McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 11

Day Results9/3-2-5
2019 Overall 660660/239-240-326
Win % of Top Pick36.21%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall40.66%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –453 of 66068.64%
Top Selection ITM / CD 53-8363.86%
Top Selection Win / CD 25-8330.12%
“Key Horses” @ CD 14-5-3-235.71%
“Key Horses” in 2019 129-52-26-1540.31%
Upset Special of the Day/ CD 5-0-0-00.00%

Three winners out of the nine races carded under the Twin Spires on Friday. Two modest exactas. Not a thriving day at the oval. But Saturday promises to be a good one. Let’s hope that the skies stay clear, and the track remains a bit dry for today’s festivities.

Here’s a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 1/3-5/4-2…The first race of the day is a nice allowance/optional claimers with a field of 5 good ones. Four of the five entered have been in Graded Stakes company at one time in their respective careers. I will go will a heavy lean towards Wilbo (1), who is coming off a second in a nice allowance down at Oaklawn Park on April 20. Has run two seconds in a  row. Three starts back, he was soundly beaten by Mitole — who may be the best horse in training today. In 7 starts over this track, Wilbo has a 4-1-1 record, and gets a rider off to a solid start here this meet, and ready to warm up to his standards. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and key the 1 over/under the rest of the numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 5-2/3-1/4-6…Drop Dead Gorgeous (5) ran fourth at Oaklawn Park on April 12, and the winer of that one has already come right back to win the next out, as well. Ran second three starts ago, and cost $75,000 as a 2YO In-Training last year. Trainer has a win and a third in just two starts this meet, but sends them to the gate ready. Equips this one with blinkers for the first time today. Hasn’t had much luck with the shades, but does win with .16% of those dropping from MSW to the claiming ranks for the first time. Love the work here on April 30. Looks primed. Miss Darley (2) drops into the high-end MCL ranks for the first time off a 5th place finish at Oaklawn Park in March. Should benefit from that exercise, and could be a factor late in the going here if improved. She did run third to Eskimo Kisses last year, and cost $100,000 to purchase as a yearling. A chance.  I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the 5-2 in one exacta. I key the 5 over the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

3rd: 5-6/4/8-2-7…Trainer Peter Miller has moved much of his Southern California band of merry runners to Kentucky this Spring, and this one should be a prime contender in this claiming event. Barn has only a second and a third in the first 10 starts here this meet, but this one figures prominently. Has been running against tougher on the West Coast, and drops into the claiming ranks for the first time since breaking the maiden in January 2018. Gets the attention of a top rider in the saddle. Murika (6) was claimed last time out at Oaklawn Park by a top barn operation, which has won .28% of the last 125 runners to make the gate. Barn hits with .31% of those making the first start after a purchase, and the rider has been hot all spring in Arkansas. This one had an extremely wide trip last time out at this same level. But hit the board in the previous 3 tries. Look for more today. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the 5-6 in the exacta. I will key the 5-6 over/under the 8. Also will key the 5-6 over the 8-2-7 in a smaller version.

4th: 5-1/3-7/2-6-4…Lady Cleopatra (5) is a 5YO Pioneerof the Nile mare that trainer Tom Amoss picked out of a claiming race last year. Paid immediate dividends with two wins in a row down at the Fair Grounds this winter. Moved way up in class for the last trying, and that didn’t fare too well. Now, this speedball drops back down to the claiming ranks where she has fared well. Has 8 wins to the resume, and gets a talented rider who has booted her home once already. Have to catch her with a clean break. Aife (1) is a name that spell check loves to hate. Converts it to “life” every, single, daggum time. But this 5YO daughter of Paddy O’Prado has put up a 3-5-4 resume in 16 lifetime starts and has a win and a third in just 3 tries here. Drops in class, and finished just a 1/2-length behind our top pick three starts ago. Chance. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the 5-1 in one exacta. I will key the 5-1 over/under the 3-7 in a smaller one.

5th: 1-3-2/4/8-5-6…W. B. Smudge (1) has raced 7 times over this track and has only 1 win. But does have 4 seconds and a third, to boot. Ran poorly last time out, but that was against much, much, much tougher and had some trouble in the race, as well. Jockey selection is a bit worrisome. Has not hit the board in 13 tries this meet to date. But before the last race, this one had hit the board in three in a row. Likely to be close at the wire. Griff (3) will be making his first start at Churchill Downs today, but has been very steady over a fast main track. in 26 starts to date, he has a 6-6-2 mark over the fast dirt. Coming off a nice second to Fifth Title, a solid runner. Like the rider choice here. Will be coming late. Watch out. Overcame (2) goes for a young lady who just went out on her own. Former assistant to Buff Bradley, and a top young horse lady. Hoping the best for her with this one. Be fun to see her win one at CD. I bet the 3 (take note) to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the 4 in a smaller version.

6th: 4-3-5/7/2-8-1…The first grass race of the day is scheduled to go off at 3:18 p.m. ET — a couple of hours before the rains hit. So, this one should stay on the sod. If so, I will give the slight edge to One Last Strike (4). This son of Smart Strike has a win and 2 seconds in 6 grass starts to date, and is coming off a 4th at KEE in the first start of the year. If he can improve off that effort, he will be mighty tough against this lot, dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. Barn hits with .16% of those kind. Broke the maiden over this course last year. Top rider up. Adds up for me. Wetumka (3) has not won since 2017, when breaking the maiden at Ellis Park. Has been close in the last two outs, but must pick it up today. Crupi’s Pizza Dom (5) could spice up the odds rack here, just a bit. Ran very well last time out and the winner of that one came right back to win the next time out. In 3 lifetime tries, has a win and two thirds. Gets a top rider and is 8-1 in the ML? I’ll take that. Upset Special of the Day. I will wager: the 4-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 7 in a smaller two versions.

7th: 11-10-8/5-3-7-1-9…Pow (11), a 3YO son of Curlin and a Calumet Farm homebred, will be dropping from a $75,000 price tag to a $20,000 level today for the barn of Dale Romans. This one ran 6th to Country House — the Kentucky Derby winner — just three starts ago. Never been closer than 41/4-lengths of the winner at the wire, but never been at this level before, either. Dam of this one is a Stakes winer and has 1 winner from 5 starters. Disappointment to date. Cliff’s Place (10) is a first-time gelding after being claimed two races ago. The barn hits with .28% of those making the second career start with the new connections. Drops considerably for this race, and the barn hits with .31% of those making this type of class plunge. Has a third in three previous races. One to beat. Daddy’s On Strike (8) has run third twice over the turf. Son of Scat Daddy tries the dirt for the first time. Could move up on the new surface. I bet the 11-10 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. 

8th: 2-11/5-9-3-7/6-8…Doll Collection (2) is a 3YO daughter of Tapit, and, just as importantly, the dam Groupie Doll. The fabulous race mare was amazing on the racetrack for trainer Buff Bradley. Sold for millions to Mandy Pope. As a broodmare, she has had 2 starters and is still looking for the first winner. This filly ran third on debut at Keeneland. Was checked into the turn that day, but still managed to kick home and finish. Gets a little extra ground today, and that could help. Academy Gal (11) ran third on debut at Oaklawn Park on March 30. Came running strong at the end of that one to lost by only a length. Had to shift out in that one, as well. Home bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro for owners Gary and Mary West. Remember them? I bet the 2-11 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I will key the 2-11 over the 5-9-3-7 in a smaller version.

9th: 4-9/1-7-8-10/2-3…Solomini (4) never really had a chance from the get-go in the G3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland in the last start. Was blocked at the start and had to alter course several times throughout the body of that race. Lost all chance early on. Ran up against a good one in Bourbon Resolution in there, too. Won the start before that and was a close third in the race three back. In 9 starts over fast dirt surface, he has a 1-3-3 mark. Close a lot. Only 1 win is troublesome. Will be over bet today for sure, but love the rider choice. Red hot jock. Paladar  (9) comes into this one off two wins in a row, and is the hot horse right now for the barn of Richard Baltas. This 4YO gelded on of Street Cry is all speed. Needs a clean break. But if he gets loose on the front end? Watch out. Like the rider choice here. Off to a great start at Churchill Downs. I bet the 9 (take note) to win/place/show and then box the 9-4 in one exacta. I will key the 9-4 over the 1-7-8-10 in a lesser version. Be sure to include the 10. Could be a surprise lurking here. Toss the last two over the off track.

10th: 9-12-5/7-11-1-10/8-4-2…Mamzelle Stakes…What a nice feature event on the Saturday card. Stakes event contested at the 5-furlong distance over the sod. Goes at 5:26 p.m. ET — which may be about the time the rains descend on the Metro area. Keep an eye out. I go with one of the three Wesley Ward horses — Abyssinian (9). This 3YO Cairo Prince filly ran third against the colts in the Palisades Turf Sprint. Caught the undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner in that one (Bulletin lost on opening night at Churchill Downs as the 1-9 favorite). This gal is all speed. May get lost on the front today. Play On (12) faltered in her last out in a Stakes event at KEE. Ran close and then faded. Bumped at the start of that one and wide. Gets reunited with her former rider — who won three in a row with her before. Look for more today. Chelsea Cloisters (5) is another Ward pupil, and she ran third in the same Stakes event as Play On in the last out. That was her first try of 2019, and she should improve condition-wise off that effort. Ran second to Bulletin in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint over his track last Fall. But in 7 career starts has only 1 win. Four seconds and a third. I play under. I bet the 9-12 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

11th: 10-11-8/3-4-6-5-7/1-2…Violent Lady (10) has run two seconds in row to start the career, and that comes for a barn that normally takes its’ time and gets them race fit after a time or two around the oval. Ran both of those over an “off track.” May be wet again by post time today, and has experience in that area. Gets a huge rider switch today. Could find the winner’s circle today. Ava’s Charm (11) is a first time starter for the barn of Bob Baffert. This one cost $230,000 to purchase, and has been training lights out at Santa Anita. Interesting rider choice here. He is strong in the saddle, and is fresh coming off an injury. They could make a solid team today. High Road (8) gets the blinkers for the first time today, and should be a lot closer at the wire with the cut-back off the route today, as well. Rider who booted this one to a second two races ago gets the return to the saddle. Barn has 4 wins out of the last 9 starters. Beware here. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 10-11 over the 8-3-4-6-5-7 in a smaller version, as well.

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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