McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Sunday, Sept. 29

Day Results11/3-3-4
2019 Overall 1,0081008/362-349-466
Win % of Top Pick35.91%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall38.92%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –683 of 1,00867.76%
Top Selection ITM / CD 51/8063.75%
Top Selection Win / CD 29/8036.25%
“Key Horses” @ CD 7-4-1-057.14%
“Key Horses” in 2019 173-69-35-2039.88%

We had a marvelous time at Churchill Downs on Saturday Night. The place was hopping. The racing was dancing. And, the friendship was amazing. Oh, what a night. To be sure.

Didn’t have the best of luck at the pari-mutuel windows. Like I told my lovely teller lady about midway through the proceedings: “When you get down to $5s and $1s, you know it isn’t a great night.”

What the glamour and pageantry and the magnificent “color” that is Thoroughbred racing?

The world should have witnessed Saturday night at Churchill Downs.

It was perfect.

Here’s a look at Sunday’s card — the final day of the September Meet:

1st: 7-3-9/4-8-2-1…We start the day with a nice MCL event on the higher end of the price category, and I go with Flower House (7) in this 1-mile event over the main track. This 3YO daughter of Istan is coming off two straight 3rd place finishes for trainer Brian Williamson. In fact, of the 4 races she has sported to date, she has run in the “show” position 3 times. Got really close last time out, losing by less than 1. Switches to the dirt today, and the barn hits with .19% of these surface switchers. Jockey has been on a roll, too, having recorded a 3-1-0 mark in the last 9 races. Garden Affair (3) has hit the board in 2 of the last 3 outs, and will be dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time ever. Barn hits with .17% of those that are doing that, and she ran well at this distance last time out — tiring a bit at the end. It’s a Ford (9) picks up the services of one of the hottest apprentice riders to hit these parts in years. Has 2 seconds in 4 trips so far, and should be running at the end of this one. Figures. I bet the 7-9 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

2nd: 9/2-5/3-10/4-11-7-6…I will go to my first Key Play of the Day early in the program with French Quarter (9). I love the place, and if we can boot home the win in this one, I will develop an affection for the horse, too. This 8YO gelded son of Shakespeare is coming off a win at Canterbury last time out for a barn that knows how to get to the winner’s circle. Trainer has won with .24% of 767 starters this year. Expert at this distance, too, having won 7 of 31 tries — 2 of those wins coming this year. Rider choice is interesting, but has 2 thirds in 3 mounts so far this meet. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key the 9 over/under all the numbers in the exactas.

3rd: 5-7-8/1-2…Nice sprint race here, carded at 6 furlongs, and I will go bullish on Sterling Miss (5). The barn normally crushes it here, but has only 1 win in the first 16 tries this meet. Could add another trip to the circle here, though, with a horse dropping out of a Stakes event into the claiming ranks. Won easily here back in May. Has been off since mid-July, but the trainer hits with .24% of those away from the races this long. Like the work on Sept. 5. Looks ready for the return. Has won off a layup before, too. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 5 over/under all the other numbers listed in two smaller versions.

4th: 11-1/9-6-5/2-4/8-7…Ginny B (11) draws an interesting post position for this 6.5-furlong sprint, and due to her lack of early speed, she will probably have to drop to the back and make a late run in the stretch. That strategy worked wonders on Saturday night, though, and this one is getting a huge drop in class for today’s effort. Will switch overt from the turf to the main track, too, and the barn hits with .14% of those. In 3 previous runs over a fast dirt track, she does have a second. Has been facing tougher. On the other extreme of the starting gate is Lucky Visit (1). This one broke the maiden last time out here on Sept. 13. Wheels right back, and that’s a very good sign. Gets the meet’s top rider to stick in the saddle, too. In 4 career starts, has a record of 1-1-2. I like the consistency. I bet the 1 across the board (Take Note) and then box the 1-11 in one exacta. I will key the 1-11 over/under the 9-6-5-2-4 in two smaller versions.

5th: 12-1/9-10-5/(13)-7-6-8-2…A high-end MCL event going 6 furlongs over the main track and once again I will go with the far outside and the extreme inside for my top selections. Wedontbelieveher (12) will drop considerably in class for this one after running 6th in a MSW event at Saratoga last out. Well beaten in that one, but was third and 2nd at “The Spa” before that one. Was bearing the blinkers last time out and that experiment didn’t work at all. Loses the shades today. Take note. Orb’s Soul (1) draws the rail for trainer Jimmy Baker — who had a great Saturday Night victory with Spectacular Gem. This one was claimed off D. Wayne Lukas last time out at Ellis Park. Barn hits with .18% of those on the first try after the purchase. Look for big improvement here. I bet the 12 across the board and then box the 12-1 in one exacta. I will key the 12 over/under the 1-9-10-5-7-6 in two smaller versions.

6th: 6-7/8-11-9/10-3-4-1/5…A wide open affair here for $10,000 claimers, and I will go strong on a couple of major “Droppers.” Aquadini (6) ran in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes earlier this year with hopes of finding a starting gate spot in this year’s KY Derby. But that was the start of a major slide in performance. Ran 12th and was beaten 38 in that try. Has not been even remotely close since then. Falls from the $50,000 price tag to $10,000 today. If this doesn’t do the trick, I don’t know what will. I like this son of Bernardini, though, and I will give him a shot today. Fra Mauro (7) is another plummeting in the ranks. He ran 5th, but beaten less than 3, for $40,000 last time out when running over the sod. Has never been on a fast dirt track before, but was 2nd against much tougher two times ago. Barn hits with .41% of those that get this kind of class drop, and with .30% of those switching surfaces. Can’t ignore those stats. I bet the 6-7 across the board and then box those 2 in one exacta. I will key the 6-7 over/under the 8-11-9-10-3-4 in two smaller versions.

7th: 10-7-6/8-2/1-4-5-9…Lady of Luxury (10) gets the nod for me in this spot. The 3YO Mark Valeski filly is coming off a nice 3rd against similar last time out — which was here on June 16. In 6 career starts, she has a 1-0-2 mark. Four of those 6 starts, though, have been on the slop. one the recent works. She will get a fast dirt surface today, and she may try to air them from the outside post. Lunar Orbit (7) drops for this one, and will pick up a huge rider switch. Has been off since February, but the barn can score off the bench and this one has a huge MSW win over this track last October. Good when right. May be right today. Watch out here. Bonnet (6) is a 3YO daughter of Union Rags and owned by Stone Farm and Arthur Hancock. This staunch advocate of “Hay Oats & Water” will allow the trainer to run with Lasix today. Again. Interesting, one might think. Filly broke the maiden last time out. has talent. I bet the 10-7 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

8th: 3-10-8/7-1/4-9/2-1A-5…A wide, wide, wide open affair here, and tough to cut down the leading contenders. I will give a slight edge to Banks Island (3) — who is 8-1 in the ML, and, as a result, will earn my designation as the Upset Play of the Day. This 2YO son of Tapit is a homebred for the Godolphin Stables, and he ran a huge one last time out — just missing at the wire. The debut run was better than it looked. The winner in that one came back in the G3 Iroquois and set blistering fractions and the “show” horse in that first outing came right back to win. Love the training pattern here. I ‘m on this one. For sure. Hansens Mischief (10) is a 2YO son of the fashionable Into Mischief and ran a solid one on debut at KY Downs on Sept. 5. Now, he will be switched to the main track and will pick up the services of the meet’s top rider. Training well. Look out. Noble Empire (8) ran third on debut at Saratoga for a trainer known far and wide for not cranking them up for the career debut. Now, this one gets the addition of Lasix, and a talented new rider. Beware. I bet the 3-10 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 3-10 over/under the 8-7-1-4-9. I make sure to include the 4-9 — both intriguing in their own rights.

9th: (1A)-2-7-3/6-1/8-5-4…The featured event of the day is a 11/16-mile contest over the sod, and my top choice will not make the field. Beyond Gone (1A) was entered for the “Main Track Only,” and there’s no way this one is coming off the grass. So? We go to the next best plan. Fenwick Station (2) has run twice, with a win and a second on the record. Ran a huge one against Stakes company at KY Downs last out. Nearly caught them at the wire. Love the breeding. Trainer having a solid year, winning with .21% of 223 starters. Big shot here. Nicely Nicely (7) is coming off a MSW win on debut. Ran on the lead from gate to wire in that 5.5-furlong try. Now, stretches way, way out. Can he carry that speed? Barn hits with .23% with those routing for the first time. More Than Pride (3) ran a huge one over the all-weather at Presque Isle last time out. Son of More Than Ready, whom I love as a grass sire. Gets a top grass rider to take the reins today. Chance. I bet the 2 strong and steady across the board and then key the 2 over/under the “all button.”

10th: 9-7/8-2-5-10/6-1…The finale of the day and of this abbreviated September meet. Nice MSW event for the fillies and mares going 11/16-miles. I go to the outside and land solidly on my top two choices — led by Sugar Love (9). This 3YO daughter of Candy Ride didn’t fire much in the last out as the favorite. Runner-up in that one has come right back to win. Has faced some good ones in the past. Like the effort here on May 25. If she can duplicate that? She probably wins. Like the work here on Sept. 16, too. Looks poised. Double Axel (7) is a 3YO daughter of Orb, and she, too, has a nice run over this track in May. Lost by a length that day. Didn’t fire much over the grass at Ellis and now returns to the main track. Stretches out for the first time, and the barn hits with .18% of these surface switchers, and with .07% of those routing for the first time. Love the rider choice. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 9-7 over/under the 8-2-5-10 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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