McLean’s Selections for Keeneland on Thursday, April 18

Day Results8-2-2-4
2019 Overall 524524/199-196-258
Win % of Top Pick37.98%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall41.54%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –370 of 52270.88%
Top Selection ITM / KEE 38-5273.08%
Top Selection Win / KEE 19-5236.54%
“Key Horses” @ KEE 8-5-2-162.50%
“Key Horses” in 2019 115-47-22-1340.87%
Upset Special of the Day/ KEE 9-2-0-222.22%

We returned to action on Wednesday, and, admittedly, we were a tad rusty. Hope that we got our cobwebs removed, and we are ready for some serious fun and action today. Here’s a closer look at today’s picks for Keeneland:

1st: 4-7-5/6-3/2-1…Examiner (4) has not been out since late December, and will have to convert back to the main dirt surface after a spin over the grass last time out. This 4YO gelded son of Distorted Humor broke his maiden over the dirt here, though, back in October and has been training nicely for the return. Barn hits with .13% of those dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time and this one has enough speed to stay close. Like the rider switch here. Talent Scout (7) has been away from the races since October of 2017. Was trained then by Bob Baffert, and he won on debut. Obviously, something happened in that race to delay his next out for 11/2 years, but he is training nicely for the new barn of Joe Sharp — who is off to a terrific 2019 season. Don’t be surprised if this one returns with a bang. Laser Loop (5) was nowhere to be found in the last outing in January, when trying the grass at Gulfstream Park. Gets back to the main track today for a barn that has only 1 winner in 14 tries this meet. Does have 2 seconds and 4 thirds, though, and this one could be a nice surprise in the odds race. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 6-4-5/7-2-8…Wesley Ward normally owns these 2YO “baby” races at Keeneland, and he won one on Wednesday. Would be surprised if he nabs another trip to the winner’s circle here with Joker On Jack (6). Ward bred this one, and the dam was Stakes placed. Has been training OK for the debut, and gets a top jock in the irons. Rag Tag (4) could prove to be a tough out, though. Comes from the Todd Pletcher barn. Sharp work at Palm Beach Downs on April 10, and the barn’s go-to rider takes the reins. Barn hits with .26% of those making the debut in the MSW ranks. And, the dam of this one has 7 winners from 10 starters and 2 Stakes winners, already. Power breeding. Snake River Red (5) is another from the Ward barn, as they double team this action. Gets Jose Ortiz in the saddle. Son of Hard Spun may like it better if the rains arrive a bit earlier than expected. Snell Yeah (8) will be a great hunch bet for the fans of former UK running back Benny Snell. Has some lick in the mornings, too. Don’t totally dismiss this one at a price. I bet the 6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 8 in two smaller versions.

3rd: 4-3-1/2/6…Finess Bere (4) has only won one time in 7 previous grass races, but this French-bred looks like she could best this field today. Ran a nice third last time out and was fourth in her first start for this barn back in January, after being converted from the Bob Baffert team. Has worked super since the last race at Palm Meadows Training Facility in South Florida and looked hyped for this one. Nantucket Red (3) won three starts back, but has struggled in the last two outs. In 10 grass starts, she does have 2 wins and 2 thirds and could show up late for this party. Barn has a 1-1-3 mark in 7 starts this meet. Room to Finish (1) is a Louisiana-bred daughter of Giant Oak that I wouldn’t totally dismiss here. In 5 grass starts, she has 2 wins and 3 seconds. Ran two super nice races at Del Mar last summer against open company. Worth a shot in this spot. I bet the 4-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

4th: 4-10/1-8/7-9…Noble Companion (4) drops from a near miss second at the $30,000 price tag to a $20,000 mark today. Barn hits with .40% of those making the second start for the new connections after a claim. This one figures strong here, and I like the rider choice — who returns for a second dose today. Look at the work on April 10 at Churchill Downs. Looks primed. Hart Hall (10) gets a compromising starting spot on the far outside, but the first time starter may be the real deal for a trainer who is having a super year. Barn has won with .24% of the last 304 starters, and has won with .36% of those making the debut in the MCL ranks. Like the rider here, too. My Upset Special of the Day at 12-1 ML odds. I bet the 4-10 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 4-10 over/under the 1-8-7-9 in two smaller versions.

5th: 4-2-1-1A/6/3-5-7…The second grass race scheduled for the day is a wide open affair, with a multitude of possibilities and potential. I will give a slight edge to Gamblin Train (4), who hails from the barn of Buff Bradley. This gal ran super when third the last time out in a Stakes event at the Fair Grounds. Winner of that one came back to run in the Ashland Stakes here earlier this meet. But no horse was doing better at the end of that 1-mile event than this one. Eating up ground like she belonged in the winner’s circle. Has returned to KY and kept her form in the a.m. Love this one. Ebullient (2) goes for one of the more patient trainers in the world, and this 3YO daughter of Twirling Candy is coming off a maiden win at Gulfstream Park last time out. Gets a top rider today and this one could be getting right at the right time. Both Unapologetic Me (1) and Diva Day (1A) have a big shot in here, as well. Both like to be running in the late going, and could upset the cart at the wire. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 4 over/under the 2-1-6-3-5-7 in two smaller versions.

6th: 3-6-5/2-1-4…Brittas Bay (3) is a 3YO Scat Daddy filly trained by Wesley Ward, and she will be making her first start since last September at KY Downs. Tired at the end of that one, and now returns to the dirt surface to begin the new campaign. Love the work here on April 6, and a rider who has scored with Ward this meet takes the active mount. Beware. Paper Clip (6) is another Ward pupil, and she is coming off back-to-back thirds last Fall. Trained super here on April 15, and looks ready to battle her stablemate for the honors here. Barn hits with .22% of those returning from this kind of a layup. Urban Insight (5) ran second by a nose here last October. Has been away since November, and the barn hits with .15% of those returning from that type of a layup. Gets a hot, hot rider in the saddle today. Has won .39% of his mounts here this meet. Can’t dismiss this one, either. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

7th: 5-7-1/2-4-8…British Invader (5) goes for the new connections after being claimed last time out at the Fair Grounds. Won to break the maiden two back, and goes for the new barn — which hits at a .30% rate with newcomers. Gets a top rider to take the reins in here, and I like the longer work on April 1. Look for good things out of this one today. So Aristocratic (7) drops from the $30,000 price tag to the $20,000 level today, and the barn hits with .17% of those away from the races this long. I can toss the race in the mud last time out, but the disappointment two back is concerning. Fun Paddy (1) goes for one of the game’s best guys and does have two thirds in the last three outs. Barn hits with .11% of those switching from the sod to the main track. Like the jockey change here. Chance. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then key the 5 over/under the rest of the numbers listed in the exacta.

8th: 8-4-2/3-(13)-5-9/12…The feature race of the day is a 5.5-furlong sprint over the grass course, and I will go with my Key Play of the Day and my second Upset Special of the Day here. I love Getyourmindright (8), who just so happens to be owned by my great friend and partner Mike Schnell and trained by one of the best young men on the globe today. Broke the maiden last time out at Turfway Park, and the runner-up in that one has already come back to win. Just think that this son of Stormy Atlantic is made for this sprint distance on the grass. Looks at this guys fractions in the early going of each race. Looks like he may have learned to rate a bit, and the winners of the first two are really nice horses — Gleason and Madison Luna. I bet with both fists on this one today. 8 to win/place/show and then key the 8 over/under all the numbers I have listed. Can’t wait.

9th: 3-9-5/6/8-7-10…Tune In (3) is my selection in today’s finale. This 3YO son of Country Day is trained by Brad Cox, who continues to do very well. Has a 5-3-0 mark in 16 starts here this meet after winning the Trainer’s Title at the Fair Grounds this Winter/Spring. This guy is training nicely and gets a top rider in the saddle for the first out. I am getting on board, for sure. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 3 over/under all the other numbers listed in two smaller 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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