McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Thursday, May 24

Day Results10-3-4-6
Top Pick Win %33.30%
Top Pick ITM % 76-12361.80%
Top 3 Picks ITM %37.90%
2018 Overall 702 Races262-270-301
Win % of Top Pick37.30%
ITM % of Top 3 Picks39.60%

We had a tremendous weekend, with a wonderful Saturday. Of the 17 races that we ended up touting on Saturday — Preakness Day — we had 12 winners. Wow. An amazing day.

Let’s kick the new week off with a bang, and keep the momentum rolling the rest of this great Churchill Downs race meeting. Here is a look at Thursday’s card:

1st: 6-5-1-2-3…The inaugural event on Thursday is a sprint for 2YOs, going just 41/2 furlongs over the dirt track. It is hard to measure most of these, since many will be starting for the first time, but I am going with Pure Speculation (6) — aptly named right? This one is a first time starter, but has been working lights out for trainer W. Bret Calhoun, who hit with a couple of 2YOs at the recent Keeneland meet. This colt, by Morning Line, cost $150,000 as a yearling and is training lights out here. The sire hits with 20% of those making the debut, and the trainer hits with .20% of those in the MSW ranks. Chase Greatness (5) is another first timer, who will go for a hot trainer and a very cold rider. The dam of this colt, by More Than Ready, has 3 winners from 3 starters already, and has produced 1 stakes winner. The trainer hits with .28% of dirt runners and scores with .35% of those making the debut in MSW company. Last two works nothing to write home about, but the two moves before were spot on. Stupify (1) is yet another who will making making the debut today. The rail can be tricky enough, especially for first timers, but if he can break well, it is the much preferred spot in these short races — which start very near the turn. The sire, Twirling Candy, has a 21% rate of success with first time starters, and the dam of this one has 3 winners in 5 starters. Jock is red hot, and the barn just got possession of this one after the April Sale in Texas, when the connections picked him up for $110,000. Worthy foe. I bet the 6-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 7-4-2-5-6…Ursula Andress (7) is a mare that I have used before, and I will definitely use again — as in today. She was claimed out of her last race, which was a win at a higher level on April 18 at Keeneland. Last November, she won against tougher at Churchill Downs, too. Both of those races were her only two on the dirt in the last 6 tries. The new connections are 0-for-1 with first timers off the claim, but this one looks to fit firmly here. North of Eden (4) was claimed last time out, too, but for a tag half the price of the preferred choice. This 5YO mare made the lead before tiring late in that 1-mile journey. This trainer hits with .20% of those making the barn debut for the new connections, and this barn hits with .28% of those returning after being beaten as the favorite. Gets a nice rider bump in this spot. Myositis Mystique (2) comes into this one off a huge win, by more than 6 lengths. That was against easier foes, though, and she will get a new rider today. This one does like the distance, and does well over this strip, too. Can’t dismiss. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the 7 over/under all the numbers in two smaller versions, as well.

3rd: 2-7-5-1…Elusive Million (2) will be making her first start since last April, and will be making her first start ever for the new trainer — who is off to a solid start here this meet. This one, who once ran in a G1 and G3 Stakes, will be dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time, too. She has trained OK for the return to the afternoon, and the trainer does well with these kind of layups. I like her in this spot, but she has obvious holes in the past performances. Soft Cheese (7) will get her third career start over the sod today, and she has a win in the last try here on May 13. Wheels right back in two weeks for a trainer that does score with .25% of repeat winners in the claiming ranks. Lost the condition after the last win, and will face tougher foes in here today. Rider is super hot this meet. Angelo’s Ashes (5) is another that we have watched and wagered on in the past. She is coming off a nice third, after leading through the early fractions, in the last one here on May 1. Has only 2 thirds to show for 5 previous grass races. But does drop a strong notch in class for this one. I bet the 2-7 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the 2 over the rest in a smaller version.

4th: 7-4-2-6-8-5…Soaring Bird (7) ran second to Mitole, one of the best 3YO sprinters in the world four races back and ran a nice second in the race three back. Faced some tough customers in the last two, as well. Nice work here on May 16, and if the jockey can avoid the trouble he encountered along the backstretch in the last one, he may get up for graduation day today. Air Strike (4) will be making his racing debut today for a trainer that does hit with .17% on debut. This one is a home bred for Gary and Mary West, who have some good ones in training right now — like both West Coast and Restoring Hope. Works have been good — including the one on April 26. Should be ready. True to Dixie (2) ran second to a SW in Kowboy Karma at Delaware Park last July. Came back to run fourth after an 11-month layoff on May 12 here. Should benefit from that exercise and the trainer hits with .11% of those making the second start off that long a layup. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest in a small version.

5th: 9-8-7-1-3-4-2-5…I key on the top two numbers here, and focus on the top four, in general. Tenkoz (9) is a son of Malibu Moon that cost $525,000 as a yearling, but now, after 8 mostly misfires to begin the career, finds himself in a race for a price tag of $8,000. Wow. But two races back, this one finally broke his maiden when he did at the MC12,500 level for trainer Dale Romans. Won that day by 12 lengths. Now, he finds himself at an all-time low price, and he should be competitive against these types. Trainer hits with .33% when he drops one this dramatically. Mr. Compasss (8) broke the maiden last time out at Indy, when he moved to the traditional dirt surface for the first time ever. Moves up in class for this spot today and will face winners for the first time, but maybe he found a track surface that he likes? Silver Giant (7) gets a significant drop in class for this one, too. Trainer hits with .17% with those making this type of class plunge. Third the last two times out, but not even close in either. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the 9 over/under all the rest in two smaller versions.

6th: 4-9-6-8-7-1-2…Wide open affair here, but I finally settle on Zorzor (4), and I like the 4-1 ML odds for this son of Bodemeister. Gets a new rider after an extremely wide trip last time out. The race two back was a good one, when he was beaten only a head by a horse that has already come back to win again. The win four back was very impressive in gate-to-wire fashion. Maybe he reverts back to that running style today? Rider today was up for the win, and the trainer scores with .30% of those returning after losing as the favorite last time out. Convict Pike (9) cost $130,000 as a 2YO in 2016. Has nearly won back that amount in purses, but this one has not seen the winner’s circle since 2016, too. Has been running competitively against some good ones, but must improve to challenge the top contender. Silver Dust (6) is a Tapit colt who cost $510,000 as a 2YO in 2016, as well. Has a win and a second in three tries this year. Will try the sod for the first time today, but the trainer is super sharp, and has won with .16% of those making this surface switch. He hits with .13% with those trying the grass for the first time ever. Nice work here on May 10. A real threat. I bet the 4-6 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the 4-6 over all the rest in a smaller version.

7th: 6-2-1-5-3-8-4…I will focus on the top two numbers here, because I truly cannot separate them at all. Champagne Problems (6) is a well-bred daughter of Ghostzapper and is trained by one of the meet’s top trainers. She loves this course, in a way, too. In 6 starts over this dirt track, she has 3 seconds and 2 thirds — including a second in the Dogwood Stakes here last September. Seems to be working very well right now, too. Mines and Magic (2) loves this course, too. In 7 tries over it up to now, she has 3 wins, 2 seconds and a third. The only time she missed was when she ran 6th to Paulasilverlining in the G1 Humana Distaff last May. Training well for this one and it will be her third start this year off the winter layup. Trainer hits with .17% on the third try back. Jockey is ice cold, though, and that throws some ice water on the enthusiasm. Put Da Blame On Me (1) has two wins, two seconds and a third in 10 started here. She was super wide throughout the last start here last November, and will be making the 2018 debut today. Work on May 8 was solid, and the trainer does score with .13% off this layoff time. Trainer is having a super hot meet, as well, and picks up the meet’s leading rider in the saddle. Like the odds. I bet the 6-2 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one solid exacta. 

8th: 10-1-7-8-2-3-6-5…I focus on the top two numbers and then use with the next two fairly strong. Despite the awful post position, the best horse on paper appears, at least to me, to be Blue Lute (10). This 3YO colt, by Midnight Lute, has two seconds and a third in the last three starts. This one is a Florida-bred and has raced against restricted company in a couple of those tries, but nearly won against open company before. The drop into MCL company for the first time should prove enough to help this one into the winner’s circle. The trainer hits with .13% of those making that kind of class drop. Top jock aboard. Four Knights (1) will drop back into the MCL ranks for the first time since he was purchased out of one in March. The new trainer hits with .22% of those making the second start for the new connections. Nice training move on May 19. Looks like he’s ready to hit his best stride. The Moment Is Now (7) picks up a new rider after being claimed last time out by a hot trainer. New conditioner hits with .15% with those making the first start for the new barn, and this one was the beaten favorite in that effort, as well. Was well wide in that one and had traffic issues in both of the previous two starts. A clean trip may be all this one needs. I bet the 10-7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

Audible ran best of our horses. Javier (Castellano) told me he couldn’t get going early in the race. He said the horse had trouble with the track and the kickback. He just couldn’t get him going. It’s frustrating when something like this happens. Javier said he thought he might have been on the best horse if he could have got going earlier. Magnum Moon, Luis (Saez) said he didn’t like the track at all. He said the kickback got to him. Johnny (Velazquez) said Vino Rosso didn’t like it (the track) either. He just didn’t want to be out there. Florent (Geroux) on Noble Indy got his trip; he just wasn’t good enough.”

Todd Pletcher, Trainer of Audible (3rd), Vino Rosso (9th), Noble Indy (17), Magnum Moon (19th)
  • 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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean