McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 15 — Stephen Foster Night

Day Results9-0-3-4
2019 Overall 862862/314-303-409
Win % of Top Pick36.43%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.68%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –588 of 86268.21%
Top Selection ITM / CD 190-28666.43%
Top Selection Win / CD 104-28636.36%
“Key Horses” @ CD 43-14-11-632.56%
“Key Horses” in 2019 158-61-34-1938.61%

We took the “duck” on Friday. Nine racers. Zero winners. Momma said there would be days like this.

We had a very nice run over the past c0uple of weeks, but Friday was not a good day. Zero winners. So we ought to be due on Saturday, right? That’s the way we think.

Here’s a closer look at the Saturday card:

1st: 11/5-3-(13)/4-12/2-9-1A-8…The firsts race of the day and the first Key Play of the Day with a couple of “1s” — the eleven. And, this one will qualify as our first Upset Play of the Day, as well. World (11) will have to break from the outside in this 5.5-furlong sprint test over the grass course, but it may not bother this 3YO son of Orb. At all. If you go back to his earlier races, he showed a ton of speed on the dirt last year. And, he did it against the likes of Knicks Go and Everfast — a couple of good ones. Knicks Go went on to win the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Everfast just ran second in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. World, on the other hand, will be making his 2019 debut tonight. Has been training forwardly for this try, and gets the barn’s go-to rider up. Barn has a 20-18-19 mark in 116 races so far this meet. Might tack on another one right here. I bet the 11 to win/place/show and then key the 11 over/under all the numbers listed in the exactas.

2nd: 1/3-4-9-10/8/5-11…The second race and the second Key Play of the Day. This one is a little more conventional. Private Message (1) breaks from the rail in her third start this year and third start of her career. She has run second in the previous two outs, but last time she was beaten 14 lengths by Guarana. If you don’t recognize that name? Take a look at the G1 Acorn replay last Saturday at Belmont Park. In her second career start, she rolled past KY Oaks winner Serengeti Empress to win the G1 in NY. If this filly runs back to her last two starts, she will be a tough out here. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under the numbers listed in the exactas.

3rd: 6-2-8/1/4-5-7-3…Mr. Crow (6) ran a huge one to be 4th in the Aristides Stakes here on June 1. Got off to a slow start, strangely enough, that day. Normally breaks close to the front. Hung on to make a game of it at the end, losing by only 2 lengths in the Stakes event. Gets a top gate rider up tonight, and Corey Lanerie is on a roll right now, too. Watch out here. Barn hits with .12% of those making the third start off a layup, even though ice cold this meet (.05% winners in 19 starters here so far). Loose On the Town (2) made his first start of the year here on May 4. Ran 4th that day after bobbling at the start. Barn hits with .14% on the second start off a layup, and this one has trained well since the race. Gets Javier Castellano in the saddle tonight. Has a win at this distance. Control Stake (8) has faced some tough ones in the past — like Whitmore three races back. Has 12 career starts here — with only one win to date. But does have 7 seconds over this main track. So? Use him under, right? I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 6 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller versions.

4th: 7-3/5-9/2-1…The second turf race of the night, and here’s hoping that the rains stay away and allow for all the events to take place over good and fast tracks. This one will be contested at 11/18 miles and will feature Bridaled Temper (7), IMO. This 4YO War Front filly ran 6th last time out on May 25 here. But that was her first start since December and she was extremely wide and run into the 7 path at the quarter pole. Gets a new rider tonight, and the best grass jockey on the grounds. Look for more out of this one at some decent odds. Napier (3) has raced only twice to date, and has a win and a 4th. Ran here on May 1 and tired mightily after setting the pace fractions. Gets her second start off the long layoff tonight, and the barn hits with .16% of those. Look for more out of this one tonight, too. I bet the 7-3 across the board and then box these two in the exacta. I will key the 7-3 over/under the 5-9 in two more and just over (only) the 2-1 in another.

5th: 6-2/3-1/4…G3 Matt Winn Stakes…The first of 5 straight Graded Stakes events and this one figures to be fun, entertaining and very interesting. The 11/16-mile event is for the 3YO colts, and will include the very impressive Mr. Money (6) — who was dominant in winning the G3 Pat Day Mile by nearly 6 lengths on this year’s KY Derby Day card. This one has tremendous talent and figured to be the barn’s top contender for the KY Derby this year, until he got sick a couple of times earlier this year. Finally came around just in time for the Pat Day. Has trained super that impressive victory, too. The one to beat, for sure. Signalman (2) figured to be a top contender on this Spring’s Triple Crown Trail, too. But he ran off the board in the G2 Fountain of Youth and was third in the G2 Blue Grass. Didn’t have the necessary points to make the Derby, and then was a bit disappointing in running 9th in the G1 Preakness behind War of Will. Has a 1-1-1 record here, though, and did win the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club over this strip in the slop last Fall. On his best day? He can contend here. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the 6-2 in one exacta. I will key the 6 over/under the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

6th: 12-9-7/3-(15)-14/6-4-10-11…G2 Wise Dan Stakes…This is a 11/16-mile test over the grass course and I will go to the outside, which is not the idea post for this route of ground. But I just love Admission Office (12) in this spot. Last time out, this one ran second to the very talented Catholic Boy in the G2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico. The race before, he won going a mile at KEE. This 4YO son of Point of Entry has a deep kick, and looks to be at the top of his game right now. Love the 5-1 ML odds, and the rider selection. Hot right now. Inspector Lynley (9) always seems to give a solid effort, and does have a second in one previous run over this course. That was second in this same event a year ago, when he lost to Mr. Misunderstood by less than a 1/2 length, and the winner just excels over this track. This one has solid form on both firm and “good” sod. I use. Itsinthepost (7) has run in 10 straight Graded Stakes events that are G2 or higher. Has hit the board in 7 of them. All — but one — was on the West Coast. The one that was East of the Mississippi was a nice third in the G2 Elkhorn Stakes at KEE on April 21 of 2018. Has not run since last August. Concern. But working well and this one has won off the bench before. I have to  use. I bet the 12 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the 12 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller versions.

7th: 5-2-3/4-1-6…G2 Fleur de Lis Handicap…This is a short field, but, oh, the quality. May be one of the best races for older fillies and mares in the world right now. I will go with Blue Prize (5). This one will be making her second start of the year after running third behind She’s a Julie (2) in the G1 La Troianne Stakes here on KY Oaks Day. In 7 starts over this track, Blue Prize has a 3-2-1 mark and normally runs much, much better in the second try off a layup than the first. Works since the May 3 race have been solid. And…Get this…Goes to HOF rider Javier Castellano tonight. Huge jock change. Look for this one to be motoring late. She’s a Julie (2) is a talent and has won 2 in a row and 3 of the last 4. She has a perfect stalking style and has 3 wins and a second in 5 tries over this main track. Never has won at this distance, though. Concern. Elate (3) is the 8-5 ML favorite and just may run them all off their feet. She has won over $1.5 million in her career and has a third and a second this year behind the world’s best older mare right now in Midnight Bisou. I am a bit concerned that this one has not won since July 14 of last year. Had only one win last year and zero so far this year. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key the 5 over/under the numbers listed.

8th: 4/6-9-12-1-7-3/5-10…G2 Stephen Foster Stakes…If this race is a Grade 2, then I am a jet plane. The Graded Stakes Committee needs to start over and put this race where it certainly belongs — at the very top of U.S. racing. This year’s version may be the absolute best ever. Talent from top to bottom will compete for this $600,000 purse. I will go with Seeking the Soul (4). This 6YO is one of the last of the true War Horses. In 26 career starts to date, he has a record of 6-6-7. He has earned nearly $3 million in purses. And, he loves it here. In 11 races over this track, he has a 3-2-4 record. Love to see him get back to the run he showed in the G3 Ack Ack here last September — when he won impressively. He is working lights out right now, too. Obviously, you have to like Gift Box (6). He is coming off a near-miss second in the Santa Anita Gold Cup to Vino Rosso. In the last 8 races, he has not been worse than second, with 3 wins in that mix, too. Joel Rosario comes in to ride. Tough. Tom’s d’Etat (9) ran a huge second to McKinzie in the G2 Alysheba Stakes here on May 3. McKinzie came right back to run a huge one at Belmont Park last Saturday — and should have been a winner with a better trip. I def use this one. Yoshida (12) has won over $2.1 million for trainer Bill Mott. Has won a G1 on both turf and dirt. Not many can make that claim. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and key the 4 over/under all the numbers listed in the exactas.

9th: 1-4-10/11-5-7/2-8…G3 Regret Stakes…Yet another Graded Stakes event on the card, and this one will be for the 3YO fillies going 11/8-miles over the sod. I will go to the rail and with Winter Sunset (1). She was definitely compromised in the G3 Edgewood Stakes last time out, when she got off to an awkward start and found herself in last. Normally, she is either right on or very close to the lead. Showed a lot of courage to continue on and run 3rd after that beginning last time out. I look for much more with a clean break today. Stretch out in distance should be no issue with this pedigree. Varenka (4) could be a tough out, even though she just broke her maiden last time out. Despite that oddity, she has two seconds in Stakes company, too, including a runner-up spot in the G2 Ms. Grillo last September. Has run over a yielding track very well, too. The one to beat, IMO. Gamblin Train (10) scored at odds of nearly 11-1 last time out as our Upset Special of the Day. This one could prove to be a shocker here, too. Loves to close late. And, has hit the board in each of the last 5 outs. Don’t dismiss this one. Just don’t. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 1 over/under all the numbers in two smaller versions.

10th: Who Knows. G1 President of the United Arab Emirates Cup Arabian Stakes…This is a Non-betting event for me…I admit, up front, I don’t know much about how to handicap this breed, but after Friday, I might want to take it up, right? But if you must have a number here, then I go with Quick and Rich (9). Ran poorly in this event last year. Was in the 4 path early on in that one and couldn’t muster much of a competitive run. Gets Corey Lanerie up tonight, and the man is in a zone right now. Paddys Day (8) may be a tough out, too, though. In 8 tries at this distance, this one has a 4-3-1 mark and ran third in this event last year. Has not run since last August, but has run well fresh before. Just saying…

11th: 11-12-9/5-8-(13)/3-10-7/6-2…The last event of the night is a MCL sprint at the 6-furlong distance. I go to the far outside in this wide, wide, wide open affair for my top two picks. I will go with Cadron Flats (11). This 3YO son of Flat Out was claimed in the debut run here on May 1. Winner that day has come right back to win again. Barn hits with .14% on the first start after the purchase, and with .17% of those getting blinkers for the first time. Look out. Thundershook (12) may be using this race as a tune-up for a two-turn race down the road, but ran a nice third to Mr. Money here last year; and was third to Everfast and World at Ellis Park last August, too. Has faced some real good ones. Game Day Decision (9) drops farther down the claiming ranks for this one. Ran a closing 4th last time out. Would not be a surprise. I bet the 11-12 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 11-12 over/under the 5-8-3-10-7 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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