Final Version: McLean’s Selections for Churchill Downs on Wednesday, Nov. 21

Day Results9-4-4-3
2018 Overall 1756646-625-768
Win % of Top Pick36.79%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall38.72%
Top Selection ITM / CD Nov 82-13461.19%
Top Selection Win / CD Nov 45-13433.58%
“Key Horses” @ CD Nov: 21-7-4-133.33%

We had a very good end of last week, hitting on 20 of the last 50 races that we handicapped, for a win percentage of .40%. Through last Sunday’s races, our top selection is hitting the board (finishing either first, second or third), and over 61% of the time.

So, as we head into Thanksgiving and the last week of live racing at Churchill Downs in 2018, we hope to finish with a fury. Not without any flurries — of the snow variety.

Here is a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 1-5-3/2-10-8-9…Bobby Lee (1) is a 2YO filly by Shanghai Bobby (who just so happens to be a favorite stallion of mine) and will be dropping from a $30,000 price tag all the way to the $15,000 level for this MCL event to start the day. Ran very well last time out here on Nov. 7 before tiring late in that one and settling for a third. Now, she will cut back to 6 furlongs for this effort. The fractions that she set going two turns are about the same as she has going one. So I don’t think she will be able to cut the lead in this one. But the trainer does hit with .33% of those making this kind of class drop, and her dam was Stakes placed. Has faced tougher company for sure, and figures to fit better with these. Rail has been OK this meet, too. Kissing Kory (5) is another who will be making a serious drop and will race for a career low price tag in here. This one comes from the barn of my good friend Buff Bradley, and is a home bred. Ran in the slop last time out, and the work since the last race was in the mud, too. If she can catch a drier track today, it may elevate her game. Ran against our top pick two races back and pushed the pace in that one before tiring. Rider getting up today is red hot. Has a 5-2-2 record in the last 14 starts. Could be there. Gator Vindication (3) comes back at the same level today. Ran third, but was beaten 11 last time out. Has two thirds in the first six tries. Trainer hits with .19% of those returning as a beaten favorite, but this one has been the bettor’s choice each of the last three times out and four of the last five. Has burned a lot of $ so far. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 5-2-8/7-1/3-4…Catkins (5) is the ML favorite, and figures to be the fan’s choice by post time. This 3YO filly by Data Link dropped to this level last time out and was a contender until the late going. Flattened in that one, but it was just her second start since late June. Barn hits with .19% of those in the MCL ranks, and this one does have 3 seconds and 3 thirds in 9 starts to date. Should be a contender. Traci’s Greeley (2) could spice up the odds rack today, sitting at 8-1 odds in the ML. Could drift up the board, too, by PT. This one has not raced since April, and the barn hits with .11% of those returning from this long of a layup. But this one will be dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time, and the barn hits with .25% of those kind. Like the most recent work over at the Churchill Downs Training Center, and does come from a Stakes-placed mare who has thrown 4 winners from 6 starters. Live. Riesling (8) is another who should be bet down in her, coming off two nice runs in a row in the MCL ranks. Pushed the pace in each of the last two, and the barn hits with .25% of those returning as a beaten favorite — and that is with 64 runners that fit the category. Winner of the race two back has already come back to win, but ran behind our top pick in the last out. Will be close at the wire. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

3rd: 6-3-9/4/8-1-7…Cha Mono (6) is a 7YO gelded son of First Samurai, and he has raced 36 times before today. Has a record of 5-5-9 to show for this efforts, and does have a 2-1-1 mark in 9 starts here. Ran 4th here on Nov. 4, and made a strong bid before tiring late. Won two starts back up at Cincy. Don’t know if he is game enough to win today, but should be close. Circle Unbroken (3) has hit the board in the last 4 starts and 5 of the last 6. Has a win in that mix up in Cincy, too. This one is a deep closer and will need a clear path with the running gets going. The rider is having a solid meet in just 11 starts. Has 3 wins and a third, and has hit with .33% of the last 9 rides for this barn. Interesting. Mark My Way (9) has not been close in either of the last two starts, but ran third here in a near miss in September. Has a second and a third in 6 starts here previously, and gets one of the hottest riders on the ground. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 3 over/under the #4 in two smaller versions. Tread lightly. 

4th: 10-6/5-1-9/7-3-4-12-11…This is the first race of the day carded for the grass course. What with the weather conditions, one never knows if these kind will stay on the sod, or be moved to the dirt. Keep an eye for race conditions and changes. Since I did my handicapping early, here is what I have originally…Preacher Power (10) should be able to walk (or run) on any kind of surface, considering the name, but this 3YO gelded son of Lonhro has never been on anything but grass. Ran a huge second at Keeneland in the last out and now has hit the board in three in a row. The race against Funny Duck on Feb. 11 was a very good one. The winner of that one came back to shock in the Pat Day Mile here on KY Derby Day. Should be ready, with the second start off the layup for a trainer that hits with .20% of those kind…St. Denman (6) has hit the board in three in a row, as well. Ran a nice third, behind our top choice, in the last out. This one likes to close from a stalking position, and will need a bit more racing luck and room late. Work here on Nov. 7 was solid, and the barn does hit with .14% of those running over the sod. I will bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the 10-6 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 10-6 over/under the 5-1-9 in a smaller version.

5th: 7-4-2/5-1-8/6-9…Sights and Sounds (7) won the last time out when racing 7 furlongs here over a muddy track. Ran away with a 6-length win that day and was “never asked” according to the chart caller for the PPs. Comes right back today for a barn that wins with .13% of those trying to make it two in a row. Will shorten up a bit, and that may compromise a late closer like this one. But in 9 starts this year, this one has carved out a 2-3-2 record and has a nice 2-1-0 mark in 3 tries here. The one to beat. Unstabled (4) won easily the last time out, as well. Ran off to a near 7-length win up at Indy Grand on Oct. 5. This one has a win over this track and the trainer is winning with .27% in 124 saddle jobs this year. Barn has 3 seconds in 5 starts this meet. Consistent group picks up Corey Lanerie in the saddle, and has some nice 6-1 ML odds. Beware. Orcus (2) comes from a barn that has won .29% out of 359 starts this year. Wow. This one stumbled at the break in the last out and dumped the rider, but he has hit the board in 5 of the previous 6 races — with 4 wins in that mix. Knows his way to the circle. I bet the 7-2 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the #8 — as well — in two smaller versions.

6th: 5-7/1-10-8/11-6-9…Another group running at the bargain basement price tag of $5,000 today. I go with Candy Ruby (5) in this spot. This 6YO son of Candy Ride was claimed for $25,000 the last time out — which was in Nov. of 2017. Almost exactly one year ago. Ran third against that much tougher lot. Now, the barn plunges this one to the bottom. And, I take the shot. The barn hits with .30% of those making the first start after a claim, and the trainer has spent a year getting this one back to the starting gate. Something inspired him to do so. Brerry (7) is a 5YO that was bred by former Gov. Brereton C. Jones (thus the name). Ran for $32,000 last time out, but was pulled up and vanned off that day. Back in March, he won for $50,000 down at Oaklawn Park. Now, this one finds his way into a $5,000 claimer? Like the work here on Oct. 21 — since the last race. Suggests that he is good to go, and will shorten up to a sprint distance today. Will race as a gelding for the first time, too. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the 5-7 in one exacta. I will key the 5-7 over/under the 1-10-8 in two smaller versions.

7th: 7-8/3-1-2…A wide open affair here for fillies and mares that are available for a $8,000 price tag. I will give a slight edge to Unprovoked (7) in this spot. This 3YO daughter of Justin Philip ran on the lead for $30,000 last time out, tired late and was empty in the stretch over a sloppy track. Doesn’t appear to like an off going by the looks of things, and should improve with a fast track today. This will be the third start off a layup, and the barn hits with .22% of these. Trainer also scores with .11% of those making this kind of class drop. I like the rider, too. My pick. Kantastic (8) finished just ahead of our top pick in the last one, and will make the same kind of drop in class. This barn hits with .16% of those making this dramatic of a drop, and this one, too, should improve on a drier track surface. Like the work here since the last out. Interesting choice of riders to go to today. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-8 in the exacta. I will key the 7-8 over/under the “all button” in two smaller versions.

8th: 3-9/1-4-2-8…This event appears to have come up a little light, considering the price tag level. Dancing Waves (3) should be a heavy favorite, even thought she is moving up a couple of notches after her convincing win for $10,000 last time out here on Nov. 7. Was claimed that day by a barn that hits with only .08% the first time out after the purchase. The same rider that won will stick with the 4YO filly, which is good. This one has won two of the last three tries, and does have 3 wins and a second in 6 shots here. Looks the best. Races Reecey (9) is another one bumping up the ladder after a nice try. This 4YO Congrats filly ran second behind our top choice last time out while going a mile. Ran behind our top pick three races back, as well, and was beaten two lengths that day. In 32 outs, this one has a 5-4-4 record and does have a 2-3-0 mark in 9 tries here. Could be the bridesmaid again today. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the 3-9 in one exacta. I will key the 3 over/under the 1-4-2-8 in two smaller versions.

9th: 11/6-3/8-12-10-5-7/9-1-4…Another grass race, this one going a mile, and you will need to watch to see if this one stays on the sod, or not. I will handicap this one as if it is going to be run over the grass. If so, I will give the edge to Discovered (11). This one was being pointed to a Stakes event here a couple of weeks ago, but missed that one when he developed a cough. Now, he is back and looking dynamite again. Look at the work here on Nov. 4. If he is 100% back to full strength, then he will be a handful. Likes to be on the lead or close to it, and has a second and a third in three tries over this gras course. Lost to Hot Springs in the last out, and that one has come right back to win impressively in a Stakes event, too. My top pick here and only Key Play of the Day. I bet the 11 to win/place/show and then box the 11-6-3 in one exacta. I will key the 11 over/under the 8-12-10-5-7 in two smaller versions.

10th: 5-10-7/1-3-4-11/6-12-8…Honor Mission (5) has not been close at the wire over the last 3 tries, but if you look to the race here on June 7, he won against much tougher. Claimed out of that one by the current connections. Drops to a career low level today, and gets a top rider in the saddle. Needs to stay a bit closer to the pace that the recents, and will make the first start as a gelding. Parauari (10) is 7-2 ML odds, and could be the PT favorite. Will drop off the last race price tag, and will get a career low level in this one. Don’t know if this one likes the dirt or not, since the only previous run was over the slop. Faded after pushing the pace in that one. Vunerable. Beautiful Game (7) gets into this one at 10-1 ML odds. Like the fact that he has run against much tougher all year — including Stakes winners like Mitole, Reride and Runaway Ghost. None of those types in here. I bet the 5-7 across the board, and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 5-7 over/under the 1-3-4-11 in two softer 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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