Updated Again / McLean’s Selections For Churchill Downs on Sunday, Sept. 23

Day Results11-4-4-1
2018 Overall 1441538-526-635
Win % of Top Pick37.34%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.30%
Top Selection ITM / CD: 45-6075.00%
Top Selection Win / CD: 25-6041.67%

It is my lovely wife’s birthday today, so we are running a bit behind schedule. Bear with us. We are endeavoring to get caught up this morning after a beautiful day at the track on Saturday; a night on the town with friends and colleagues; and a morning of recovery.

Here is a look at today’s card at Churchill Downs:

1st: 7-3/6-2-1…Thesweetesttaboo (7) may or may not have been in play on Saturday, but this 3YO daughter of Sidneys Candy should be today over the sloppy going at Churchill Downs. Although she has never been on an off-track, she did run a third two starts back against much better. The rider of that one opts off today for our second choice, which is a bit troublesome. But the rider picked up for this one is the hottest on the grounds. He has a 5-3-1 record in the last 17 starts, and this one did have a beautiful work over the mud on Aug. 8 at Churchill Downs. Was the 2nd fastest of 22 to go that day. Could be OK today. Absolute Love (3) has been on the off-going four times in her career to date, and she has a win and two thirds to show for those efforts. That gives this one the most experience on an off-track, and she is getting back to a level that she nearly won at two starts ago. But…In 11 previous starts, she has 4 seconds and 2 thirds. Likes to run behind the winner, it appears. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-3 in one exacta. I will key the 7-3 over (only) the 6-2-1.

2nd: 3-6/9/1-5/4-8-10…Strolling (3) has been assigned 10-1 ML odds, and I think this 3YO gelded son of Stroll has a shot in this spot. Thus, he becomes my Upset Special. This one has run three straight times against much tougher and on the grass. Before that, though, he won a nice MC event at Oaklawn on the dirt for much higher price tag. In the one start over the off-going, he had a second last Fall at Keeneland. Looks like he could shock a bit in this spot. Andrew’s Game (6) is the pre-race favorite, and should be. Comes from the barn of Brad Cox, and in his only previous start ran off to an easy, front-end win as the favorite. Has come back to work well. Gets a solid rider and would be no surprise at all. Cost $350,000 in May of 2017. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. May try the 3-6-9 over the 1-5 in a smaller version.

3rd: 3-1-2/6-7/5-8-4…I will focus my betting strategy on the top 3 numbers here, led by Grade (3). This one will be dropping down into the MCL ranks for the first time since the debut race last August. In 8 previous starts, he has 3 seconds and 2 thirds. Shown ability to close in most of his races, and has faced some good ones in the past — like Tenfold and Bravazo. My choice at 9-2 ML odds. Applewood (1) could spice up the odds board in this one. He is dropping into the MCL ranks for the first time, and the trainer hits with .22% of those kind. Will switch back from the turf today, and does have one previous race over a muddy racetrack. Gets a top rider in the saddle, despite the low win % this meet. Valycove (6) ran over a muddy track at Saratoga last time out. Ran third that day, but was beaten 21 lengths. The winner drew off by nearly 10 in a field of 6. Love the work at the training track on Sept. 18, though, and the connections did pay $90,000 for this one. Can’t ignore. I bet the 3-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. May key the top 3 numbers over the 6-7 in a smaller version.

4th: 7-8/6-2/9-4-5…Really love this MSW event for the fillies, and, in particular the first time starter Shackleford County (7). This one has been training lights out for the barn — who also conditioned the sire. The last two works are spot on, and the rider is off to a good meet here, too. Sire hits with 16% in the mud and with .14% of those making the debut in the mud. Worked over a good track here on Sept. 1 and didn’t seem to bother her any. My choice. Sun Studio (8) is a first timer from the barn of Brad Cox. The sire hits with .16% of first time starters and the dam has 2 winners from 5 starters. Training well at Ellis Park before the move home. Well bred daughter of Speightstown for a top breeder/owner (who just happened to breed the great Justify). I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-8 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 7-8 over/under the 6-2, as well, in a smaller version.

5th: 5-8-9/-3/2-1-11-4…I will focus on the top 3 in this sequence, led by My Peeps (5). This 3YO daughter of Concord Point was a bargain basement buy at the Keeneland September Sale in 2016 — going for just $1,500. But she has won over $100,000. Nice return. Has a second on an off-track, and comes into this one having faced much tougher in her recent past. In three starts over this track, she has two wins. My pick. Krissys Manicure (8) was claimed last time out by a young trainer just getting started in the business. In three starts this meet, he has two wins and a second. Not a bad way to get going, I would say. This one has run over an off track before, scoring a third. That was at Keeneland this Spring, when facing much tougher. And, she led that one until the final yards. Love the work at the Churchill Downs training center back in July. Gets a top rider today. Sunshine Cake (9) has been running against cheaper, but running very well. The barn is one of the best claiming operations around, and they know how to spot their horses. Trainer is 2-2-1 in 10 starts this meet and is winning at a .17% clip after 334 starts this year. Can’t dismiss. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the #3 in two more. Don’t leave Cape Town (3) out of my equation here.

6th: 6-11-10/2-3-1/8-4-5…My first “dot” (must use for me) comes in this event, and with American Mandate (6). this 2YO son of Strong Mandate ran a huge second to Hog Creek Hustle in the debut run, and the latter was my upset pick in the G2 Iroquois here on opening weekend. He didn’t run good in that Stakes event, but he was ultra impressive in that MSW run. If American Mandate run back that first effort, he could be awfully tough to hold off in this one. My best bet of the day. Afleet Moment (11) is a first timer for the barn of Mark Casse, who is beginning to heat up after a very cold summer. This one cost $650,000 as a yearling and the sire does win with .16% with debut runners. The dam has 5 winners from 7 starters and 2 Stakes winners, to boot. So, pedigree is very solid. Works super, too. Wont’ be an easy out. All About Will (10) is one that cost $975,000 as a yearling last September at Keeneland. Working OK for the debut run, and the barn will be using the returning Jon Court. Hope the good guy gets his first win since returning from a motorcycle injury. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the 6-11 over/under the 2-3-1. I will key the 6 over the last 3 numbers in a much smaller version.

7th: 7-9-6/1-4/10-11-8…While I went with the #6 in the 6th, I will go with the #7 in the 7th. Haynesfest (7) is coming into this one off a tiring effort last time out, but that was going 11/16 miles. Gets back to a sprint today, and the trainer hits with .26% of those shortening up. This one has 2 thirds in 3 starts here, and has a 1-4-1 record in 8 starts this year. Trainer off to a super good start at this meet, and the training session here on Aug. 28 was a standout. Gets the meet’s top rider back in the saddle for a two-race hiatus. My pick. Musabaqa (9) goes for the same trainer as our top choice. The barn picked this one up last time out at Ellis Park. Trainer hits with .28% on the first time after the purchase, and this one is a perfect 2-for-2 so far in the career. Winning rider from last sticks with this one. Heavenly Hill (6) comes back as a beaten favorite, and the trainer of this one hits with .20% of those kind coming back. Has hit the board in the last four straight. But? Zero for 4 on this track. I bet the 7-9 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 numbers over the 1-4 in a smaller version.

8th: 10-2-1-11…This one is off the turf, and there are many scratches in the event. Of those left to run, I will go another one from the barn of Tom Amoss. This one draws in from the “Main Track Only” list, and has hit the board in the last three. This one ran a nice second as the favorite last time out. The trainer scores with .29% of those returning after being beaten as the betting choice. Has a second in two starts over an off track, and should be closing well in this group. Lilt (2) is a horse that has run three times already over an off track and she has a 1-1-1 record in those events. Ran third here against much tougher three races back, and I love the jockey switch for this one. Could spice up the exotics here. C. S. Incharge (1) is 15-1 ML odds, but may drop with the outs. But this one could be a nice surprise for a barn that knows how to get them ready. This one will be making the second start off a layup, and the trainer hits with .11% of those. Gets back to the off track, too, where she has a win and a third in three tries over that kind of race surface. Has faced some tougher ones in the past. I bet the 10-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 11.

9th: 10-12-2/6-11-4/13-3-1…My second “Best Bet of the Day,” and second “Upset Special” will come in this spot. I love Traveling Midas (10) in this spot for trainer Rusty Arnold. This one nearly won the Ellis Park Derby last time out, and the runner-up in that one came back to dominate a Stakes event here a week ago. If this 3YO gelded son of Quality Road can convert his speed to the off-track, then he could be very tough to catch. Shortens up for this one, too, and that should help. Love the works since the last race. My solid pick here. Most Amusing (12) comes from the barn of Brad Cox, and he will put the saddle on this one for just the second time since getting this one from the barn of Bob Baffert earlier this year. Ran a solid, but tiring second in the last race — but that was this one was making his first start in three months. Should benefit from that effort, and will try the mud today. Love the works. Looks ready for top effort. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 10 over/under the 12-2-6-11-4 in another two. I will key the 10 over the 13-3-1 in a much smaller version.

10th: 1-8-6/5/4-7…I will go to the rail for the day’s finale. Rapid Assent (1) got off to a slow start and didn’t show much in the debut effort at Ellis Park back on Aug. 25. But the trainer hits with .29% of those making the second start, and with .40% of those stretching out to a route. Also, this one will get blinkers for the first time. May correct the issue. Gets a top rider from the gate for today’s effort and the last few works are much better. My pick at 6-1 ML odds. Back Page (8) is 15-1 ML odds and could add some muster to the exotics. This one ran a solid fourth on debut Aug. 18. But the trainer hits with .17% of those making the third start off the layoff. Now, gets to stretch his legs out farther. Worth a shot at a price for me. Alexandros (6) comes from the barn of Steve Asmussen and now drops another couple of rungs down the claiming ladder. Blinkers come off and the trainer hits with .27% of those losing the equipment, and this one did run a nice second here against much better a year ago. Works OK of late. I bet the 1-6 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the #5 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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