McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 18 / Bonus Coverage of Preakness Stakes

Day Results9/2-2-4
2019 Overall 698698/250-250-339
Win % of Top Pick35.82%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall40.26%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –474 of 69867.91%
Top Selection ITM / CD 74-12161.16%
Top Selection Win / CD 36-12129.75%
“Key Horses” @ CD 25-9-4-436.00%
“Key Horses” in 2019 140-56-27-1740.00%
Upset Special of the Day/ CD 6-0-0-00

We struggled home on Friday with a couple of wins over the 9-race card. Won the first race. Again. Won the last race. Again. In-between? Not so much.

But we are looking to improve, and we hope that we have a really good Preakness Stakes play in our hand today, as well.

So, let’s get started:

Churchill Downs:

1st: 4/5-3/7-6…The first Key Play of the Day comes in the first race of the day — which we have won on each of the last two days. Today, we are going to single Don’teatmycookies (4), who comes from the barn of Keith Desormeaux. This 4YO filly by Alternation has not raced since late January, and has never raced outside of California. But she has been training nicely down at San Luis Rey Training Center near Del Mar and looks to be fit and ready for the first Midwest try today. Has speed to burn. Has a win and a second at the distance. Drops to a career low level. Gets a solid rider. Adds up for me. I bet the 4 to win/place and then key the 4 over/under the rest of the numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 7-3-1/2-5/6-4…Sir Navigator (7) will be making his second start in 15 months today, but I really like the way this 7YO gelding has bounced back. Ran a very nice 3rd in the return bout. Has trained very well since — evidenced by the move at the Churchill Downs Training Center on May 11. And, the barn hits with .21% of them making the second start off a layup. Fits with this company well. Like. Midwest Justice (3) has been tabbed with a 6-1 ML odds, and ran second in a small Stakes event out West on April 2. Has a win over this track last Fall. Is all speed. Trainer has a win and a third in just 4 starts this meet. Meet’s top rider takes the reins. Fits here, too. Bolita Boyz (1) drops into the claiming ranks for the first time since he ran a nice second at Belmont Park last September. Has a 5-5-5 record in 26 starts at this distance. Veteran campaigner worked good here on May 11. Rider is very familiar with this one. My concern is that the Oaklawn Park shippers have not gotten off to a great start here, so far. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 7 over/under the 2/5 in two smaller versions.

3rd: 5/6-4-2/7-1…My second Key Play of the Day comes right here with Sweet Diane (5). Won’t get any odds, I don’t think, but this gal stands out on paper. Just ran third to Street Band in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks. The runner-up in that one just came back to win, impressively, too. In 5 career starts, she has a 1-2-2 record and three of those races have been in Stakes company. No other horse in this race matches up with that record or level of competition. Young rider won another on Friday. Likes to stalk and pounce. Be nice to see her win this one today and get some confidence back. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key the 5 over/under the other numbers listed.

4th: 11-8/1A-6-2/4-3-10/1…The Kid in Syd (11) catches the outside gate, but this one is dropping to an all-time low price tag in her and does have 3 thirds in the first 8 starts. The work here on May 2 was solid enough. Likes to come late, and will need to get motivated a little earlier. If James Graham is feeling better today (out on Friday with an ankle injury), then this one could be a handful at a nice 6-1 ML odds. Another possible longshot here is Run This Town (8) — who will make the first  start for a nice barn operation. Trainer has won with .25% of the last 385 starters. Hits with .24% of the newcomers to the barn. Puts blinkers on for the first time today, and the barn scores with .20% of those getting the shades. Like the work here on May 10. I can toss the last race. Broke through the gate before the race and then rushed up when the racing was truly on. Bad trip. I expect more today. Upset Special of the Day. I will bet the 11-8 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I will key the 11-8 over/under the 1A-6-2-4-3.

5th: 7-3/6-1/2-5-4/8…Ike Walker (7) comes from the barn of Steve Asmussen, who is on an absolute tear here this meet. In the first 35 starts, he has a record of 9-3-4. Won another on Friday. He claimed this one last time out for $25,000 on April 13 at KEE. Wheels back today at the same price level. Can toss the last start. Leapt at the start of that one and lost all chance. With a clean break, he should be right up close. Good rider switch here to a newcomer to the jockey colony. Doing well here, too. Italian Charm (3) was claimed last time out, as well. Wheels back at the same level for a trainer that is winning with .28% in the first start off a claim purchase. Gets a rider back that won with this one three starts back at the Fair Grounds. Like the last work on May 7. Shot here. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-3 in one exacta. I will key the 7-3 over/under the 6-1 in two smaller versions.

6th: 9-5-6-8/10-1-2/3-7-(14)…This is the first grass race of the day, and, by the looks of things, is a wide open affair. It is for me — to a certain extent. I really like Gamblin Train (9), in this spot. But the 3YO Bullet Train filly — trained by my great friend Buff Bradley — is not a single and fits with the other top contenders. Still, this will be my second and strongest Upset Special of the Day. She is 10-1 in the ML and is coming off four straight races where she has hit the board. Has been in the money 5 of the last 6 tries. Look at the race two back at the Fair Grounds. Ran a rapid closing third in a Stakes event that included Belles the One. That one ran in the G1 Ashland Stakes, and has come back to win since that effort. I really like the 9 here. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key the 9 over/under the 5-6-8. I will key the 9 over (only) the 10-1-2-3.

7th: 10/3-6-9/4-2-7-8…My next Key Play of the Day is Spirogyra (10) — who will be making his career debut in a MCL event for $50,000. Says a little about this horse’s ability that he has demonstrated in the a.m. Says more about the respect for the barn operation, which hits with .20% of those debuting in the MCL ranks. Says a tad more about the dam of this one — who has produced 2 winners from 2 starters. But says a lot about the other horses in this race. Has a poor, outside post position and the sire has produced only .05% first time winners. Still, this one looks the part and has the right field to contest. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then key the 10 over/under the 3-6-9-4-2-7-8.

8th: 6-2/3-7/8-9-1…This 7-furlong contest is for $30,000 claimers. But not just any group of $30,000 claimers. There’s some horses in here that used to tear it up in the Stakes ranks — including the 5YO J Boys Echo (1) — who ran 15th in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. I will give the slight edge to Weiland (6) — who is listed as  15-1 in the ML odds. Thus? Upset Special of the Day, Part III. This 3YO colt has won 2 of 3 races here at Churchill Downs and has been competitive in recent outs. Like the work at Arlington Park on May 12. Comes here for this try, instead of staying in Chicago. May be ready for a score. Bourbon Country (2) ran 4th in the last outing at KEE on April 26, but was beaten less than 2 as the post time favorite. Barn hits with .23% of those returning as a beaten favorite. If he improves off that exercise at all, this second start off the layoff could be a good one. Barn hits with .16% of those, too. I bet the 6-2 across the board and then box those 2 in one exacta. I will key the 6-2 over/under the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

9th: 3-4/1/2-6…G3 Louisville Stakes…I will give the edge to Soglio (3) in this spot. Ran 10th and beaten badly in the G2 Elkhorn in the last out, but that was over a funky, yielding surface and it was the second try off a layup. Now, the 5YO gelded son of Scat Daddy will catch a firm surface and the barn hits with .20% of those getting the 3rd start off a layup. Before the last out, he had hit the board in 8 of the previous 9 tries. Has a win in only effort over this course, too. My choice. Shahroze (4) won a G3 event at Woodbine to end the 2018 year last June. Came back in April, off a 9-month layoff, and ran a huge second to Nessy, another competitor in here. If he can improve off the last start, he figures to stalk and pounce late. Like the choice of riders today, as well. Barn hits with .14% of Stakes winners. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 numbers in the exacta. I will key those 2 over/under the 1-2-6 in two smaller versions.

10th: 1-8/4-6-7/5-2…Another claiming event, this time for $40,000, and I will go to the rail and Indigo Yankee (1). This 4YO son of Midshipman is a homebred for Marylou Whitney Stables and is trained by a top conditioner in Ian Wilkes. Has not run since last August, when he was 5th in a grass experiment. Didn’t fare well. Now returns and the works have been nice — especially the one here on April 27. Has a win over this track and has a win and a second in three races at this distance. If ready, he fires. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the 1-8 in the exacta. I will key the 1-8 over/under the 4-6-7 in two smaller versions.

11th: 2-(15)/8-6/5-9-11/4-13…The last race of the day is a MSW event over the grass and it will also be my last Key Play of the Day — Maybe. If the #15 does NOT draw into the field from the AE List, then I will key Call to Victory (2). This 3YO Jimmy Creed filly ran a bang-up third over the grass at Gulfstream Park in the last outing on April 13. Lost by less than 2 and was moved up to second when bumped in the late going. That interaction could have cost this one a chance at the win. Had a very nice work at KEE on May 14. Looks primed and ready to go. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 under/over the 8-6-5-9-11-4-13. If the #15 draws in, then things change a bit. I still be the 2, but then box the 2-15 in the exacta and key the two of them over/under the top 4 other numbers.

Preakness Stakes:

Bourbon War (2) has been a favorite of mine since early this winter, when I saw him split horses and win an allowance race at Gulfstream Park for trainer Mark Hennig. He looked impressive. He looked like a horse maturing. He looked like a horse on the rise. Came back to run a bang-up second to Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth. Florida Derby just didn’t set up for him, at all, and he had traffic issues for much of that race. He missed the KY Derby because he didn’t have the necessary points to make the 20-horse field. Has trained like a bear and a bull since the Florida Derby. Hennig now equips the colt with some small cup blinkers for the first time. I think he is ready to take the next step up and join the elite in this 3YO crop. Love the 12-1 ML odds, too. My Upset Special of the Day — Stakes Division. I play the (2) to win/place/show. Key in all the horizontal bets. And, then key over/under War of Will (1), Improbable (4), Win Win, Win (13), Alwaysmining (7),  Anothertwistafate (12), Owendale (5), and Laughing Fox (11).

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

(Comments to Come Shortly)

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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