McLean’s Selections for Fair Grounds on Thursday, March 14

Day Results9-2-6-5
2019 Overall 388388/139-149-191
Win % of Top Pick35.82%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall41.15%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –271 of 38869.85%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 400-56770.55%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 212-56737.39%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 121-50-24-1541.32%
“Key Horses” in 2019 93-34-18-1236.56%

It has been a week since we have had a really nice handicapping day. Wednesday was not an exception. We managed only a couple of winners in the 9-race card and we went on a five-race losing skid to end the day. So sorry.

The game of handicapping is one of ebb and flows. Ups and downs. Good days and poor choices. I will endeavor to do better — starting right here, right now. Ebb up.

Here’s a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 5-2/7/3-4/6-1…Dora Maar (5) is the ML favorite, and should be considering that she is coming into this one off an 11-length romp in her last out here on Feb. 21. But…There’s always a but, right? That was over a sloppy racetrack and was an event moved from the grass to the main track. Only 4 horses went to the gate that day. So? Take with a word of caution. Still, this one is dropping into the $15,000 price category off that win, and the barn is 1-for-1 this meet when that occurs. Trainer is after another training title, and this could be one that helps point him in that direction. Looking for a repeat win in the claiming ranks? This barn hits an amazing .47% rate over the last 51 starters. Wow. I bet the 5-2 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I key the 5-2 over/under the 7 in two lesser versions.

2nd: 2/4/8-6-9/3-10-1…My first Key Play of the Day comes here with Emmport (2) — another from the barn of trainer Brad Cox (who could be poised for a huge day today). This 4YO Exchange Rate filly has never won over the grass to date, but in 4 starts over the sod — she does have 2 seconds. Will be dropping all the way from a nice allowance event at Churchill Downs last June to the $15,000 price tag here. Has been working lights out, as well. Certainly appears to be one that will exchange hands today. Barn hits with .29% of those dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. I bet the 2 to win/place and then key the 2 over/under the 4. I will key the 2-4 over/under the 8-6-9 in two lesser versions.

3rd: 4/6-1-8/3-7-5…Iquique (4) is my second Key Play of the Day. This one could give the Cox barn three straight wins to begin the day. This one last ran on Feb. 8, 2018. Was claimed that day for $15,000. Has been on the shelf since, and now shows up at the bargain basement price of $5,000. Never been close to this level before, and has a win and a third in 5 lifetime starts. Has been working solidly for the return. Will get blinkers for the first time, and the barn hits with .19% of those. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under the 6-1-8 in the exactas.

4th: 3-6/4-7/1-2/5-1A…This is a turf event for the LA-breds only, and I will give the edge to Remembermis (3). This 6YO gelding will get the saddle from trainer Tom Amoss, who is having a stellar meet. Has won with .24% of the 105 started so far. This one is a beaten favorite, and the barn his with .29% of those. Should improve off the last outing and the work here on March 5 was nice. Look for this one to be closing late with one of the meet’s top riders up. Amazon Cry (6) certainly needed the last out. Still was beaten less than 4 in the first try in six months. Has returned to work super since that race, including a nice move here on March 3. Trainer hits with .19% of those making the second start for the barn, and .18% with those making the second start off a layup. Look for more, moving late, as well. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box those 2 in one exacta. I key the 3-6 over/under the 4-7 in two lesser versions.

5th: 5-8-6/2-7-4/1-1A…C’Mon Ve (5) is a 4YO gelded son of Half Ours and will be making his second start off a layup for a barn that has been very solid over the past year. Trainer has won with .19% of the last 237 starters, and this one should improve with a significant drop in class here. Has a lot of gas to run early, and should make the lead in this group. Gets a rider who nearly won on him two back. Come catch me if you can. Holy Sunrise (8) goes for a barn that has won .34% of its 74 races to date, and the rider has won with .50% of the 6 horses that he has risen for this barn in the last 60 days. They nearly won here with this horse on Jan. 18, running second by only a length. Will push the pace, as well. Phat and Fast (6) was claimed last time out by a top claiming barn. Trainer hits with .29% of those making the first start for the new connections. In 5 career starts to date, this one has a 1-2-1 record. Coming in off a second over the slop last time out when well supported at the windows. A pace pusher, as well. I bet the 5-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta.

6th: 10-2-7/9-6-(11)/3-8-4/5-1…This is a 11/16-mile grass event, and I will go to the far outside for our top choice — Mobridge (10). This 9YO gelding has only run over this course once before, and that was a deep-closing win here on Jan. 11. Has been idle since then, and the LA-bred will once again face open company in this spot. But in 18 tries at this distance, he has a tidy record of 6-3-2 and he will get the services of a top rider once again. Will need racing room late. If he gets it? Watch out. Zinger (2) goes for the barn of Tom Morley, and will be dropping in class for this one. The last time he was on the sod, he was in against much, much tougher. Has only 1 win in 12 grass starts, but 4 seconds on the resume — 3 of those coming here. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

7th: 6-7/5-4-3/2…Equal Justice (6) will be making the career debut in this spot and the 3YO son of Distorted Humor has been kicking down the stall in the a.m. Last work here on March 7 was some kind of real nice, and the rider has been on a tear, too. Meet’s top jock has a 6-6-4 mark in the last 23 rides. All adds up for a big performance at first asking, for a barn that hits with .16% of those debuting in the MCL ranks. This one could be bought today. Fist of Rage (7) may be the one to beat. Has raced 5 times to date, with 2 thirds to show for the efforts. Comes in off a third in the last out, but got the blinkers for the first time. The runner-up in that heat has already come back to win. Look for improvement in this spot today. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 numbers in the exacta.

8th: 9-8/6-4/3-2/7-1-5…Golden Orb (9) gets the nod in the last grass race on the card today. This one is coming in off a nice performance here on Feb. 18. Ran second in her first race since July 4 of last year. Tired a bit late, but if she improves off that effort at all, she will be mighty tough to handle in this spot. Barn hits with .24% of those returning as a beaten favorite, and the trainer scores with .18% of those getting the second start off a layup. Should relish a return to the grass after the slop run last time out. Dream Passage (8) is yet another high performance contender from the Cox barn. NY-bred mare has hooked a couple of good ones in the last two, and she didn’t like the slop two times back. Should be ready to move up today with a switch to a high octane rider — who has hit with .15% of the last 53 mounts for this barn. I bet the 9-8 across the board and then box those two in one exacta. I key the 9-8 over/under the 6-4 in two lesser versions.

9th: 3-7/2-6-8/4-5-1…The last race of the day, and I will go with Cha Mono (3) and rider James Graham. This one won last time out at this level and did so convincingly on the lead. Returns as the winning favorite, and the barn only scores with .09% winners. In the claiming ranks, 0-for-9. But the barn has been a bit of a roll of late, and this one looks mighty good right now. Has a 1-2-4 record in 8 starts here. Niigon’s Glory (7) goes for the barn of Joe Sharp, and this one gets class relief on the second try after the claim. The blinkers come off today, too, and the barn hits with .32% of those getting rid of the shades. I bet the 3-7 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I will key the 3-7 over (only) the 2-6-8 in a lesser amount.

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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean