McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Thursday, June 13

Day Results8/3-1-2
2019 Overall 845845/312-298-401
Win % of Top Pick36.92%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.88%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –577 of 84568.28%
Top Selection ITM / CD 179-26966.54%
Top Selection Win / CD 98-26936.43%
“Key Horses” @ CD 42-14-11-533.33%
“Key Horses” in 2019 157-61-34-1838.85%

We are coming off a very nice week, and our numbers at this current Churchill Downs’ meet are starting to trend in the right direction. After a dismal start and a mundane first month, we have now inched our winning percentage for the meet to 36.43 percent. That’s just a few ticks below our yearly average of 36.92% now.

It’s been a long climb back to respectability, and now is the time to kick it on home for the remainder of this month to close out the Spring/Summer meet.

Here’s a closer look at Thursday’s twilight agenda:

1st: 7-5/9/2-3/4…Our Secret Agent (7) is a first time starter from the barn of Mark Casse, who is coming off a great weekend. Right? First Belmont Stakes win ever. This 2YO filly by Secret Circle comes from a dam that has 7 winners from 7 starters, and the mare has produced one Stakes winner, as well. The rider is red hot, scoring a record for 3-1-1 in the last 7 starts. The work at Keeneland on June 1 was spectacular, and the one on May 17 in Lexington was equally impressive. Looks like she may be ready to pop at first asking. Vestal (5) is a first timer for the barn of Steve Asmussen, who is the run-away leader in the Trainer Standings here this meet. This daughter of Violence cost $200,000 at the OBS-January Sale and has been training lights out going into this one, too. Look at the move at KEE on June 4. The sire hits with .23% of his progeny making the first start. Dam has a winner from 1 starter. Rider has hit with .24% of the last 135 mounts for this barn. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-5 in one exacta. I will key the 7-5 over/under the 9-2-3-4 in two smaller versions.

2nd: 7-2-9/6-4/8-3…Lord Simba (7) has the most back-class of any horse in this field, and could be sitting on a good one in his first start for a new barn operation — which scores with .32% of those making the first start after a claim. This trainer is having a super meet here this Summer, too, with .33% winners from the first 36 starts. First two starts since moving East were over an off-track in Hot Springs. Didn’t appear to like the surface condition. Last race was much, much better and the top two in that race have come back to win the next out. Crawford (2) is a former pupil of the HOFer Steve Asmussen. Will be making the second start for the new barn after being claimed for more two starts back. This trainer hits with .14% on the second start after a claim. Didn’t fire a lick in the last start, when facing much better. Drop in career low level could perk this one up some. You’re Killin Me (9) will be dropping to a career low level for a barn that has won .24% of the last 475 starts. Not bad. This level could be the right call. Rider is having a cold meet, with only .03% winners from 68 mounts here. Bummer. I bet the 7-2 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

3rd: 4-2/1-6-7/3-5-8…Artemus Bridge (4) won the last time out, going nearly gate-to-wire over a sloppy track here on May 19. Beat a couple of others in this field on that occasion, and one of the few in this event who have won 2 races in the career already. Has won 2 of the last 3 races, with the only defeat being a 3rd in a nice Stakes event at Turfway Park. Last time out was the first effort over a traditional dirt track, and it appeared that the 3YO son of Verrazano took to it nicely. Barn hits with .32% of those trying to repeat as a winner in the claiming ranks. Knight’s Cross (2) had to alter his course in the loss to the top pick last time out, and just barely missed at the wire. Has run against much, much better this year — including the likes of West Texas, Anothertwistafate and King of Speed. May have found the right level to excel right here. I bet the 2 (Take Note) to win/place/show and then box the 4-2 in one strong exacta. I will key the 2-4 over/under the 1-6-7-3-5 in two smaller versions.

4th: 8-10-1/7-6-9/(14)-2-3…The first grass race of the night is for the Maiden Claiming ranks going a flat mile, and I will give the edge to Encore Kitten (8), who is dropping into the price tag category for the first time after a run against MSW company here on May 4. Was in connection to the crowd for awhile, before fading away. Show horse that day has come back to win since the race, and the barn hits with .40% of those making the second route race. Bred for the grass, and the dam of this one has 2 turf winners from 3 starters so far. Rider is a good one. Look for big improvement with the drop here. Classical Magic (10) is 10-1 in the ML and could be a Upset of the Day Special. This 3YO filly by the Galileo son Magician is bred top to bottom for the grass surface. Has run the last two over the dirt, and that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Did run two nice ones against much tougher at the Fair Grounds over the sod. Now, gets back on the grass. Look for a push to be in the front. And, this 1-mile distance may suit her just perfectly. I def use. Heaven Escape (1) has not run since last August, when he was at Del Mar. Barn hits with only .03% of those that have been away from the starting gate that long. Has been training “just OK” over at KEE for the return. Gets a top grass rider in the irons, and has to be considered a threat. I bet the 8-10 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 8-10 over/under the 1-7-6-9-2-3 in two smaller versions.

5th: 9-3-8/2/5-4-6/7-1…Lewys Vaporizer (9) won here over a wet-fast track on May 26. Will stretch out to a 6.5-furlong event and that may be stretching the limits of this speedball. Does have 3 wins, a second and a third at the distance, though. What may help tonight is that there does NOT appear to be an abundance of speed types that will fight him for the lead. Barn is having a super nice meet with a 9-5-6 record in 41 races so far. Looks solid in this spot and has never missed the board in 3 previous runs here. Turner Time (3) won at KEE two starts back going 7 furlongs over the slop. When cut back to 6.5 furlongs last time out, he couldn’t get his closing move going fast enough. Was slower to start in that one, though, and will need to stay a bit closer to the front-runners tonight for a serious shot. Has 3 wins in 5 starts this year, with 2 thirds. Good right now. Niigon’s Glory (8) has improved since being claimed by the Asmussen barn three starts back. Will be coming late, too, but has never raced at this distance. May like it. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the 2 in a couple of smaller versions.

6th: 2-5/4/1-6-3-8…A very nice allowance race for the fillies and mares 3YO & Up, and one of the best bred gals of her generation has found her way into this race — Graceful Princess (2). This 3YO daughter of Tapit is out of the multiple Graded Stakes winning mare Havre de Grace. No better breeding around. She has raced 3 times in an abbreviated career to date, breaking the maiden at first asking last September at Saratoga. Came back in January to run second when stretched out to a mile. Ran third at GP on March 8 as the odds-on favorite. Winner that day has come back to win again. Speed is not an issue for this one. She has an abundance of it, and will flash it early and often. The question is whether she can make it last — especially now when stretched out to a new distance of 11/16-miles. Barn does hit with .23% of those returning as a beaten favorite. They will have to catch her. Gets a new rider today, since Tyler Gaffalione has apparently opted for another. And, that other is — Sundaysatthebeach (5). This one broke the maiden impressively at KEE on April 12 when running 11/16-miles over a sloppy track. Has run over the slop the last three times now, with 2 wins and a win. Will be coming late. And, will be coming strong. Barn hits with .20% of those moving up to face winners for the first time. Gaffalione has won with .22% in the last 9 mounts for this barn. Picks this one. So do I. I bet the 5 (take note) to win/place/show and then box the 2-5 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 5-2 over/under the 4 in two more.

7th: 5-7-10/1-2/9-6-4-(14)…The second grass event of the night is set for 5.5-furlongs and will feature some very nice speedsters and sprinters. I will go with my second Upset Special of the Day and Dragon Drew (5). This 4YO son of Get Stormy finally — as in, FINALLY — got a firm turf to run over the last time out. And, he showed some of the same flash that he demonstrated at the Fair Grounds in the winter of 2018 — when he was a Stakes winner. Came running here on May 16 from next-to-last to lose by less than a length. Reunited with old friend James Graham for this try. The last three times this one ran over a firm sod? Two wins and a near win second. Just saying. Madison’s Luna (7) set all the fractions in the same race as our top pick last time out. Tired very late in that one and faded to fourth. But that was his first race in 10 months. Had a right to get tired after setting torrid fractions. If that exercise helped in conditioning, this one has a chance to run much better tonight. Love the 10-1 odds here. This one is a G3 winner on the dirt, and has a nice second here against a hot horse back then over the grass. I use. Fast Boat (10) has won two of the last 3 outs and 3 of the last 5. Has moved up in class all the while. May have found a field that is too tough here, but this 4YO son of City Zip will try. I bet the 5-7 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 5-7 over/under the 10-1-2-9-6-4 in two more smaller versions.

8th: 4-6-(1A)/5-1-12-11/9-3-7…What an interesting MCL event to close out the night’s card. There’s a horse that ran second to the late, great Battle of Midway in January of 2017 (Palmer’s Way — 11). There’s a 3YO colt who ran well behind the very talented Haikal last November in a MSW event at Aqueduct (Illume — 12). There is a horse that ran behind Laughing Fox at Oaklawn Park earlier this year (Stolen Thunder — 1). There is another who ran behind Mr. Money, impressive winner of this year’s G3 Pat Day Mile (Goose Drank Wine — 1A). And, we will give the edge to two totally different horses. All in Stew Oui (4) comes from the barn of Ian Wilkes and will drop to a career low price tag tonight. Ran third a couple of races back when stuck on the grass. May appreciate the drop in class and the move to the dirt, and this barn hits with .21% of those making this surface switch. First time gelding, too. Interesting. Solomonic (6) ran third last time out here for the barn of Brad Cox, when dropped to this same level. Was wide in that one, but hung late when he had a chance to win. Did return to work well. Maybe? I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under all of the numbers listed in the exactas.

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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