McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Saturday, Nov. 17

Day Results10-3-3-6
2018 Overall 1736638-619-761
Win % of Top Pick36.75%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall38.75%
Top Selection ITM / CD Nov 68-11459.65%
Top Selection Win / CD Nov 37-11432.46%
“Key Horses” @ CD Nov: 19-5-4-126.32%

It was a good Friday, for so many reasons. Had over 200 of my closest friends and allies at the First Annual Kentucky Alcohol Summit at the Churchill Downs’ Starting Gate Suite. And, it was amazing. Truly.

The speakers were great. The facility and accommodations were beyond great. The attendance and participation was fantastic. And, our special guests — Dale Romans and Steve Buttleman (the bugler) — were entertaining, fun, and, well, special.

And, then after all that, we hit for 3 nice winners and 7 Exacta plays that returned $14.30, $17.30, $24,30, $33.50, $113.70, $27.50 and $30.10 — for each $1 played.

Now, my friends, that is a darn good day. I don’t care who you are.

So, we are going to try to duplicate that today. Here’s a closer look:

1st: 4-1/2/5-6…Imma Bling (4) is the ML favorite, and he has a right to be. Came off a long layoff of about 7 months and ran a near-winning race at Indy Grand last time out. Tired late to lose by a length. Gets the same rider back today, and threw a bullet work at them on Nov. 2. If he improves at all, he will be tough here. Has a 3-3-3 records in 15 starts at this distance, and a second in only previous try over this dirt. Dan the Go to Man (1) is coming off two nice runs in a row and is really good right now. In 4 starts over this track, he has a win and a second. Ran up against Big Changes on the grass at Indy in June and that one is in the Stakes event today. Would not be shocked to see him run another good one in here today. Hard to Be Good (2) has run the last 4 times up at Indy, as well. Has speed, but has struggled to find a way to finish races. Will get a top hand in the saddle today, though, and that may help him immensely. Like the odds to spice up the rack a bit. I bet the 4-1 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 4-1 over/under the 2-5-6 in two smaller versions.

2nd: 4-2-6/7/5-1…Evening Tide (4) won the last time out and has now found her way to the winner’s circle in two of the last three. Won here on One 10 to break the maiden, and will move up to face tougher in this spot today. Has the ability to compete here, though, for a trainer who is hot right now. Barn scores with .18% of those trying to win back-to-back races, and this one is out of a Stakes-winning dam, as well. Love the work at Skylight on Nov. 12. Roll Tide. Diamondcoat (2) was claimed two starts back, and ran well to finish third last time out at Keeneland. Tired very late in that one to run third, and the runner-up in that race has already come back to win. In 7 starts at this distance, has 2 wins and 2 thirds, and gets a huge rider switch today. La Fee Verte (6) has not run well in either of the last two outs, but the last one was in the slop over at Keeneland and against some real good ones. Gets the drop in class today and could be a threat if she can return to the way she was up at Saratoga this summer. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the #7 in two smaller versions.

3rd: 8-4-6/2-1-7-5-3…A wide open MCL event over the main track, and I will go with Bless the Rains (8). Trained by Rusty Arnold, who is having a very solid meet here this Fall. Ran much better when forced off the turf up at Indy Grand in the last, and with the drop into the claiming ranks for the first time. This daughter of Animal Kingdom  now faces the same level and could be a real contender with the pick up of a hot rider. He loses the “apprentice” allowance of 5-pounds today, though, and it will be interesting to see how he does at equal weights. I think he will be fine. Believe Land (4) should improve immensely with the drop into the MCL ranks for the first time today. The barn hits with 0-for-22 in that category this year, though. But…the barn scores with .31% of those getting blinkers for the first time. So, go figure. I like this gal’s chances. After all, the connections spent $300,000 to purchase her as a yearling in 2016. Woody’s Reward (6) ran really well before tiring late in the last one. Will face the same level today, and the work at Keeneland on Nov. 10 was solid. But there is a reach this barn wins with only 11% of 110 starters — and with good stock. I bet the 8-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I tread lightly here.

4th: 6-8-4/5-7…Native Wahoo (6) was claimed last time out off a very convincing and easy win here in the slop. The new barn scores with .18% of those making the first start for the new connections, and this one has hit the board in each of the last 6 races and 8 of the last 9 outs. Has 5 wins mixed into that group. Will face a little bit tougher in this spot today, but this filly is a cash machine and really good right now. Figures to be tough stalking the leaders again. Has hit the board in 8 of 12 at this distance. Myositis Mystique (8) will be dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time since she was nabbed for this price on May 24. Won that one very easily for her second win in a row at the time. Ran well initially for the new barn, but has struggled of late against tougher competition. Should rally back to form with a return to this level. Voodoothatyoudo (4) is getting a huge drop in class to a career low level, and picks up the leading rider of the meet. Working well over at High Point Training Center, but will have to convert from turf to dirt, and the barn is 0-for-11 this year doing that. I bet the 6-8 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

5th: 7-5-6/4-1-2…Ghost Story (7) is a 3YO Ghostzapper gelding, and one that has really turned it on of late. Over the last four races, he has two wins and a second. The only poor performance came in a turf experiment that went bad. I look for this one to run well with a hot rider in the saddle. Raising the Flag (5) will be making his first start for a new barn, after being claimed last time out by Mike Maker for the team of Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Ran well to break the maiden last time out for a $50,000 price tag. And, that could possibly turn into one heck of a bargain for this colt by Tapit. The horse he beat easily last time out came back to run a very nice second at Churchill Downs on Friday. Gets a good rider up today, as well. Contender. Gray Sky (6) has run 39 times in his career, and this gelded son of Tapit has only 2 wins for the barn of Wayne Lukas. But he has 8 seconds and 11 more thirds. Will make his first start as a gelding today, and the barn goes to Corey Lanerie for the saddle job. Interesting. Don’t see that team much. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-5 in a solid exacta. I will key those 2 over/under the 7 in two more.

6th: 7-2/12-3-5-9/6-11-4…Troy Ounce (7) will be making his second career start for the barn of Steve Asmussen. Ran super in the debut, before tiring very late and giving up the lead to a good one named Most Mischief. The runner-up in that one will be a key play for us today, as well. Has come back from the loss to work very, very well, and the barn hits with .21% of those making the second career start. This one looks primed and ready to fire and break the maiden. Come on Gerry (2) may be the only reason I don’t key the top horse today. This son of Elusive Quality — which cost the Albaugh Family $335,000 to purchase at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale — has been working lights out and looks like he could be a monster. Comes from a dam who has 3 winners from 3 starters and she has already tossed a SW. This one looks hot, and if she stays anywhere close to those ML odds? Well, you know what to do. I bet the 7-2 across the board and then hammer this exacta. I will key the 7-2 over (only) the 12-3-5-9.

7th: 4/2-9-7-8/1-3-5-6…Harvey Wallbanger (4) will always be a name stuck in my mind. Always. The last time he ran — at 3-to-5 odds — all he had to do was win, and I would have captured a Pick 5 payoff somewhere in the $65,000 neighborhood. I had already gotten a $50 winner and a $60 winner across the line first. All I needed was the prohibitive fav. And, all I go was a second. Beaten 11/2 lengths by his stablemate. Just a 100 feet past the line, I was in front. But that didn’t help. The son of Congrats has now run three seconds in a row. Lost to Complexity, who easily won the G1 Champagne. Lost by a nose at Keeneland. And, then there was the ill-fated last time out second. Today has to be the day, one would think. I think. I bet the 4 to win/place and then key the 4 over/under the 2-9-7-8. I will key the 4 over (only) the 1-3-5-6.

8th: 6-1/7-3-4-8/5-2…I can focus down the binoculars on my top 2 selections in this one, as well. Mr. Darcy (6) comes into this fine affair off two seconds and a third in the last three outs. All of them were against tougher levels and competition. This 4YO gelded son of Harlan’s Holiday has a 1-1-1 record in 3 tries here, and this trainer has been red hot of late. Rider has scored with .19% of the last 26 rides for the barn. Ebben (1) figures to run much better, as well, with the drop into the claiming ranks for the first time. The barn hits with .14% of those kind, but this one has been running half of the time in Stakes events, and 3 Graded Stakes races. If he can get a clear trip late, he may be very tough at the wire of this 1 mile event. He has won at that distance, too. And, it was here. I bet the 6-1 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 6-1 over (only) the 7-3-4-8

9th: 6-8/4/3-5/1-10-2…This is a really good Allowance-Optional Claimer event, and has attracted a stellar field. I will zero in on the top two numbers here, as well, led by Go Google Yourself (6). This 3YO filly by Into Mischief has run 5 times here with a 1-1-2 record and the only miscues seem to be two ill-advised trips over the grass. Ran a super race here on Sept. 22 to lose the Dogwood Stakes by just a head. This one will be coming late and will need clear sailing, and loses her regular rider. Interesting. Mylady Curlin (8) has raced three times in her career for the red-hot Brad Cox, and she has 2 trips to the winner’s circle and a second. Was beaten a neck as the betting choice in the last out at Keeneland, but the barn scores with .32% of those returning as a beaten favorite. Works here have been super. Looks primed. Tap Gun (4) has won two in a row for the barn of Tom Amoss, and both of them have been romps. Daughter of Tapit looks to be the real deal, but, then again, it cost her owner — Mandy Pope — $1.4 million to buy her. So, she figures to be good looking — right? I bet the 6-8 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 6-8 over/under the 4 in two more. 

10th: 3-8/4/1-5-2…G3 River City Handicap…There has not been a race over this grass course in so long. Rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain. Heavy frost. You name it, and we have gotten it — weather wise. But here’s hoping these guys get a chance to test it out today. Mr. Misunderstood (3) has raced over this course 3 times in his career. Never has been beaten here. Ran well in the last out in the G1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, but was left at the gate in that one and simply had too much to do to get back in it. Before that, he had two wins and a third in the previous three outs. Love the last work here, as well. Looks really good to me. The horse that could give him a run for the money is Sir Dudley Digges (8) — and I love the 8-1 ML odds on this one. He, too, loves this track. In 4 previous runs here, he has 3 wins. Has been out 4 times this year with a win and a third — all in Stakes company. Will get Corey Lanerie in the saddle, and here’s hoping that he can find a hole late and give him a chance. I bet the 3-8 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 3-8 over/under the 4 in two more.

11th: 5-9-4/7-8-1/3-2-10-11-12…Whew…Exhausted…Take a breath…This one is just a wide open affair. Take a dart. Aim straight. Let’er fly. I will go with Frolic More (5). Remember way back earlier in the card. The horse that ran second in the last race and nipped this one is in today, as well — Proud Nation. If he runs well, then I get bolder and braver here. Keep tabs on that. but this one does look tough here. Laughing Fox (9) will get his first saddle today from the Steve Asmussen barn. Works since the transfer have been picking up and the last one was really nice here on Nov. 12. This one cost $375,000 to buy at a 2YO Sale earlier this year. The winner of the debut race has already won another. Looks inviting. Wrath (4) could spice up the odds rack a little bit in here. This 2YO son of Flatter has run twice previously and could be OK in this spot today. The dam was Stakes placed and has a winner from the first 2 starters. This one could add to that today. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 5 over/under the “all button” 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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