McLean’s Selections for Keeneland on Soggy Saturday, April 20

Day Results10-4-3-6
2019 Overall 543543/205-204-267
Win % of Top Pick37.75%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall41.50%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –381 of 54170.43%
Top Selection ITM / KEE 49-7169.01%
Top Selection Win / KEE 25-7135.21%
“Key Horses” @ KEE 8-5-2-162.50%
“Key Horses” in 2019 115-47-22-1340.87%
Upset Special of the Day/ KEE 11-2-0-218.18%

Despite the rain and the chill of the cold, we heated up a bit on Friday at the beautiful Keeneland oval. Great time to visit with my son, Brad, and most beautiful daughter in law, Kate, and some of their greatest friends at the Keeneland Eclipse Room.

Want to say thanks, especially, to Adam — for all his help and support of my son’s family, who transferred up to Columbus for his work with AT&T. What a gent.

Want to say thanks to Dan and his wonderful wife for “adopting” them and making them feel welcome.

Great to meet Scott, the new Chairman of the Ohio Racing Commission. Great to sit and chat with Matt, who is appears will become the next President of the Ohio State Senate, and his lovely wife. Great to see Kentucky Speaker of the House David Osborne, and Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, who stopped in to pay them all a visit.

Despite leaving my wallet at home (God surely is watching over me these days), it was a wonderful trip and time. Any time I can see my kids and their respective families, it is a wonderful time.

Plus, we did pick 4 winners. And, we had a Pick 3 and several key exactas. I looked OK in front of Brad’s most important friends. Sigh of Relief.

Now, let’s turn our attention to Saturday. Here’s a closer look at the card:

1st: 7-6-4-2-8…Wide, wide, wide open affair to begin the day, but I will go with my good friend, Buff Bradley, and his pupil Postimpressionist (7) in this tilt. The 4YO gelded son of Paynter is coming off a woeful effort here over a sloppy track. Was done early in that affair and dropped out of sight, and contention. Returns today to find another sloppy track, but I’m hoping that a couple of things help him today. One, he will get blinkers for the first time. Trainer scores with .25% of those getting the shades for the first time. Secondly, he will be going from a $50,000 price tag to a $30,000 level. May help his chances in here. Third, he showed nice speed over the slop three races back and faltered late — but he gets the help of a very nice rider taking the reins for the first time today. Hopefully it can add up for this one — who is a handy 8-1 in the ML odds. Way to Wicked (6) appears to be the horse to beat. Moves from the turf to the slop today for a barn that hits with .20% of those making this surface switch. Pedigree, especially on the dam side, suggests that he should convert to the wet conditions today, too. Like the rider switch here. Lovesomuch (4) does not have to improve much to be in contention with the likes of these today. Moves from the grass to the main track, and didn’t fare well over the slop two back. Had some issues in that one, though, and gets a nice rider improvement, too. I bet the 7-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. 

2nd: 7-9-4/2-8-6…Romani (7) will be making her first start since running 6th in the Tyro Stakes over a sloppy track last August. Before that, though, ran very well in the first two career races. Shows up for a bargain price tag today and with the blinkers off. Has been working well here, and gets a top rider for the chore. Likely to be plucked from the claiming box in here today. Look for a good run. Pedigree suggests that she should love the off going. My solid pick. Altered Dream (9) is 6-1 in the ML odds, but I think will out-run those numbers. Drops way down the pecking order in here today and should relish the cutback in distance, too. Ran fourth over the slop two back against much, much tougher. Like this jockey choice, too. I bet the 7-9 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

3rd: 3-6/2/4-7-10…Sweetest Appeal (3) gets the nod in this one, which will be contested at 7 furlongs over the main track. This 3YO Graydar filly comes in off a 5th place finish against tougher down at the Fair Grounds. In 6 previous starts, she does have a couple of seconds, and the barn hits with .21% of those returning as a beaten favorite. Rider is starting to pick it back up a bit, after a sluggish meet and the works of late have been solid enough to be a prime contender against these types. Monaco Princess (6) moves over from the grass to the main dirt track for the first time, and the barn hits with .20% of those making this surface switch. Love the recent work pattern. Looks to be getting the hang of things. Winner of the last race has already come back to win again. Key race there, too. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I will key the 3-6 over/under the 2 in a smaller version.

4th: 4-1/5-6-2-3…The first grass race carded today, and the ground is certain to be both heavy and yielding. As a result, I will give the edge to the first two numbers in here — led by Shahroze (4). This one started the career in Europe and ran over a yielding course there. Has not raced since last summer, but did convert to NA well, winning the last two races he had. Works are very nice up at Fair Hill in Maryland. Gets a hot, hot, hot rider, to boot. My choice. I will also go with a live longshot — IMO — in Lamartine (1). This one has run over heavy ground in Brazil, before shipping here. Works are solid for the U.S. debut today, and the barn hits with .18% of those making the first start for the barn. Gets a solid grass rider in the saddle, and I think could be motoring late in a select field. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the 4-1 in one exacta. I will key the 4-1 over (only) the 5-6-2-3.

5th: 5-4-8/3-9-6-1/2…Tap that Cat (5) is moving up after motoring to a victory at Oaklawn Park on debut on March 31. Ran off to a 4-length lead in the deep stretch, before causing home by a comfortable margin of nearly 2. This 4YO daughter of Tapizar cost $165,000 at the 2016 KEE September Yearling Sale. Took awhile to get to the races, for sure, but looks like she is motoring now. Don’t be shocked to see a repeat performance here, for a barn that hits with .28% of those moving up to face winners for the first time. The horse to beat appears to be Hoptown Honey (4). But here’s the thing with this 4YO Roman Ruler filly. In 16 lifetime starts, she has only 1 win. She does have 5 seconds and 3 thirds, on the other hand. So? Likes to get close. Likes to hang. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 5 over the 3-9-6-1-2 in a smaller version.

6th: 2-8-1/5-4-9-6…Hollywood Strike (2) drops down another notch or two in the claiming ranks for a top trainer. Picks up the services of a solid rider, too, for the first time. This one has a win over this tack and a third in only try over an off-going. Pedigree, especially on the sire side, can surf the muddy surface with proficient numbers. Last race was better than it looked, especially after veering out at the start and then running off in the early going. Look for more today. Fort Ramsey (8) is coming off a win in the career debut at Turfway Park. Normally, I stir clear of the Turfway Park shippers to Keeneland, but this one has returned to work very well here and goes for a barn that scores with .24% in the claiming ranks. Owner loves to win at KEE, and may be dropping this one down the ranks just to get to the winner’s circle. A prime candidate to be claimed today, for sure. I’d take a look here. Sergio (1) goes for a trainer who picked up another win on Friday. Doing well here this meet. This one will be making the second start for the trainer and could improve mightily off the last start here. Numbers suggest he will do very well over this surface type today. I bet the 2-8 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I key the 8 over/under the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

7th: 8-2-6/3/1-4… Really Proud (8) is coming into this one off a near miss second at Gulfstream Park when racing 5 furlongs over the turf. Gets another 1/2-furlong today and that may help her late run. Won two starts back, as well, and now has a 2-2-1 mark in 7 starts at this distance for a top turf barn. Like the work since the last race, to boot. Could move up the ladder and be a tough out in here. The horse to beat is Mominou (2) — who drops out of 3 Stakes races in row to face allowance company today. First time back since September was not a bad race at all. Lost by less than 2. Extra distance today should help, too. Barn hits with .17% on the second start off the layup. Gets a top rider up. Pastime (6) has only won 1 out of 16 tries over the grass surface in her career, to date, and is just 1-for-13 at this distance. But…Always a but…She does have 2 seconds and 5 thirds in those 16 career stars and has a second and a third in 4 tries here. I have to use underneath, right? Closer Still (1) may be a live longshot, too. Beat the #2 at Belmont in September. Take note. I bet the 2 (Take Note) to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the 1 (Take Note) as well.

8th: 7-6/5-10-9-4-(13)/2-11-12-8…What a nice field of 3YO colts assembled here. Look for many of these to show up in Stakes events later this Spring/Summer. I give the slight edge to American Mandate (7), a 3YO son of Strong Mandate and from the barn of Steve Asmussen. In 6 lifetime starts, he has a 1-4-1 record, and ne of the losses was a neck decision to Haikal (one of the horses in the KY Derby field). Lost by less than a length to Hog Creek Hustle on debut, as well. Troublesome that he likes to run second so much, but maybe he is ready to move up now. Has two seconds and a third in 3 tries over an off-going, too. Quick Entry (6) will make the 2019 debut and move up to face winners for the first time today for the barn of Ian Wilkes. But, this one could really turn out to be a good one. On debut, he ran fourth to Code of Honor. And, this barn rarely gets them cranked up for race #1. Came right back to win impressively at Churchill Downs in the second start over a sloppy track, too. Works have been outstanding. Look for this one to make an impression today. I bet the 6-7 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 6-7 over/under the 5-10-9-4-13 in two smaller versions.

9th:10-5-4/7-6-2…G2 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes…This is a 11/2-mile marathon over what promises to be a very heavy and yielding surface today. The hot horse right now gets a compromising post, but should have plenty of time to figure out a solid running position with the length of this race. Zulu Alpha (10) is likely to try to find a nice stalking position with the series of Jose Ortiz. Has won two in a row down in Florida and is really good right now. The are two back was over a yielding surface. Nearly won over a similar track at Arlington last summer. One to beat, if he stays out of trouble. Canessar (5) had real issues in the G2 Pan American last time out, when he was steadied in the stretch. Time before, lost to our top pick when bumped, checked and was in-between horses. Before that, though, he ran two nice seconds in a row. Has the talent to be a real contender here, and I like the 6-1 ML odds. Soglio (4) ran a huge second to our top pick just two races ago and has a win over this surface. But…This one has a 5-5-8 record in 24 races over the grass, and somehow loves to settle for the minor placings. Gets a new rider for this try today, and the jockey knows how to ride this grass course. That could help. I bet the 10-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

10th: 1-8-4/6-7/3-5/2-9…What a nice MSW event to end the day. Tough as nails. But I will go with a first time starter from the barn of Chad Brown. Highest Honors (1) is a 3YO son of Tapit who is bred and owned by William Stamps Farish — the owner of Lane’s End Farm and this year’s KY Derby hopeful Code of Honor. This one comes from a dam who has 4 winners from 6 starters — including 2 Stakes winners. Training very well for the debut, as well. And, this barn? Well. Red hot. Had a run-away winner on the card Friday from a first timer, too. Rail is not always a friend of a newbie, but I look for this one to gun and go. We shall see the gray for sure. Where Paradise Lay (8) is  talented home-bred by Into Mischief, an he has a second and third on the resume already. Barn hits with .40% of those returning as a beaten favorite, and has won with .22% of the last 45 runners. Works indicate that he has talent, too. Fortune’s Fool (4) ran a trough second on debut at GP on Feb. 2. Has come here and worked lights on for trainer James Toner. Gets a top rider up, as well. Not an easy event for any of them. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 1 over/under the 6-7-3-5 in two lesser 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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