McLean’s Selections For Friday, July 20: At Saratoga, Del Mar, Arlington Park

Day Results3-1-1-0
2018 Overall 971361-360-425
Win % of Top Pick37.20%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.40%

We will resume full-card handicapping and selections when Churchill Downs returns to live racing in September. Until then, we are looking at select races at racetracks all over the country. Today, we will be focusing on three venues: Arlington Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Del Mar Race Course.

We had a winner in three races at Del Mar on Thursday, but it was our “Best Bet of the Day.” And, our numbers have been rising of late. Our top pick win percentage is now nearing .38%, and we are hopeful that we will be able to reach the 40% mark before the end of the year.

Here is a closer look at today’s races:

Saratoga Race Course:

5th: 3-1-6-4-9-7… This is a MSW event for 2-year-old fillies going 51/2 furlongs over the main track on Opening Day 2018. We are attracted to Wild Type (3), who is one of the longer shots on the board for this event. The reason we go to this daughter of Successful Appeal, trained by Eddie Kenneally and to be ridden by Jose Ortiz, is that she has a race under her girth. On June 15, in her debut effort, she was bet down to less than even money. Although she did not win that day, after being bothered badly at the start, she did run third to a nice one and the runner-up in that race has already come back to win, as well. This one has trained lights out since the race, including a bullet move at Churchill Downs on July 13 when she went 3 furlongs in :35.2. That was the best of 21 to go that day. With a cleaner break, she should be closer to the lead from the get-go today. She will have to have her running shoes on, though. On the rail is Blahnik (1), who is the ML favorite at 2-1 odds despite having not run a race to date. This daughter of Bernardini cost $575,000 at the OBS 2YO In-Training Sale this March and she has put up some really nice times in the a.m. since being turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher. A must use, for me. Lyrical Lady (6) is another highly-regarded first time starter today, and she, too, has been training well for the barn of Steve Asmussen. This baby by More Than Ready comes out of the same OBS sale as Blahnik, and this one cost $625,000. Trainer is having a nice year winning with .21% of his 1,057 starters to date. He hits with .17% of those making the career debut. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

6th: 4-1-5-9-8-7… This is a nice allowance event going 6.5 furlongs for fillies and mares 3YOs & Up. My top pick is Miss Mimosa (4), who will be making her firsts start since nearly winning this same condition on May 18 at Belmont Park. This daughter of Violence has been training lights out down at Belmont Park, including a bullet move on July 9 out of 45 others to go the distance. Has two super races out of the 3 to date, and the one lone miss she was 5 wide against a really good field that day in her first try going longer. Now, she’s back at at distance that she may prefer. Look out here. Dancing All Night (1) may have been the top pick if she had a race this year, but she will be making her first start for trainer Shug McGaughey in nearly a year. Has hit the board in three of the previous four starts, and has been training very well for the return, too (July 7 at Belmont). The rail is normally very good at this distance and she gets her regular rider in the saddle. Cypriana (5) has run two super nice races out of 3 to date, like the top pick. The stinker came on April 6 at Gulfstream Park when the rider went to the whip in mid-turn. Came out of that debacle with a nice second  at Belmont Park on June 24, and with any improvement at all, she could be right there, as well. Like the move on June 15 at Belmont. Bullet work out of 53. Looks ready. I bet the 4-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

8th: 9-6-10-1-4-8-2…G3 Schuylerville Stakes… I will concentrate most of my plays on the top 2 numbers in this sequence, led by Lady Apple (9). After nearly winning at Keeneland back in April in the career debut, this one was switched to the very capable and heady barn of Steve Asmussen. In her first start for the new connections, she nearly wins the Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park — as a maiden — on June 7. The daughter of Curlin, out of a Stakes Placed mare, has been training well since and has been at The Spa for awhile now. Looks primed for this one and is 8-1 ML odds. Wow. Like it. Tapping Pearl (6) is another one that the morning line odds-maker doesn’t care for, too much. This daughter of Tapit is 10-1 in the ML, despite a run-away win at Churchill Downs on June 29. She opened up in that one and really drew off for the same rider who will get the reins today. Love the work her on July 13 and this pretty grey has the look, too. I will also use another long shot in the third hole, with Blame the Frog (10). I was at Churchill Downs the day this one broke her maiden (June 22) in the slop. She had put up two strong seconds before that, but she was easily the winner in the last out and has continued to rain very well. She is at 12-1 odds in the ML. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key the 9 over/under all the rest in one exacta. I box the 9-6-10 in a smaller version, and then key the top three over the rest in a another small version.

9th: 7-3-1-6-5-2…G3 Lake George Stakes… I had a tough time picking between the Chad Brown entries in this spot, but I finally settled on a filly that I really liked a lot earlier this year in Altea (7). After she came over from France, where she had been simply outstanding, it appeared that she would do like many of those converted to the Brown barn, and that is excel. She ran a bang-up third in her NA debut in the G3 Florida Oaks on March 10 at Tampa Bay Downs. Closed to only lose by a neck that day. And, she was the most game at the end of that one. I loved her in the G3 Edgewood at Churchill Downs on KY Oaks day, but she was wide and finished a disappointing fifth in that one to a couple of really nice fillies in Toinette and Rushing Fall. Came back in the G3 Wonder Again at Belmont Park on June 7, and I jumped on board again. Another fifth. But I am up for at least one more dose. I still believe this one has another gear and I am hoping that he new rider today can find it. My Best Bet of the Day at Saratoga. The two horses to beat, in my view, will be her roommate Punked (1) and Daddy Is a Legend (3). The latter is the 9-5 ML favorite, and this daughter of Scat Daddy certainly looks the part. She ran fourth in the Wonder Again, but was 6-wide in the upper stretch that day. Before that, she had finished in the money in four of the previous five races with a couple of nice wins in that mix. Super work her over the grass on July 13, and the rider is super hot over the last week with 7-2-5 record in the last 26 mounts. Punked, on the other hand, ran second in the Wild Applause Stakes at Belmont on June 23. A lesser Stakes event than those the others have been running in, but this one looks to be getting better and better with each start. Wasn’t a real threat in the last race. Just had the best trip. Probably over bet a  bit today. I bet the 7 to win/place/show solidly and then key the 7 over/under all the rest in the exactas. I’m all in one more time on this one. 

Del Mar Race Course:

5th: 5-2-7-9-12-10-6-1-8… This is a nice allowance event that will be contested at 11/16-miles over the trimmed down California grass surface. My choice is Movie Moment (5), who is trained by John Shirreffs (.09% in just 46 starts this year). This daughter of Painter is out of the Stakes-winning Dynaformer mare Starrer and is a home-bred. She is dropping down out of two Graded Stakes races in a row, where she has faced some real good ones. Hit the board in the one two back with a nice closing kick, and should like this distance today. The rider selected is not known to be a great grass jockey, but he has experience on this one in the past. Love the 12-1 ML odds. My Upset Special. Luminoso (2) will get the saddle from Doug O’Neill, who is off to a red-hot start this meet with 4 winners in 12 starters. This filly by Quality Road is a homebred for Calumet Farm and comes in with four straight finishes in the money. Won two back to break the maiden and then nearly won the last time out against winners. Forced to split horses in that one, and showed a lot of course. Watch out here. Both Sappho (7) and Pulpit Rider (9) have a chance in here, as well. The former was closing nicely down the hill at Santa Anita in her 2018 debut on May 27. Ran out of grass that day, and now should like the stretch out. Trainer does hit with .20% of those away from the races this long. The latter is a California-bred running against Open Company, which I tend to stir clear of, but this one has 4 wins in 10 lifetime starts and did run OK on April 7 in a G3 against all others. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then both 5-2-7 in one exacta, and the 5-2-9 in another. 

7th: 7-11-4-3-8-1-9…Osunitas Stakes… This race will mark the grass debut for the G1 Stakes Winner Paradise Woods, who has drawn the rail for this 11/16-mile event. This talented 4YO filly by Union Rags has a nice record of 3-2-2 in just 10 career starts for trainer Richard Mandella, and is best known for her run-away, 11-length win in the 2017 Santa Anita Oaks. But after two lackluster performances to start this year, the connections are now going to try the sod. Good luck. But I stir clear for two reasons. I don’t see a lot of turf in her pedigree, and I don’t like the way that she is currently trending on the track. Fillies and mares can be finicky at times, and she may be ready to head home and to the breeding shed soon. Just saying. Instead, I will focus my efforts on the top two numbers listed — led by Compelled (7). Tom Proctor is one of the best trainers in the world, when given the right stock, and this one is coming off a third place finish in the G2 Monrovia Stakes coming down the hill at Santa Anita. She was wide in that one a bit, but she should have no trouble stretching out to this distance today — as evidenced by her super third against Fifty Five and La Coronel in the 2017 Florida Oaks. If she can recapture that kind of run today? She could be ready for a good one. Like the work here on July 18. Midnight Crossing (11) gets the unfortunate, horrible, outside post. But this Irish-bred filly does have some natural speed and should be able to get into a good spot early on and save some ground. Coming out of a G1 event, where she was sixth, but she gets a huge rider switch today to one of the world’s best grass riders, and she is dropping down in class after running five straight Graded Stakes events. Should love the class relief and I love the odds at 8-1 ML. Another Upset Special. Pantsonfire (4) may be the best closer in the group, which is dominated by front-end speed types. This one gets a rider who really knows how to finish a race, as well. Shortens up a bit in distance for this one, but drops in class, as well. I like this one to hit the board. I bet the 11-4 across the board (take note of those #s), and then box the top 3 in the exactas.

Arlington Park:

5th: 1-4-5-8-2… A nice Optional Claimer going a mile over one of the world’s best grass courses. I like the rail horse, Dagney’s Warrior (1). This one will be going for a trainer who has hit two out of three to race here this meet, and gets the services of the best rider in the jockey’s room. She had a tough time settling down in the last race and tired to finish 7th out of 8 in that one. But this speedy type, who likes to have her head and her own way, should be able to grab the lead from the post and take dead aim with this group. The rail is winning at a .29% clip this meet, as well. ( Stat of the Day. Go to for all your handicapping tools.) Frozen Hannah (4) goes for a trainer who claimed this one last time out — way back in January at the Fair Grounds. This trainer hits with .36% of those making the first start since the purchase. And, the barn hits with .23% of those coming off this type of a layup. Has been training OK for the return, and the jockey/trainer have teamed up to win 2 of the last 7 together. Likes to stalk and close. Lola’s the One (5) ran a super one three back at Keeneland. If she can duplicate that effort, she could be tough. But the trainer is 0-for-16 here this meet. Question mark. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under all the rest. My Best Bet of the Day at Arlington Park.

6th: 6-3-4-2-1… Another nice turf event, and I go with Moon Over Montana (6) in this spot. This one has run only twice over the sod to date, but has a win — and that came right here last September to beak the maiden. The meet’s runaway trainer puts a rider up who has won at a .29% clip in the last seven mounts for the barn. Drops into the claiming ranks for the first time. And, has won two of the last three, and three of the last five. Love the 5-1 ML odds, which probably won’t stick around. Don’task Don’ttell (3) is an Illinois-bred who nearly won against Open Company two back in the 2018 debut. Bounced a bit in the last try, but should be OK for the third try off the layup. Trainer hits with .15% of those kind and with .17% of those running on the grass. I like this one’s stalking ability and should be a forward presence from the get. Christian C (4) goes for a rider who has put up a stellar 8-1-5 record in the last 7 days and 24 mounts. This one is coming out of a run-away win in a restricted Stakes event, but that was on the all-weather. Still, he has a 3-2-0 record in just 8 starts over the grass and those have come here. One to beat. I bet the 6-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

7th: 3-4-2-1-5-6… The Best Bet of the Day comes again. How about that? I love Clear N Convincing (3) in this grass feature race. The 4YO Giant’s Causeway gelding was previously trained by Chad Brown and now switches to the barn of Larry Rivelli — who is winning at a .30% clip here this meet and is the run-away winner of the trainer’s title here. No chance anyone can come close to him. This will be the first start for the new barn, who hits with .23% of these kind. This guy broke the maiden last time out, but has run well in all three of his grass starts. The lone start off the board was at a distance too long, perhaps, and he was stuck inside for much of that tilt. I bet the 3 to win/place and then key the 1 over/under all the numbers 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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