McLean’s Selections for Indiana Oaks/Derby & Rest of Stakes Races at Indy Grand

Last Day Results (7-13-18) @ Ellis Park0-1-1
2018 Overall 960357-360-424
Win % of Top Pick37.30%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.50%

While we have been taking a couple of weeks off from full-card handicapping since the conclusion of the Churchill Downs Spring/Summer Meet, we have been providing a race analysis or two about every day. Today, we switch gears and head to Indy Grand for a grand ole’ time and one of the best days of racing in the Hoosier State.

(Since we now have an Indiana-bred filly, by Majestic Harbor, I will be paying very close attention to these races. And, to be very honest, the rest of the country could learn a lot from the Indiana Thoroughbred Association on customer service and assistance. Those people are amazing when you reach out for help. My plug for the day.)

Here’s a closer look at the Stakes races carded this evening at Indy, and thanks to my good friends at www.brisnet.com and www.TwinSpires.com for all their help and assistance in providing the most expert handicapping tools and information via this old thing they call the internet. My Lake House has now turned into my summer OTB.

4th: 3-5-6-7-4…Mari Hulman George Stakes…A very competitive Stakes event kicks off six major races in a row on tonight’s card. This one is slated to go to post about 6:54 p.m. ET. I’m attracted to several in here, but I will go with Torrent (3) — the 2-1 ML favorite — on top. This one is dropping out of a G1 event — he Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Derby Day — and will be back in company that I think this daughter of Blame will prefer. This trainer hits with .25% of non-Graded Stakes and had a super work under the Twin Spires on July 7. Looks poised for a big effort in this spot, although 0-for-4 at this distance in the win column. Awestruck (5) has been on fire this spring for trainer Rusty Arnold, up until the last race when she was bumped up into a G2 event — the Fleur de Lis — at Churchill Downs. Was competitive in that one until the real running began late, and she faded behind the likes of Blue Prize, Farrell and Mopostism. None of those kind in here today, and that was the first time she stretched out to two turns this year. Nice prep at Keeneland on July 9. I think you will see more today. Pinch Hit (6) comes from the barn of Brad Cox and will be elevating out of an allowance race to take on Stakes caliber today. She has faced this kind before and won the Dogwood at Churchill Downs last September. Has run only twice this year, and is getting better. Caught a buzzsaw in the debut this year. Super work at Churchill Downs on July 7. I have to use. Have to. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I key the 3-6 over the rest in a smaller version.

5th: 6-1-2-3…Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes…Despite the fact that ML oddsmaker has made Seeking the Soul (2) a prohibitive 3-5 favorite before the first bet is ever made, I think this race is more wide open. In fact, I am going to bet against the huge odds-on choice, and there may be a chance that he doesn’t even hit the board. That’s not a slam at Seeking the Soul, mind you. After all, he won the G1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last fall and ran fifth to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup to begin this year. And, if that is not enough, he tuned up with a monster work at Churchill Downs on July 7. But…He will be making his first start since Jan. 27. And…He has not shown a liking to the first start off a long layup in the past….And, there are others that have a chance to upset in here, too. I will go with Lookin At Lee (6), the runner-up to Always Dreaming in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Although he has not shown a great deal since that performance, other than a third in the West Virginia Derby last August, he did win an allowance at Churchill Downs on 2018 KY Derby Day. And, he flashed a new running style in that one, by going right to the front. He never got to show that new style in the G1 Stephen Foster last time out after he was slammed at the start. But he is back now and I think the trainer/rider will engage from the get-go once again. Worth a shot at 5-1 odds. Guest Suite(1) was stuck wide throughout the last one, and didn’t have anything left at the end. but he did run a nice third in the G3 Ben Ali just here races back and was second to Honorable Duty in a high-end allowance at Churchill. Looks good right now. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under all the other numbers listed. Hoping for a shocker.

6th: 4-6-3-8-5-1-9…Indiana General Assembly Distaff Stakes…I’ll go back to a favorite in this spot, and give out my first “dot” (MUST USE) play of the day. Lovely Bernadette (4) put on a show in the G3 Mint Julep Stakes at Churchill Downs in her last out and her first time being saddled by new trainer Bernie Flint. After dropping so far off the pace that it seemed she had no chance, the 4YO Wilburn filly responded with a rush and winding run that propelled her all the way to the front by the wire — and she beat some nice ones in there, as well. Last Fall, she won three in a row and was on a real roll. I think she has a chance to do that again. My Best Bet of the Day. The mare with the best shot — and maybe the only one with a shot — to pull the upset is Res Ipsa (6). This 5YO English Channel mare is trained by Ian Wilkes — who is having a solid 2018 — and is coming off a fifth to the top choice in the last out. This one was heavily favored to win that day, though, but was compromised greatly when she was steadied going into the first turn. Reunited with her regular rider today. This one will show more. Look at the G3 run three races back. Kyllachy Queen (3) could add some value if she can split the top two in the exotics. I bet the 4 to win/place and then box the 4-6 solidly in the exacta. I key the 4-6 over the rest of them in a smaller version, but may use the 3 a bit more.

7th: 9-7-6-2-1-12-5-3-8…Warrior Veterans Stakes…This is a wide open affair and could offer some great value to the horizontal plays. I will focus on the top 3 numbers in this equation, but will also toss in a nice longshot that may hit the board, as well. Dot Matrix (9) is a NY-bred from the barn of Brad Cox, but he as run very well against Open Company this year. In fact, starting on Dec. 23, he had 3 wins and a nose beat in four tries before going home to NY to lose in a restricted stakes event. The nose loss was to Arklow, a very good one in his own right. I think he gets back on his game today, and will be the one to beat with a nice closing kick. Gets a red hot rider in the saddle. Dalarna (7) will be shipping in from the East Coast for this try and he ran a huge one at Monmouth Park on May 5. Has run only twice this year and not since that last race, which is a little concerning, but this trainer can win off a layup and this one had a really nice work at Fair Hill on June 29. Will be closing late, as well. Convicted Pike (6) has not won this year, but does have 2 seconds and a third in just four starts. Another will will put in the best run late, but  has two nice seconds in a row against some good ones. I will also throw in Fifth Title (1), who hails form the barn of Ian Wilkes. This one won the last time out when the race was switched over to the main track, but looks really good right now. Plus the rail is winning at a .18% rate, too. I bet the 9-7 to win/place/show and then box those two in one exacta. I will key the 9-7 over/under the 6-1-2 in two more smaller versions. I then key the 9-7 over the rest in a smaller version, too.

8th: 5-3-7-6-8-2…G3 Indiana Oaks…I’m back to a top-rated favorite in this spot. In fact, I will single Talk Veuve To Me (5) in all of my plays. This one has raced just four times in her career to date, and she has only one win. But she has three seconds, and two of them have been to top notch runners like Monomoy Girl in the G1 Acorn last time out and to Mia Mischief in the G2 Eight Belles Stakes at Churchill Downs on KY Oaks Day. This one has front-end speed and can stalk with the best of them. Should like the distance OK, although that could be the one and only concern. Had a super work at Keeneland on July 1, and July 8 and looks primed for this one. If there is to be an upset, the three candidates that are likely to contend are Harbor Lights (3) — who did beat the top choice in their career debuts at Ellis Park last August — and/or either Skeptic (7) or Kelly’s Humor (6). The former is coming off a nice allowance win at Churchill Downs, when she ran away by over 4. The latter came back with a nice second after falling out of contention in the KY Oaks. She was coming off a nice, closing second in the G3 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland before that. I will play the 5 to win/place and then key the 5 over the 3-7-6 solidly. I will then use over the 8-2 sparingly. Might take a $1 “all-5” just in case?

9th: 8-9-4-6-1-7-3…G3 Indiana Derby…King Zachary (8), a wonderfully bred son of Curlin, looks to be on the brink of absolute stardom. Since running 6th to Vino Rosso in the G2 Wood Memorial, this one has been inspiring. He won an allowance at Churchill Downs over some really good ones on Derby Day. Then he destroyed a nice field in the G3 Matt Winn Stakes — which has been a launching pad for some real good ones in the past. Now, it is King Zachary’s turn. He is training lights out (July 7 — Churchill Downs), and looks to improve the farther the races are scored. The rider has had a slow Spring/Summer, but is capable, and this colt looks like a bargain at any price right now. Funny Duck (9) scored a huge upset on KY Derby Day, winning the G3 Pat Day Mile at odds of nearly $40-to-$1. He came back and ran way up the track to the top choice in the Winn, but he was troubled greatly going into the first turn of that one. Don’t know if he could have put a dent into the juggernaut that is King Man, but I think he will run better today at some decent odds. Dark Vader (4) is coming in off a third place finish to Prince Lucky in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park. Ran huge in that one, and the winner is going to be one of the best PA-breds to ever take to the dirt. This one has a chance, and at 8-1 ML odds could juice up the exotics nicely. Has been a different horse since the addition of blinkers and the trainer hits with .20% in Graded Stakes. Don’t dismiss. He and Trigger Warning (1) are my two upset possibles. I will bet the 8 to win only and then key the 8 over/under all the numbers listed. I will key the 8 over/under with the 9-4-6-1 more…

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

This feels great. It never gets old. We were hoping that he can rate and not get too far behind the speed and Flavien just rode him perfectly. He responded well in the stretch and we knew he tries really hard and he lived up to what we thought he would do. So, we’re really happy. We’re hoping that he can stretch out. We’ll find that out but I have a feeling we’ll try two turns and will see how it goes.”

JEFF LIFSON, West Point Thoroughbreds, Kanthaka, Winner San Vincente at Santa Anita
  • 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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