hits with .31% of those making this type of class plunge. Won three races back to break the maiden, and the winner of the race two back came right back to win again. Was beaten as the favorite last time out, and the barn hits with .32% of those, as well. Solid. Al Tawel (2) is another making a significant class drop. This trainer hits with .23% of those dropping this far. Never got into the race last time out, but was very competitive against much better the two previous tries. I look for a rebound, especially off the last work on Sept. 16. Worth another look. Trading Cash (5) ran well here three back. Goes from the turf to the dirt, and this barn hits with .20% of those kind. Picks up a nice rider switch, and this guy nearly won with the one three back. Improvement. I bet the 3-5 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

6th: 5/4-1A-2-1/8-6…Smile More (5) gets my second “dot” of the day and is another single for me in this spot. The trainer just returned to the barn after a brief hiatus, and has two seconds in three starts here this meet. Picked this horse up after a third and second against much tougher up at Saratoga. This will be the first route of the career, but the breeding suggests that she should relish the extra distance. The dam of this one is a Stakes winner, and this one could be ready for a nice score today. Second “Best Bet of the Day.” I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then key the 5 over/under the 4-1A-2-1. I key the 5 over (only) the 8-6.

7th: 2-1/4-3-7/6-8…I will focus on the top 2 numbers in this sequence, led by California Swing (2). This 4YO Malibu Moon gelding has raced this distance 6 times with a 1-1-2 record to show for the efforts. But this will be the first start for a new trainer, who purchased last time out. Barn hits with .21% on first try after the claim, and with .19% of those stretching out from a sprint to a route. Trainer is having a super year and a great meet. Three winners in 8 starts so far in September. Plus, this one is a first time gelding. My shot. Shareholder Value (1) is getting the saddle from a new trainer, too. This barn hits with .18% of those making the first start after the claim. This one won easily last time out, but moves up in class and loses a condition after the last out. Like the recent works, and this one appears sharp right now. I bet the 2-1 across the board and then box them solidly in one exacta. I key the 2-1 over the 4-3-7 in a smaller version.

8th: 7-8/5-3-6-10/1-2-4-9…I will focus on the top two numbers in this group, as well. Wild Medagliad’oro (7) is a well-bred home-bred of Live Oak and trained by Mark Casse, who is beginning to warm up after a very cold summer. This one has two seconds on the resume so far in two starts, and was the beaten favorite last time out. But look who this one nipped the first time out. The show horse has turned out to be a freak, and if this one can duplicate that run? Watch the heck out today. Mr. Money (8) had some real issues last time out and was moved up to second place. That would be his second straight second, as well. Love the work pattern and this one certainly appears to have some gas in the early going. Trainer hits with .15% of those going a route for the first time. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under the 8-5-3-6-10. Love the 7 here.

9th: 9/1-10-8-7-4/3-5…Another key play for me comes here with Kearny County (9). This one has been spot on the last four races, with a win and three seconds. Easily could have had some other wins in that group, too, with a little luck. Likes to rally from the back, and will need some racing room, but the rider is hot and the trainer knows how to get them ready. Tough combo. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key over/under the 1-10-8-7-4 in the exacta.

10th: 6-9-8/7-3/1-4-10-5…I spread out in today’s finale. Super Bound (6) hails from the Brad Cox barn, and that immediately gives him credibility. Drops significantly in class, too, and that has to help. Barn hits with .31% of those dropping this far, and with .32% of those returning as a beaten favorite. Adds up. Gambler’s Choice (9) gets a big drop, as well. Ran two nice thirds against tougher, but gets some help with the class relief today. Meet’s leading rider — who is red hot right now — gets the saddle back. Watch out. Inca Chief (8) drops from a straight MSW class to the MCL level at $10,000 price tag. Goes from turf to dirt, where the trainer hits with .23%. Last work on Sept. 14 was nice. A chance. I bet the 6-9 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

He warmed up good, got away from there good. We were going fast and I eased into the three-path going into the first turn and all of a sudden he wanted to go straight. I didn’t make the turn, I had a steering malfunction for whatever reason. I just don’t know, but he was lugging out with me the entire trip and I had both hands on the inside rein, literally, trying to hold him in. I was breaking his momentum and he was fighting me and I was just trying to keep him on track but wasn’t really able to accomplish that. I can’t explain why. He was sound after the race, pulled up good, but he was mad.

Gary Stevens, Rider of Risen Star winner Bravazo, who ran 8th in the Louisiana Derby
  • 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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