McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Saturday, Sept. 22 / Bonus Coverage of the PA Derby & Cotillion

Day Results10-4-2-5
2018 Overall 1430534-522-634
Win % of Top Pick37.34%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.39%
Top Selection ITM / CD: 37-4975.51%
Top Selection Win / CD: 21-4942.86%

Another solid day at Churchill Downs on Friday, scoring four winners in 10 races. Although no big payouts, we also hit for five exactas. Not a bad day, at all. After the first 49 races this meet, our top number has hit the board (first-second-third) over 75% of the time, and our top pick has won at a shocking 42.86% number. Both of those numbers are off the charts good.

Here is a closer look at Saturday’s card:

1st: 4/1/2-6-5…My top pick in this event if Lil Vie (4). This 3YO daughter of The Factor (which is a personal favorite sire of mine) didn’t run much in the last out at KY Downs. But as we have written before, some horses can take to that unusual, hill and dale course. Others, on the other hand, can’t stand it. Appears to be the latter for this one. Go back two and three back, and she has a third and a second against these types. Like the recent works, too, the the trainer hits with .16% of those converting from the grass to the dirt; and with .17% of those in the claiming ranks, altogether. Has a real shot with the conversion back to the dirt here. Has a win in one chance at this distance. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under the 1. I will key the 4 over the 2-6-5 in a smaller version.

2nd: 6/7-4-2/1-3…Another race where I will lean on one nominee — Flight Risk (6). This 4YO gelded son of Unbridled’s Song is heavy 9-5 ML favorite, but could be a steal at that price. Comes from the barn of Brad Cox, who has yet to really catch fire here this September. This one did break the maiden here on June 28, and then returned to run third in a high-end claimer at Ellis Park last time out. Looks good right now, and this trainer/jockey combo have been red hot over the past two weeks. Watch out. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the 7-4-2. I will key the 6 over (only) the 1-3.

3rd: 3-5-1/2-8-4/6…I will focus on the top three numbers in this sequence, led by New Colossus (3). This son of Curlin was highly touted to me back in the Spring before he ever made the first start at the Fair Grounds in January. He was firing some really nice times in the a.m., and came out a ran a nice third despite some traffic issues in the debut. Was beaten by two really nice ones in that first run, as well. A month later, this one got his second start — a stretch out to two turns. But before that one began, he stood in the starting gate for what seemed like forever. And, he didn’t run a step. He was off form February until Aug. 25, when he returned to run third at Ellis Park. He was right in the mix of things until very late of that one before tiring badly. Yet, that was his first start in six months. Had a right to tire. Now, he comes back after some nice works in the a.m. again. I’m going to be right about this one soon. I can just feel it. So, I stick with him — at least one more time. Destiny Awaits (5) comes from the barn of Steve Asmussen now. He was moved to that trainer after running the first two career starts for Bob Baffert last Fall in California. Has been away from the races since last December. But is training up to this one nicely, and if he can show the same type of speed in did in the last — when he beat a good one in Draft Pick — he should dust this crowd. Conquistador (1) is the 2-1 ML favorite, and will get the saddle from Mark Casse in this one. This son of Tiznow cost $245,000 at a 2YO Sale in April 2017. This one ran twice last fall and was right there — including a third against a good one in Combatant. Been working lights out, too. Can’t ignore. I bet the 3-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the next three in a smaller version.

4th: 9-5/8-2-4-10-6…The top two numbers here get my attention and betting focus, led by Its Yes (9). This 2YO son of Yes It’s True ran a good on on the grass in the career debut on Aug. 29 at Indy Grand. Ran just behind Tez — a good one who ran third on the final race here on Friday night. Shook loose late in that one to close hard. This one is a speedster, who will try to hang on at the end. Trainer of this one scores with .32% of those routing for the second time. Watch out here. Biz Nasty (5) is a 2YO ridgling by Fed Biz and this one, too, is from the barn of Brad Cox. This one ran twice earlier this year at Del Mar. Ran an 8th and a 7th in those two efforts, but broke poorly in each Now, gets a trip across the country to a new trainer and new surroundings. Seems to be working well here and the trainer hits with .24% of those going from the MSW ranks to the MCL ones. My pick. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then I box the 9-5 in one exacta. I will key the top two numbers over the rest in a smaller version.

5th: 1-7/3-4/9-6-8-5…This is a nice MSW event, which will be contested at the 6.5-furlong distance and over the dirt track. My top choice is Rumandice (1), who ran a super nice second here on debut June 30. Ran second to a really nice one in Starry Affair in that lone appearance. Has worked really well here on Sept. 15, and gets the same rider back in he saddle today. The rail is doing well here this meet, winning at an 18% rate. Take Charge Angel (7) will be making the first start of the career for a barn that excels with these types. He wins at a .22% clip with debut runners, and with .26% of those in the MSW ranks. This one is training super, and the barn’s top rider is getting up. He has scored with .38% of the last 40 mounts for this barn. I bet the 1-7 across the board and then box them solidly in one exacta. I will key the 1-7 over/under the 3-4 in a smaller version.

6th: 2-1-3/5-8-6…Again, I will concentrate my strategy on the top 3 numbers in this grouping — led by One River Place (2) This 4YO colt threw in a bad one last time out, when he spit the bit early on. But before that one, he had hit the board in four straight — with two wins in the mix. In 8 starts this year, he has a 2-1-3 record and has earned over $8,000 in purse money per start. Not a bad ratio for these kind. Midnight Pleasure (1) goes for Mick Ruis — the man who owns and used to train Bolt d’Oro. This one won the last time out, but will lose that condition. Will face tougher in this spot. But he has a nice third going farther here in May, and looks like a contender. Ran third to a really good one in Dabster, back in November of 2017. If he can find that back class? Tough out. Mutajaded (3) has two wins and two seconds in six starts this year. Should fit nicely in this group, but did finish behind our top choice two starts back. Love the work at the Churchill Training Center on Sept. 15. Not without a chance. I bet the 2-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

7th: (10)-3/4-1/6-8/7…If the #10 draws into this one, I have to use. If not, I will key off Commandeering (3) in this spot. This is another from the barn of Brad Cox, now that he has been sent from the learning pod of Chad Brown. This trainer hits with .22% of those making the first start for the barn, and with .34% of those switching from the dirt to the turf. Should love and cherish the return to the sod. Nice work on Sept. 16, and Sept. 8. Dam has one turf winner from 4 starters to date. Barn’s top rider gets up. I bet the 3 to win/place and then key the 3 over/under the 4-1. I will key the 3 over (only) the 6-8-7.

8th: 3/2-1-7-9/10-4-5-8…Another race where I have a key horse — Just Perfection (3). This 2YO will be making the career debut for a trainer that can hit off the bench. Wins with .19% of those making the career debut. The dam of this one has 2 winners from 2 starters and a Stakes winner, to boot. Love the work here on Sept. 17. If she can fire that speed on debut, the crowd may have a tough time catching this one. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under the 2-1-7-9. I will key the 3 over (only) the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

9th: 9-11-4/2-12-1/5-7-6…I will look to the outside here for the top number in this tilt. Mylady Curlin (9) ran away with such an easy victory in the debut run on Sept. 2 that it figures that she can come right back and duplicate that effort. The trainer hits with an amazing .29% of those facing winners for the first time. Bet down on debut and has worked super since the win. Just a force. Cathedral Reader (11) is another who will start on the outside. This 3YO daughter of Shackledford won easily on debut here May 13. Came back to run third in the slop the next time out, but the winner of that one came right back to win again and is in the Stakes this afternoon. After a little layup, the connections stuck this one in the G2 Prioress at Saratoga. She tired mightily late in that one, but she lost to the undefeated Dream Tree in that one. Needs to finish, but no Dream Tress in this one. Dessert Honeys (4) could add some value to the exotic mix here, what with 8-1 ML odds. She ran a super second last time out, but that was way back in February. The trainer does well off the bench, though, and has a .29% win rate with beaten favorites. I bet the 9-11 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

10th: 11-6-1/4-7-5…Dogwood Stakes…Go Google Yourself (11) has had a good year with a 1-1-2 record in just 5 starts. Has been off since running horribly in the G3 Regret Stakes on the grass. But should relish a return to the dirt, where she has been mighty tough this year, and throughout her career. In 7 starts on a fast dirt surface, she has two wins, a second and three thirds. Chocolate Martini, who will run against Monomoy Girl in the G1 Cotillion at Parx this afternoon barely edged this one at the Fair Grounds back in February. If she can find that race again? Watch out. Devine Mischief (6) has not raced since July 12, when she won an allowance at Charles Town Before that, this one was second in the Jersey Girl Stakes at Belmont Park and won an allowance here. In three starts at this distance, she has two wins and a second. Don’t dismiss. Figarella’s Queen (1) couldn’t finish what she started in the G1 Alabama last time out at Saratoga. But she was second to the really nice Talk Veuve to Me in the G3 Indiana Oaks before tht. Has a win over this track, as well, and loves to stalk the leaders and close. Should appreciate this distance. I bet the 11-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

11th: 10-11/4-7-2-9/8-12-6/1-5…A wide open affair to close out the day’s action, but I will focus on two of the outside runners in the finale. Unstabled (10) is trained by a talented young man who gets some good stock. Seldom travels, but he is solid in these parts. This one has a win over this track last November, and should appreciate the class dump for this one. Stand Alone Dennis (11) is a son of Lemon Drop Kid and has been on my Horses to Watch list for quite some time. Has two wins and a third in the 5 starts this year. Will get his first start here, though, and goes for a trainer who is scoring with .21% of his 178 started this year. This one is 20-1 in the ML. So…Gets my Upset Special designation. I bet the 10-11 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I will key the 10-11 over /under the 4-7-2-9 in two more, and then key the 10-11 over the 8-12-6 in a much smaller version.

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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