McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Sunday, June 23

Day Results11/4-5-6
2019 Overall 910910/327-321-430
Win % of Top Pick35.93%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.49%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –620 of 91068.13%
Top Selection ITM / CD 222-33466.47%
Top Selection Win / CD 117-33435.03%
“Key Horses” @ CD 48-16-12-633.33%
“Key Horses” in 2019 163-63-34-2038.65%

Nice day on Saturday. Four winners out of the 11 races, and we should have had five. I love, love, love Mia Mischief. Just love her. The grit. The grind. The great speed. That’s my girl. And, I jumped off her for the hype of Covfefe. Darn to heck.

But we still hit for exactas that returned $8.50, $46.00, $6.10, $24.50, $37.20 for each play. Not a bad Saturday at the ole’ ball yard.

Now, let’s try to finish up the weekend on a good note. So, here we go:

1st: 2-12-9-(13)/10-7/6-4-11…The first turf event of the day, and here’s hoping they all stay on the grass today. If it sticks to sod, I will go with Aqualityindividual (2). This 3YO son of Quality Road ran 6th on debut here June 9. That one was washed off the grass and over to the main track. But notice the “bad step” after the start. That compromised this one’s effort greatly, and he was well supported at the windows that day, too. Dam has a winner from 3 starters and a turf winner. Drops in class to the MCL level today. My solid choice. Tweezer (12) ran better with the blinkers last time out. Closed well. Should improve off that effort. Extra Medium (9) is a first time gelding for a barn that ships down from Arlington Park. Trainer has hit with .17% of 54 starters this year, and picks up a top grass rider for this effort. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will also key the 2 over/under the 12-9-10-7-6 in two smaller versions.

2nd: 2/6-7-3-5/1-4…The first Key Play of the Day is also my Upset Special of the Day. I will go strong on Dennis’ Moment (2) in this MSW event for the 2YO colts. The track’s winningest trainer — as in ever — is starting to heat up a bit and has combined with this rider to go 3-for-7 in the last two weeks. This son of Tiznow cost $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton August Sale in 2018, and if you listened to our podcast with Dale just a couple of weeks ago, he was very impressed with this one’s talent. Love the work back on May 24. Shows some speed. Barn hits with .11% with those that debut in the MSW ranks. Distance may be too short for this one, whose pedigree screams distance. But look out for this one. Could be special. Really special. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and key the 2 over/under the numbers listed in the exacta.

3rd: 3-5/4-6-1/2…Concord Fast (3) ran off to an impressive win here on June 2. Comes back today at the same level, and the barn hits with .36% repeating at the claiming level. Is a perfect 2-for-2 at this track and has 3 wins and 3 seconds in 8 starts at this distance, too. Majestic Affair (5) was claimed last time out on March 24 when he ran against tougher. But look at the race two back. Ran 4th to Mitole — maybe one of the hottest horses in the world right now. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the 3-5 in the exacta. I bet the 3-5 over (only) the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

4th: 9-7/6-1/5-2-3-8…Thunderous Gem (9) goes for a trainer who has only 10 starts this year. Has 2 wins from that group. This one could add to the group today. Goes from turf to dirt, and should benefit from that move. Ran a very nice second in the Animal Kingdom at Turfy park on March 9. Tolly Ho (7) won over at KEE on April 20. Ran off in the mud that day. Moved up to face tougher in his try for new trainer Tim Glyshaw last time out and ran very well to be second. Almost lasted on the lead in that one on May 24. Speed to burn here. One to catch. I bet the 9-7 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I key the 9-7 over (only) the 6-1-5-2 in a smaller version.

5th: 10-3-(15)/12-2/7-6-13-4…The second turf event of the day goes at the 11/8-mile distance, and I go strong with Silver Kitten (10). This one is trained by Danny Gargan, who does a great job, and comes into this one off two straight 2nd place finishes. Daughter of Kitten’s Joy looks like well-spotted here and could graduate today. Call to Victory (3) ran a huge second last time out on May 18. Closed well from off the pace to just miss with the clever James Graham in the saddle. Love the work on June 14. Sitting on ready. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the 10-3 in one exacta. I will key the 10-3 over (only) the 12-2-7-6 in two smaller versions.

6th: 2/5-7/3-1-4-6/8…The second Key Play of the Day comes right here with Tactical Pursuit (2). This one drops from $40,000 price tag to $20,000 today and the barn hits with .38% of those making this kind of class plunge. Third off the layoff, too, and the trainer hits with .22% of the last 79 to make that try. Ran super race over the mud 2 races back at KEE. Look for this one to rev the engines early and be tough to catch late. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under the numbers listed.

7th: 11-9/7-6-5/4-3/12-10-1…Explorer (11) has burned a lot of money so far in his career. He has been favored in all 4 of his previous starts. Twice, he has been odds-on. He has a win and 3 seconds. But he shortens up today, and goes for a new trainer for the first time. I am back on. Even though I swore off. I’m back on. This one is super quick and likely to go right to the front again. Can the new connections last? We shall see. Hidden Ruler (9) was gelded after the last race and that may help this one stay focused on running. Has raced against some real good ones in the past, and shortens back up to the sprint distance today. Love the work here on June 17. Love it. Look for big improvement at 8-1 odds. Upset Special? I bet the 11 to win/place and the 9 across the board and then I box those two in the exacta. I will key the 11-9 over/under the 7-6-5-4-3 in two smaller versions.

8th: 8-9-1/3-(11)-7/5-2-1A-4-6…The third turf race of the day, and this one will be contested at 11/16-miles. Interesting horse to watch in here is Coach Rocks (1), who ran 7th against Monomoy Girl in the KY Oaks just a year ago. Although she has never won over the grass in 3 previous tries, she does have 2 seconds and a third. One of those seconds came here. Love the fact that the trainer is switching it up with her, and legs up a new rider, too. Change of pace. She has talent. Can she rediscover? Tough field, though. La Signare (8) has run in four straight Graded Stakes events over the grass and won the G3 Wonder Again at Belmont Park last June. Love the work on June 19. Looks primed. New trainer hits withy .30% of those getting the first start for the new connections. Peru (9) has 3 starts over this track, with a win and a second. Gets back to allowance company today. Will be running late. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 8-1 over/under the 9-3-7-5-2 in two smaller versions.

9th: 8-1-7/6-9-2/4-10-11-5…This is a really nice allowance-optional claimer for the older gentlemen, and I will give the slight edge to Cool Arrow (8). This 5YO son of Into Mischief is coming of two impressive runs in a row. Won two back in allowance company before trying a Stakes over at Charles Town. Nipped at the finish of that one. Has the speed to control early on, and gets a rider who has won on his back, too. Has 4 starts here with 2 seconds. Snapper Sinclair (1) is an interesting sort. Wavered between grass and dirt in the early career, before he was given a shot to earn his way into the 2018 KY Derby. That didn’t happen, and he has struggled a bit since. Won at this distance at Oaklawn park on Feb. 17. Came back to run a huge one in the Essex Handicap. Either one of those two efforts will put him in the circle today. Love, love, love the 6-1 ML odds. California Night (7) is another who will prefer the front end. Could set up a speed duel. That may help Snapper. I bet the 8-1 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 8-1 over/under the 7-6-9-2-4 in two smaller versions.

10th: 11-1-7/5/4-6/8-3-9-(14)…The final race of the day is a handy, dandy MSW event for the 3YO boys, and I go to the far outside for my top selection in Young Phillip (11). Has never missed the board in 3 lifetime tries, and ran second to a comeback winner last time out. Barn hits with .20% of those making the third start off a layup, and the work on June 16 was really nice. Gets a new rider for this one, and that may turn the trick. Should be stalking from the get-go. Picasso (1) ran well here on debut May 12. Finished 3rd that day after a slow start. Came with a rush. Runner-up in that one has already returned to win the next out. Love the breeding on this one, and Tapit’s can take awhile to learn the running game. When the bulb goes off, though? Game on. Dark Web (7) is 6-1 in the ML, and please do yourself a favor and put this one in your gimmicks. Ran second in both starts last year, and one of those was as the PT favorite against My Sixth Sense. This guy goes for a top trainer and could pop today. Has the talent. Upset Special #3? Maybe. I bet the 11-7 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I then key the 11-7 over/under the 1-5-4-6 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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