McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Saturday, Sept. 15

Day Results10-3-3-4
2018 Overall 1391516-507-619
Win % of Top Pick37.10%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.35%
Top Selection ITM / CD: 6-1060%
Top Selection Win / CD: 3-1030%

An average day to kick start the September meet at Churchill Downs. We did nail a couple of exactas that returned $29.70 and $26.50 for each $1 played, and we had a nice winner with our good friend Tom Amoss in the third race.

But we are looking to bag the big one today — the late, Pick 5 Carryover — and some other trophies along the way. Here’s a closer look at today’s magnificent card — with 4 Stakes races included:

1st: 2-4-1-11-1A-8-9-10-3-6-7…Obviously, by the looks at the numbers, we view this one as a wide open affair. I will concentrate on the top 3 numbers in this selection, led by Ready and Rich (2). This 2YO Super Saver colt has raced four times to date, with a third and three straight seconds leading into this one. The trainer puts the blinkers back on today, and he hits with .27% of those, and he scores with .12% of those returning as a beaten favorite. I think he should improve with the return to Churchill Downs today, and there is one very important thing about this one. Take heed. He ran second to Tight Ten here in June. That one is likely to be the favorite in the Iroquois a bit later in the card. This could give you a good indication of how good Tight Ten could be, or is. Also ran second to Dream Maker (a good one for Mark Casse) and third to Sir Truebador (Stakes winner for Steve Asmussen). Bold Proposition (4) is a first timer for Casse, who is training very well. Son of Tapit. Trip Candy (1) will be making the second start for Asmussen, and moves from the grass to the dirt today. Beaten favorite and Asmussen hits with .25% of these kind. I bet the 2 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

2nd: 1-2-1A-7-3-8-4-5-6…I think the top four numbers in this sequence are pretty tightly bunched on paper. Luckily, two of the horses are part of the entry, and I will take a shot there — in hopes that both can hit the board and ring up the pari-mutuels for me twice. Beach Bum (1) will be making his first start since November of 2016. Over 11/2 years ago. but he has been training OK for this return for the Asmussen barn, and if he is anything close to what he once was, he should/could dominate this field of mid-range claimers. Once a promising star in the barn of Bob Baffert, he won on debut by over 5. But now the son of Arch finds himself in this spot. Day Dreamer (1A) won on debut, as well, but it was this August and it was in a MC $30,000 event at Ellis Park. Got up by a head in that one and now must face winners for the first time. Asmussen hits with .18% of those graduating up after the maiden win. Solid works since the win. True to Dixie (2) could upset the apple cart here a bit. This 3YO gelding won two back at Belterra, but did run very well in a MSW event here at Churchill Downs in May. If he can find that form, he fits well in this spot. I bet the entry across the board and then box the 1-2-7 in the exacta.

3rd: 8-7-3-6-2-4…I will focus on the top two in this one, led by Cured by Kitten (8). This is a 3YO Kitten’s Joy filly that will made the career debut for Mike Maker — who is coming off a great meet at KY Downs. This one is training well, too, and gets a solid rider in Ricardo Santana, Jr., who normally doesn’t ride much for this stable. Trainer does struggle with first timers on the turf (.08%), but this one looks solid. Innocent (7) comes from the great pedigrees of G. Watts Humphrey, and she has 6 races under her girth so far. Has 2 seconds and 2 thirds on the resume. Has hit the board in the last 3. Once has to wonder if she wants to run by horses in the late going, since she has plenty of speed and appears to fail nearing the wire. Now, she stretches out to the career long distance? Trainer scores with only .11% of beaten favs. Regal Serenade (3) is an Illinois-bred, but this trainer regularly enters in open races. Ran second on the grass at Arlington against all kinds last time out and how has a second and 3 thirds in 6 starts. Stretches out today. Sharp work on Sept. 7. Love the rider switch here. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

4th: 5-3-8-9-1A-2-6-4…Another MSW race for the 2YOs, and another well-matched group. I will look to use the top 3 primarily, led by Exchequer (5). This is a 6-1 ML shot from the barn of Asmussen. Looked to be running very well in the opener before hitting a wall in the stretch. That was going 7 furlongs over a good track. Both can be very tiring for a more experienced horse. Love the works since the race, and the winner of that one has already come back to win. I like this one a lot and will make my first Upset Special. Johny’s Bobby (3) ran a huge second at Saratoga on Aug. 11 at huge odds. But that was the first time this one got both the Lasix and the blinkers. He roared past our top choice in that one, and has worked very well since returning to KY. If you like the top choice, I have to like this one. Thundershook (8) is one that comes from the barn of Ken McPeek. Never easy to get a read on this barn. They rarely run well on debut. They bounce back-and-forth from grass to dirt. And, then they jump up and run well when you least expect. This one will get the Lasix for the second time; move back to the dirt; and get a new rider. Has 2 thirds on the resume, though. Go figure. I bet the 5-3 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

5th: 7-9-5-4-2-3-8-6-10-1…Baffin (7), yet another from the Asmussen barn, gets a slight edge in this spot for me. The 3YO son of Justin Phillip won on debut here last summer, before he ran 4th in the G3 Sanford. Was off for nearly a year, and now looks like he is back running well again after a win at Ellis Park as the favorite. Has solid speed, and the training sessions are spot on. Gets the barn’s #1 rider up, and trainer hits with .19% of those trying to put wins back-to-back. My pick. Turner Time (9) beat our top pick two races back, and did so fairly easy. But that was the top pick’s first race in a year. After that win, trainer Brad Cox put this one in the Ellis Park Derby. No match for those, and now returns to more favorable terms today. Should be OK in this group, but rider goes elsewhere. Beautiful Game (5) could give Asmussen a formidable team in this spot. This one has not run well in the last four, but has gotten a break since April. And, he won’t be facing the likes of Mitole, Reride, Runaway Ghost in here. Training well for the return and does run well fresh. Rider has had only one mount for this barn in the last 60 days. It was a win. I bet the 7-5 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

6th: 10-7-3-2-1-9-4-5-8…This is a MSW event for the 2YOs going a mile over the dirt track, and again I will focus on the top 3 numbers in my betting strategy. I lean towards the outside here with Moonster (10), who will get the saddle from Dale Romans. This one ran fifth on debut, going just 5 furlongs. He was overpowered that day by my long shot pick in the Iroquois later in the card. If this one runs well on the stretch-out, it will give me a lot more confidence in the G2 event later on. And, may be a sign for you, too. This son of Malibu Moon should like the extra distance, and his closing kick in the opener suggests he will like the two turns today. Trainer hits with .18% of those routing for the first time. Chasing Happy (7) ran well on debut before tiring late. Went 7/8ths on debut, and that can be the most grueling of distances. Now, he stretches out a bit and should be OK with the extra ground. Love the work here on Sept. 7 and the rider has won with .20% of his mounts for this new barn operation. Plus Que Parfait (3) switches from the turf to the dirt for this one, and the trainer does OK with that transition (.18% in 112 starts). Another closer who comes out of a race where the winner has already returned to score again. Should be there at the end with any improvement at all. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

7th: 9-11-7-5-2-10-1A-3-4-8…My focus is on the top 2 numbers in this grouping, led by Blue Steel (9). This is a 2YO Will Take Charge colt that is owned by Spendthrift Farm and trained by Romans. He has been training lights out here at Churchill Downs, and looks primed for this firs run. Trainer hits with .10% making the debut, but this one cost $270,00 as a Keeneland September Yearling a year ago, and appears ready. Locally Owned (11) is another first timer, and this one is conditioned by Al Stall, Jr. This barn hits with .25% of those making the debut, and this one is training very well, as well. Gets a top rider in the irons, and the sire of this one scores with .16% of those making the inaugural run. Dam of this one is a Stakes winner, too. All there. I bet the 9-11 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 9-11 over/under the 7-5-2 in two more exactas.

8th: 7-6-3-5…Open Mind Stakes…The first of four straight Stakes events to close out the first Saturday of this mini-meet. A dirt sprint event for older mares and fillies. And, what a group to be assembled. I will go to the outside here for my top two selections — led by Astrollinthepark (7). This one has raced three times over this dirt and has 2 wins and a third to show for her efforts. Last time here, she ran off with the Roxelana Stakes by an impressive 2 lengths. Gets a new rider today, but he won for this barn on opening day. Works are spot on. Looks primed. Miss Kentucky (6) has banged heads with our top pick on a couple of occasions. Each has won once. This one has not run since the June 23 encounter in the Roxelana, and she ran second that day. In 7 tries over this track, she has 3 wins and 2 seconds. But she has 5 wins in 9 tries at this distance. This should be a heck of a matchup. I bet the 7 across the board and then box the 7-6 solidly in one exacta. I key the 7-6 over the 3-5 in another smaller version.

9th: 3-2-5-8-1-6-9-7…G3 Locust Grove Stakes…Another well-matched group for this Graded Stakes event, a dirt route event for the older fillies and mares. One could go with Blue Prize (3) in this spot. This one has raced twice here before with 2 wins and 2 seconds. She has never won at this distance, but has 2 seconds in 3 tries. Has not run since winning the G2 Fleur de Lis Handicap here on June 16. Trainer hits with .10% of those returning from this type of layup. That gives me pause. Wonder if she is really cranked all the way back up. And, her last try off a layoff was not her best. Could be vulnerable at a very short price. Champagne Problems (2), on the other hand, is perfectly cranked up. She was super impressive in winning the G3 Groupie Doll at Ellis Park on Aug. 12. She ran right on by her competition nearing the wire and galloped out 31/4 lengths on top. That was the second win in a row and this one has a 1-3-2 record in 8 starts here. Moving up in class, for sure, but is really good right now. Pinch Hit (5) really didn’t fire her best shot in the Groupie Doll. Capable of much better. Has a 2-2-0 record in 5 starts here, and it would not surprise at all to see her run better today for the barn of Brad Cox. I bet the 2 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

10th: 4-6-10-9-7-11-8-12-5…G2 Iroquois Stakes…What a nice group of 2YOs assembled for this Graded Stakes event, where many of these rising stars will be trying two turns for the very first time. This one is a “Win-And-You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and a “Points Race” for next year’s KY Derby. The very first. So, lots of interest in this one. The favorite, on paper, appears to be Tight Ten (4) — one of two highly touted and respected colts to get the saddle from the Asmussen team in here. This one is by Tapit and owned by the famed Winchell Thoroughbreds. Won easily and impressively here in late June, romping by nearly 5. Went up to Saratoga and ran second to Call Paul in the G2 Saratoga Special. Nice run, but had some “learning” issues. Lugged in a bit in the stretch. Carried his head a bit high. If he figures it all out, watch out. He could zoom. Tobacco Road (6), the top choice’s stablemate, roared late to win the Ellis Park Juvenile in fine fiddle. This son of Quality Road looks to want more, and more ground and today should be right up his ally. Has a huge late kick, but gets a new rider today. Interesting switch there. Hog Creek Hustle (10) was super impressive when running 5 furlongs at Ellis Park on debut in mid-August. Roared from the clouds to motor down that field of prospects/suspects. Now, will stretch out a lot. Face winners for the first time. Move into the big leagues. But he gets Corey Lanerie to side with him. Interesting. My Upset Special (2) here. I bet the 4-10 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 4-10 over/under the 6-9-7-11 in two more.

11th: 1-9-8-2-12-5-6-4-10…G2 Pocahontas Stakes…Today’s finale is a good one. And, another competitive batch has been assembled for this Breeders’ Cup “Win & In” Stakes. Top finishers here gain points for the 2018 KY Oaks, as well. The favorite and top pick in here is sure to be Serengeti Empress (1). This filly has won twice in three starts and was overpowering in both of those. Comes in off a 13-length victory in the Ellis Park Debutante. And, she has trained well since that race for one of the best, most talented and respected trainers in all of the land. Barn hits with .21% of those stretching out to a route race for the first time, and this speedster looks like she can run all day. Solid choice with Lanerie in the saddle. It Justhitthe Wire (9) moves up to face winners for the first time, despite the fact that she is a maiden herself. She won the debut race at Saratoga on Aug. 19, but was DQ’d and placed third in that one for a bumping incident late. I’ve watched the replay several times, and question the call. But this Bernardini filly — who cost $410,000 earlier this year — doesn’t know she didn’t win. And, she should love the extra ground, too. Kiaran McLaughlin is a top trainer, and he hits with .23% of those making the second career race, and with .26% of those that ship in. He doesn’t travel unless there is a reason. Today, he may have a reason. Two Dozen Roses (8) was the beneficiary of the DQ at Saratoga. She was running on from a nice stalking position when she got caught up in the late fray. Don’t think she would have beat the other one that day, but figures if you like the #9. Love Me Honey (2) is a filly who romped at Saratoga on July 29 for a trainer who does not normally get them cranked up for the debut. has trained super since that race. I think she is a very live long shot in this spot today, and the dam has already thrown 2 Stakes winners. Beware here. My third Upset Special. I bet the 1-2 across the board and then box the 1-2-9 in the exacta. I will key the 1-2-9 over the 8-12-5 in another smaller version.

Late Pick 5 / With the Carryover:

I will go this way, which starts in Race 7:

9-11/7-6/3-2-5/4-6-10/1-9-2 @ .50-cent ticket = $54.00


9-11-7-5-2/7-6/3-2-5/4-6-10-9-7/1 @.50-cent ticket = $75.00

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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean