McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs On Saturday, Sept. 14

Day Results9-2-2-3
2019 Overall 937937/335-325-440
Win % of Top Pick35.75%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.13%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –638 of 93768.09%
Top Selection ITM / CD 6/966.67%
Top Selection Win / CD 2/922.22%
“Key Horses” @ CD 1-1-0-0100%
“Key Horses” in 2019 166-65-34-2039.16%

We got off to a slow and stumbling start for the September Meet at Churchill Downs. I blame the Friday the 13th thing. I blame the Full Moon thing. And, I blame my horses for not running as good as I thought they would.

Can’t blame me, right?

Did have a couple of winners on the day, but strive to do better.

Much better.

Starting today.

We are working on Saturday’s Final Selections right now.

Stay tuned.

Back in a few.

1st: 5-1/6-8-2…This is a MCL event going a route of ground, and I will go with the second time starter from the barn of Brendan Walsh — Echelon (5). This one ran a distant second last time out when dropped into the MCL ranks for the first time at this same level. Got the blinkers for the first time that day and ran quickly on the lead. May have tired a bit after the rush job. May be better with the shades this time and the barn does win with .13% of those in the maiden-claiming ranks. Like the work on Sept. 7. May be tough on the lead today. Napoleon’s Empire (1) gets the class drop for the first time today after 8 tries at the MSW level. Had a second and a third for trainer Tom Amoss, but may fare better against these kind today. Has faced some good ones in the past, like Marquee Prince, Tobacco Road, Night Opps and Harvey Wallbanger. May be closer today with the drop in class. Love the jock assignment. I have to use. I bet the 5-1 across the board and then box those two in one exacta. I key the 5-1 over/under the 6-8-2 in two smaller versions.

2nd: 4-5/2-3/1-6…How do you bet against a horse that won his last out by 21 lengths? Well, I will today in this spot. War Veteran (1) is a 3Yo Tiznow colt that broke his maiden for trainer Jason Servis and owners Gary & Mary West last time out by 21 lengths at Monmouth Park. That was late July and it appears that the colt has since been sold privately to new connections. Do you remember Maximum Security. Same folks ran him once for $16,000 claiming. I will use, but under my top two picks. I go with Grit and Glory (4) on top in this spot. Trainer hit with a nice winner on Friday and knows how to get to the winner’s circle. Barn has scored with .22% this year in 65 starts. This one nearly pulled the trick last time out at Saratoga, losing by a nose when going longer. Now, gets back to an easier distance for him and he’s 1-for-1 going the far. Broke the maiden here this May and gets a new rider for the task today. Looks solid. I’m Busy (5) will get Corey Lanerie back in the saddle today, and the last time they hooked up, they won — two starts ago here. That was in the slop, but this one likes to be either on or near the front. Should make that spot in here, and the question is whether this 3YO gelded son of Brimstone can hold on for the distance. Legit question. I go with 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under all the numbers listed.

3rd: 2/9-1-3-10-6/7-12/4-11…I’m going to single in this high-end MCL event for the 2YOs. Price tag is $150,000 if you want to purchase. So, in essence, a MSW event. Indian Cross (2) actually crossed the finish line first in the last outing up at Saratoga. Was DQ’d for interference and a late bumping incident in that one. Will stretch out from the 5.5-furlongs to 7 furlongs today, but goes from the slop to a fast dirt surface, too. Should be able to handle that extra ground and should be pushing the go button from the early on. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under the 9-1-3-10-6-7-12-4-11.

4th: 2-12-1-4/5-10-11/7-6/3-8-9…A wide open MSW event here for the 2YOs. I will give the edge to another from the barn of Steve Asmussen here with Shanghai’s Dream (2). Ran a nice enough 3rd last time out, before tiring at the end of that one. Will get a huge jockey change today, and may be better with the second trip over the dirt. The horse I really like, though, is Fight Fight Fight (12). This one is owned by the Albaugh Family Stables and is trained by Dale Romans — the same connections that will team up with Dennis’ Moment in the Iroquois today. This one was well supported at the windows on debut at Ellis Park, but simply didn’t fire that day. Has worked well since that debacle — especially on Aug. 25 — and looks like he could be another good one for these connections. They paid $850,000 for his son of Uncle Mo at $850,000 at last year’s KEE September Sale. I expect much more today. I bet the 12 — take note — to win/place/show and then box the 2-12-1 in one exacta, and the 2-12-4 in another. I will key the 12 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller versions.

5th: 4-7/5-6-10/1-3-2…This is a MSW event over the grass for the 2YOs, and I will sync up with my “Upset Special of the Day” — Gobarrybarry (4). This one had a debacle of a trip last time out. Bothered going into the first turn and completely blocked in the stretch. Gets a new rider for this one, and this jockey is mighty tough on the sod. Big addition. If he can flash the speed he showed two back, he may be tough to catch in this one at a very handsome price. The horse to beat, though, may be the 1st time starter from the barn of Brad Cox — In the Deep (7). Connections paid $650,000 for him a year ago, and he has been training lights out for a barn that scores with .22% making the debut on the sod. I bet the 4-7 across the board and then box those two in one exacta. I key the 4-7 over/under all the other numbers in two smaller versions.

6th: 3-6-4/1-2-(14)/9-5-8-10-11…What a nice allowance this one figures to be. I will go with Uber Kirk (3), simply off his race record over this surface. In 5 starts here, he has 3 wins and a second. Has been lights out at Churchill Downs. Couldn’t keep up at Saratoga last time out, but gets home today and gets a top rider in the irons. Jockey has teamed up with this trainer to win .45% of their last 11 mounts together. Hot. Bourbon Calling (6) is one of two big-chance horses in here for trainer Ian Wilkes. This one likes it here, too, with 2 wins and 2 thirds in 5 tries. Hooked the monster Shancelot in the G2 Amersham. Ran off his feet — like the rest of them — that day. But won here on June 29 in a nice effort. If he can duplicate that late rally, he may be tough nearing the wire. Straight Shot (4) is the “other” Wilkes horse in here, and may be the best of the two. Big effort here in June to break the maiden. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 3-6 over/under the 4-1-2-(14) in two smaller versions.

7th: 7-3-6/1-2/4…Open Mind Stakes…A stellar field lines up for this 6-furlong sprint over the main track. I will go with America’s Tale (7), who will be making her first start since running 4th in the G1 Madison Stakes at Keeneland in April. Before that, though, she won the G2 Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park in March. When fresh and right, she can push the pace and/or stalk with the best of them. She has 2 wins and a third over this track, as well. Looks like she is training well and ready to pop. Meadow Dance (3) has raced just twice this year, but has won them both and now will resume her Stakes career. She ran third to Restless Rider in the G1 Alcibiades last year. Talent here. Take nothing away from this one. Awestruck (6) ran a huge one here back in June, losing to Mia Mischief by less than one. Look who she beat that day — Covfefe. That one came back to beat Serengeti Empress in the G1 Test. Take note. Awestruck likes it here, too. I bet the 7-3 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the 7-3 over/under the 6-1-2-4 in two smaller versions.

8th: 5-3-2/7-1/6-4…G3 Locust Grove Stakes…I will make this short and has sweet as I possibly can. If there is a horse that can run second to and beaten just a nose by the great Midnight Bisou in here — and there is — then I have to go that route. I think the shorter distance today will certainly help Escape Clause (5), as well. In 7 trips at this distance, she has a 3-1-1 record. My choice. Mylady Curlin (3) dusted our top pick in the last race. She has to figure off that, as well. And, she has now won 5 in a row. Good right now. Very good. Moonlit Garden (2) is the “other” one from the Brad Cox barn. Can’t ignore this one, either. She was beaten less than a length by Midnight Bisou and our top pick in the same race this Spring. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

9th: 4-3/7-8-6-2/9…G2 Pocahontas Stakes…Unlike the male version of this Stakes (next race), this one is wide, wide, wide open. But I will focus my betting attention on the top 2 numbers here — led by Lazy Daisy (4). Trainer Doug O’Neill shipped a few in for the last of the KY Downs meet. Ran 1-2 in the last Stakes down there. This filly is coming off a 4th in the G1 Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 31. She was beaten a little over 9 lengths in there, but the winner took off and won by 83/4. So? She nearly was 2nd. Love the 8-1 ML odds. May get overlooked here. My “Upset Special of the Day.”   The second choice is Portrait (3), who comes from the Brad Cox barn. Broke her maiden in the first try on dirt by over 12 at Ellis Park in the last out. Must face some tough winners in here and likely to get overbite. But can’t discount Cox and his magic here. I bet the 4-3 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I will key the 4-3 over/under all the other numbers listed in two shorter versions.

10th: 8/3-4-2/7-6-10…G3 Iroquois Stakes…Dennis’ Moment (8). It is the Albaugh Family Stables’ Moment. It is Dale Romans’ Moment. It is this 2YO colts Moment. It is their first major step to the KY Derby they all deserve to win. My Key Play of the Day. My Winter Book Bet for the 2020 KY Derby. My Pick to Be the Next Great Racehorse of Our Time. I will look at the horses to play underneath, and there are some talented ones in this group. But if Dennis’ Moment can get a clean trip? I think this horse is special. I bet the 8 to win/place. I will key the 8 over (only) the 3-4-2 in a solid exacta. I will key the 8 over (only) the 7-6-10 in a smaller version. And, I will watch with hope.

11th: 3-6-8/1-9-12/5-2-4…The last race of the day is for the 2YOs, and I will go solidly behind and with Sprawl (3). This son of City Zip got an awful start on debut. Ran 5 & 6 wide early on. Didn’t threaten the winner in the first out, but still came on to get third. Has since returned to work fantastic, and with both the education and the addition of Irad Ortiz, Jr. i the saddle, I think this one has a big shot in the finale. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 3 over/under all the numbers listed 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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