Day Results 14 / 7-4-3
2020 Overall 492 492 / 176-163-196
Win % of Top Pick 35.77%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall 36.25%
2020 Top Pick in the Money –313-492 63.62%
Top Selection ITM / TP Winter-Sprng 180-291 61.86%
Top Selection Win / TP Winter-Spring 104-291 35.74%
“Key Horses” @ TP Winter-Spring 44-11-11-8 25.00% Win / 68.18% ITM
“Key Horses” in 2020 72-22-17-10 30.56% Win / 68.06% ITM

(We’re back. Geared up and “Andy Ready.” Let’s go racing.)

It was kind of funny typing that headline in today. “McLean’s Selectons for Churchill Downs…”

Kind of fun, too.

It has been 13 days since we last handicapped a full race card. That was Arkansas Derby Day on the First Saturday in May. It is still kind of funny typing those words together, too.

But if you never forget how to ride a bike, then I guess it is OK that we have been 13 days between sips of handicapping nectar. And, I can guarantee you that it is OK by me that we now have the greatest racing in the world back in Louisville. Back in our lives. Back to handicap and enjoy. Back to watch and wager.

So, without further adieu, here we go:

1st: (16)-(15)-12/1-10/(14)-4/6-7-9-3…Nothing like a 16-horse entry to tackle right off the bat. Right? And, guess what? The top 2 contenders, in my book of handicapping, come from the AE List and need some luck just to gain entry into the starting gate. If either the #16s or 15 draw in? I go there. If not, I will settle on the Louisiana-bred who will be facing open company in this spot. Has done that before. Has done OK at that before. But Baudette Blizzard (12) is not without some flaws, too. Will be shortening up to a distance that he didn’t not truly enjoy. While last three races were all in the money finishes, they were against other LA-breds, only. And, the barn only hits with .05% when dropping from the MSW ranks to the MCL caliber. Works coming in are deliberate. I may shop around a bit here for some odds and land on either Ugo (1) or Arch Ability (10) here. The former is dropping back to a sprint, which should help his cause. And, will drop from the MSW ranks at Oaklawn Park to the MCL level for the first time. Barn hits with .27% of those. And, this one appears to be working in the a.m. a bit better. The latter ships in from California, where he has been competitive in two of four races. Appears to want to close. One run here to start the career was OK, against much better. So? I bet the 1-10 (take note) across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. Unless the two from the AE List get in. Then, they have to figure in the mix. Good luck. Tread lightly.

2nd: 6-9-4/3-5/2-1…Diamondcoat (6) has raced 19 times over a fast dirt track. Has a tidy record of 4-1-6 for a clever barn operator, who does some of his best work over this surface. On an “off track?” One win in 5 starts. Hmmm. But this one comes into this affair with the best resume. Drops to a career low price tag. Ran a very nice third to a good one in Whoa Nellie at Ellis Park last July. Work at the Fair Grounds in early April was spot on. So, credentials. Speed. Can she carry the distance? Has a 4-0-3 mark in 11 starts at the 11/16-miles. My pick. Rahway (9) has run behind the top pick on a couple of occasions and used to have some real talent in the afternoons. Last 4 outings have been subpar. But look at the competition, too. A bit steep. Now, she drops into the lowest price tag ever and stretches back out to a route. But? In 6 starts at this distance, she is zero-for-6. At just hitting the board. I would need some better odds. Seeds of Time (4) comes in for the top team of owner Maggi Moss and trainer Tom Amoss. Drop into the claiming ranks, where the barn hits with .29%. Loves this distance and has a nice record over an “off track,” too. Must use for me. I bet the 6-4 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will also box the 6-4-3 in another. I will bet the 6-4 over/under the 9-3-5-2-1 in two smaller units.

3rd: (15)-(14)-4-3/2-11-12/(13)-9-1/10-(16)-8…Another race complicated by the fact that the top selection, and, perhaps, a “Key Play” selection, is stuck on the AE List. If the #15 — Botero (15) — draws in, then the 5YO gelded son of Medaglia d’Oro is a must play and almost a key play here, despite the awful post. Has the ability to rate. Has the ability to go late. Should be OK over the “off track,” too. Has the credentials. If not, the next best thing looks to be Nice of Me (14), another from the AE List. Has a 2nd in 3 starts over an “off track,” and comes in off a very nice 2nd in the last outing for a trainer who is much better than the .06% number this year suggests. If we revert to the main body of the race? I have to lean on He’s the Souperwon (4). In the four starts for the new barn, he has faced tougher and has still managed a win, a second and a third. Has a win and a third over an “off track.” Has some speed. And, should like the return to the traditional dirt surface. Nice of Me (4) is probably better of the two “main body” horses. But I don’t like the numbers on an “off track.” Sire has been awful with mud horses and this one doesn’t figure to handle it much better, although has speed and is dangerous. I bet the 15 if he gets in. If not, I go with the 4. Box the top 3 numbers — no matter who they are — and key the 15/4 over/under all the numbers listed in two exactas.

4th: 2-6/7-5/3-1-4…This marks the return of the great “Champ” — Monomoy Girl (2), who missed all of 2019 due to a couple of set-backs. Trainer Brad Cox is a master at what he does. This lady is an example. The 5YO daughter of Tapizar has raced 11 times in the career. She has 9 wins and 2 seconds. Should have had another win, but a horrid DQ cost her a win. She has handled the best. With relative ease, too. But…she is coming back off a long layup and catches a muddy track. Never been over that kind of surface. So? Vulnerable? Maybe. At what will certainly be a short, short price. The horse to watch here is Talk Veuve To Me (6). This 5YO daughter of Violence finally gets in the hands of solid connections. And, she has talent to burn that appears to have been left untapped to date. Could show marked improvement with these connections and does have a third in one try over a muddy track. She ran 2nd to Monomoy Girl in the G1 Acorn Stakes. Could prove to be a tough out. I bet the 2-6 to win/place and then box those two in the exacta. If you want to try to score a big one? Try to wheel the “all button” over the 2-6. But I love this “Champ.” Hard for me to look elsewhere.

5th: 7-8-11/(17)-(18)/10-12-2-(16)/1-9-(13)-(15)-4…The first grass race of the new, shortened Spring/Summer meet will have to wait for another day. Or two. Or a few. The turf races have been washed away and now will be contested over the main track. Makes this intriguing event even more intriguing and hard to figure. One should plan to use the two horses entered for the MTO, to be sure. Those are the #17 and #18. Can’t throw those two out. But I will use a threesome, too, if they stay in the fray — led by Oxide (7). This one comes from the barn of trainer Eddie Kenneally, who has wintered well down South. Has won with .18% of the first 92 runners this year, and most of that has been against heady company at Gulfstream Park. The last race over at Oaklawn was a toss for me. This one loves the lead. Has the speed. But the Maryland-bred never was able to be even close and folded up shop early. I expect a much better effort today with a sharper break from the gate. Gets a rider back that has two very nice thirds with him before, too. Beware. Could be a square price. Handy (8) is another that could pop at a price. Love the race two back when racing long over the slop at KEE last Fall. Will be coming off a long layup and that is a concern. Barn hits with only .06% of those returning from this kind of a layup. But the works are good. The breeding is good. The mud marks are good. Has speed and that’s always dangerous, too. Surprise candidate. Implication (11) could be the one to beat, if the 4YO gelded son of War Front stays in this one. Ran a super race while circling the field at Tampa in the career debut. Mud marks OK in the pedigree. Love this rider choice. Then, of course, are the two MTO horses, too. I bet the 7-11 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 17-18 in two smaller units. Spread, again, in the horizontals.

6th: 5-11-9/8-7-12/10-(16)-4-3…Another wide open affair, it would certainly seem. I will give the edge, though, to Irritator (5). And, I am going to step on the pedal here a bit, too. This 6YO gelded son of Cowtown Cat is a Florida-bred who was claimed by the connections of trainer Tom Amoss and owner Maggi Moss four starts ago. Since then, they have a win. At this same level. Over the sod at the Fair Grounds. But if you look at the “off track” record? Four starts. Three wins. And, last time on the slop? Won easily. I think the one could really step it up on the off going and has the speed to do it, too. Rider has lots of luck with this barn-owner duo. Take heed. I am. Knights Key (11) drops to an all-time lowest price tag in here today, and has a good record over an off-track, too. Last race wasn’t much, but against much better. Love this jockey change and this one will be running late. Be interesting to see how the closers are doing on Day 1. Floroplus (9) has either been first or second in the last 4 tries, and has a win over this track. On an off-track? Perfect. Two-for-two. Trainer knows here way to the winner’s circle. One to beat. I bet the 5 to win/place/show. I box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. And, then I key the 5 over/under the “all button” in two smaller units. Going all in with the 5 on this one.

7th: 5-11-1/2-12-10-(14)-3/(13)-6-8-(16)…A very nice MSW event going short for the 3YO fillies. I will give the edge to Say Moi (5), who is coming in off a nice 2nd place finish in the career debut at Gulfstream Park for HOF trainer Bill Mott. That was on March 29, and the high-priced daughter of Union Rags made a strong move at the top of the stretch. Simply 2nd best that day. The barn hits with .14% of those making the 2nd career start and the works have indicated that the bulb may have gone off a bit after running in the afternoon. The choice. But…Bernadette the Jet (11) could pose a problem. This one ran a huge second last time out in 2019. Been off since, but training well up at Fair Hill for a barn that can score off the bench. Daughter of American Pharoah cost $425,000 at the KEE September Yearling Sale in 2018. Gets a top rider up. Top. Could be a bit salty in this spot. I’ll be betting here. Golden Star Lady (1) could offer some price points to this play, too. Toss the last one. Had a tough start and never got truly untracked. Has worked very well since that debacle and has some getty-up to the early foot. This one is by Candy Ride, who can throw a runner on the “off going.” Look for this one to be a tough out at the price, with an aggressive rider in the bike. I bet the 11-1 across the board — take note — and I box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 11-1 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller units.

8th: 7-2-3/17-5-10-9/12-14-13…This is another grass race that has been converted to the main track, and we do have the scratches now for the rest of the card. Out are the 1-4-6-11-15 and 16. As a result, I can lean more heavily on Limnery (7). I liked this one going in on the grass. In 5 starts over the sod, the 4YO son of Artie Schiller had 3 seconds and a third. But the “off track” is a question. Three starts over it. One third. But the competition is lighter now, too. So? What to do? I go. One of the barn’s go-to riders takes the irons over. He won with this one to break the maiden at the Fair Grounds last year. Works are trending up. Has the speed to be close. In one start at the distance, he was 2nd. May hang a bit at the wire, but looks to be close. Hellorhighwater (2) could offer some real value here. In two starts over the off going, has a third. But broke the maiden last time out and now must face more experienced and better horses. Barn hits with .18% of those moving up to face winners for the first time. Like the breeding here. Connections paid $275,000 for him as a yearling in 2017. Looks to be training well, too. Mind the Gap (3) is my first Upset Special of the day and the meet. This 4YO son of Street Sense likes the off-going, with a second in one trip. Mud marks are very good in the pedigree. Trainer can find the circle and this one goes as a gelding for the first time. Note. Works have picked up at Fair Hill. I bet the 3-7 across the board — take note — and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 3-7 over/under all the numbers listed. I will key the 3 over/under the “all button” in two smaller units. Love the 3 here. 

9th: 6-8/9-5-4-14/3-12-11-10-13…The scratches here include the 1-2-15-16. My top pick was among that group. With the outs, I am now a bit undecided here. I will give the edge to my second Upset Special of the Day — Sacred Oath (6). It will be really interesting to see if trainer Robertson Diodoro brings his Oaklawn Park game with him. He was a terror down in Arkansas all winter. Claimed a bunch. Moved some up to win. Surprisingly. Moved some down to win. Interestingly. Moved around a bunch and won a bunch. Enters this meet with a .23% win rate in 514 races this year. Big numbers. So, if he brings that game into this meet? Could be interesting to watch. The barn claimed this one last time out. Ran a very solid second. Moves up a notch today. Works solid. Barn’s #1 rider is up. Could be a nice price. Hersh (8) drops down a couple of notches after some so-so runs against much better. Will make the 2nd start for a new barn, which hits with .10% of those making a return trip. One of Churchill’s best riders takes the reins here for the first time. Like the work pattern. Look for much more out of this one today. I bet the 6-8 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I will key the 6-8 over/under the 9-5-4-14-3-12 in two smaller units.

10th: 1-12-2/4-5/7-8-11-13/9-15…A very nice allowance event headlines today’s card. The scratches are 6-10-14-16. I will go to the rail and the daughter of Uncle Mo — Mo City (1). The 3YO does not have terrific speed and the rail can be a very tricky spot in any race — but especially at this 7-furlong distance. Will need to get away a little quicker and hold some position early. New rider will be tested for skill level here. But this one is Stakes experienced, and ran a better than looked 5th last time out in the Busher Invitational. Pedigree is there to excel over an “off track,” too. Like this one. Don’t like the rail. My third Upset Special of the Day is Gone Glimmering (12). This 3YO daughter of Tapiture has not been close in any of the last three outs. But they have been 3 stakes events in a row and look at the winners of two — Champ British Idiom and the Graded Stakes winner Finite. Wow time. The first two races of the career were both winners and she has “off track” experience, too. Love the recent works here. Rider needs to get her engaged early from the post. But she has the style to be tough late. My pick. Portrait (2) comes from the barn of Brad Cox. Enough said and written. The man has won with .25% of his 258 starters this year and he has come to own his hometown track. Ran a huge one last time out. Time before? Beaten less than 2 by Finite. Threat. I bet the 12-2 — take note — across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 12-2 over/under the 1-4-5-7-8-11-13 in two smaller units.

11th: 4-11/14-15-10/3-2-6/5-12…The final race of the day was supposed to be a 5.5-furlong sprint over the sod course. Not any more. Moved to the dirt. The scratches are the 1-8-9-13. But plenty of speed and talent remain — especially two from the barn of trainer Wesley Ward. I give that duo the edge in this spot to close out Day 1. Karak (4) looks the better of the two on paper. Coming in off a 81/2-length win in the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park over the poly. In 6 career starts, has a 3-0-1 mark. Only debacle came at Royal Ascot last summer. Looks to have the speed or stalking style it takes to be there and the dam side is OK on the “off track.” Sire? Question mark. Chili Petin (11) is the “other” Ward horse. This 3YO daughter of City Zip has plenty of zip in her step, too. Has two wins in three career starts. Only debacle came at Royal Ascot, too. Won at Kee over the fast dirt. Won at Turfway Park over the poly. Will make everyone work — including the teammate — if they can or will catch her. Rider will spark some interest in the early going. I bet the 4-11 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I will key the 4-11 over/under the 14-15-10-3-2-6 in two smaller units.

Good Luck & All the Best / Gene