McLean’s Selections for Keeneland on Wednesday, April 24

Day Results10-2-3-3
2019 Overall 553207-207-270
Win % of Top Pick37.43%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall42.44%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –387 of 55170.24%
Top Selection ITM / KEE 54-8166.67%
Top Selection Win / KEE 27-8133.33%
“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%

The last week of this April’s Spring Meet. Wow. Has gone so fast. About as fast as Vekoma ran the stretch to win the G2 Blue Grass Stakes. About as fast as Rushing Fall won another turf Stakes on her favorite grass course. About as fast as Out for a Spin turned the 3YO fillies division spinning with her upset victory in the G1 Ashland Stakes.

But we have a few last days to quench our thirst for more racing at one of the world’s most beautiful and gorgeous racing venues. We have a few more races to relish. We have a few more winner’s circle pictures to take and smile.

So, here’s a look at Wednesday’s card. The last Wednesday of this Spring’s meet:

1st: 3-4/2-7/6…Strut the Ring (3) and his connections would love to see the rains fall early and often on Wednesday. Won here over a sloppy track here on April 7, and now has 4 wins, 2 seconds and 1 third in 7 off-track races to date. Two races ago, finished second over a muddy track at the Fair Grounds. Doing very well right now, with 6 top 3 finishes in the last 10 races. Five wins in that mix. Cookies Are Good (4) has hit the board in the last three outs, and ran a nice third against our top pick last time out. In 8 starts over an off track, this one has only one win. But does have 5 seconds and a third. On a fast main track? Has a 7-3-1 mark. If the race is conducted over a fast, dirt surface — you may want to consider flip-flopping this duo. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 3-4 over (only) the 2-7-6 in a smaller versions.

2nd: 5-2-3/4-6-(10)/7-1A-1…Cured by Kitten (5) ran 6th here over the grass on April 6, but the barn hits with .20% of those that are making the second start off a layoff and has a win over this track, too. Gets a top rider to take the reins in this one. Went wide in the last out, and could be closer to the wire late in this going with a smarter trip. Dynabee (2) will be making her third start since shipping over from Ireland, and could move way up today with a better trip. Went 6-wide in the last tilt, and was compromised in the late run. Two starts back, ran a top third — and the winner of that one has already come back to win. Will get blinkers for the first time today, and the barn hits with .14% of those. Sapphire Jubilee (3) is 12-1 in the ML and could spice up the odds rack with a nice run in this one. Has 3 wins on the resume so far — and no other horse in the main body of this race has more than 1 to date. This one has won two in a row and gets a switch with the rider of the top horse here. Has worked well since the last win, too. My first Upset Special of the Day. Take a real close look here and take a note. I will play the 3 across the board and then box the 5-2-3 in the exacta. I will key the 3 over/under all the other numbers listed in two smaller versions.

3rd: 2-11/9-8-10/4-1A-7-5…Today’s “baby race” is another version of the “Wesley Ward Invitation.” Ward — who normally dominates these 2YO races in the Spring — has two entered in this 4.5-furlong sprint. And, either one of them could win. But I will give a slight edge to Ms Headley (2) — who draws a little closer to the rail and gets the services of HOF rider John Velasquez. Dam of this one has a winner from two starters to date, and the trainer hits with .32% of those making the debut in the MSW ranks. Super nice work here on April 15. Sire of this one is owned by the trainer, as well, and stands in Florida. Lot of connections here. Anna’s Fast (11) will break from the far outside and that can either be a blessing or a severe curse. Will definitely need a clean and fast break to get clear and move over saving ground going into that quick first turn. Worked right with our top pick in the last morning move. Gets a top rider, as well. Dam of this one has 2 winners form 2 starters. I will bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the 2-11 in the exacta. I will key the 2 over/under the 11-9-8-10-4 in two smaller versions.

4th: 9-11-5/6-8-7/2-4-3…The second of four grass races carded today, and I will go to the outside to find my top selections in this field — led by Miss Leah Angel (9). Never mind that my wife is named Leigh, and that she truly is an angel. That has nothing to do with this pick. Promise. Really. (Blush.) But, truthfully, this 3YO daughter of Dark Angel and an Irish-bred, comes into this one off a couple of nice runs down at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Tired a bit after setting the pace in the last out. Roared late in the previous race. Sets up a true “Z Pattern,” for the handicapping. “Pittsburgh Phil” always touted the “Z.” Love the work here on April 6. Gets a HOF jockey for this one. And, the barn hits with .15% of those making the third start off a layup. My pick. Miss Hanna Jo (11) will be making her second career start, and the first for a new barn. This trainer hits with .23% of those routing for the first time and with .24% of those making the second career start. Has been working well for this one, and gets a really nice lawn jockey in the irons. Like the 8-1 ML odds here, too. Take note. And, there’s one other thing. The horse to beat her in the career debut at Saratoga last August? Just so happens to be Concrete Rose. Wow. My second Upset Special of the Day. The third pick in this race is named after my wife, too. Imagine that. Strikingly Lovely (5) is 12-1 in the ML and could make for a great exacta play here, as well. Will be making her second start for a barn known for taking its’ time with the youngsters. Owner-breeder is one of the best in the business. Has been for years. This one ran much better than it looks on paper and now stretches out for a barn that hits with .12% with first time routers. Don’t dismiss. I bet the 11 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the 11 over/under the 9-5-6-8-7 in two smaller versions.

5th: 5-1/3-6/4…British Humor (5) had a rough, tough and tumble start here on April 5. Complete toss out. Just a work after the start. Barn hits with .17% of those making the second start off a layup, and will be dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time since he broke her maiden back in 2017. Barn hits with .22% of those in the claiming ranks. Has only 1 win in 13 career starts, but does have 3 seconds and 3 thirds. Will be stalking this one from the get-go. Cardiac Kitten (1) will be moving down to the big time after the first three starts at Turfway Park. Ran well in two of those three, including the last time out. Will shorten up today to the sprint distance of 6 furlongs and that could help this son of Kitten’s Joy. Last work here on April 13 was super nice for a top barn operation. Gets a HOF rider for the first time today. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 in the exacta. I will key the 5-1 over (only) the 3-6-4 in another one.

6th: 6-1-12/2-4-3-10/8-5-9…The third of four grass races will be contested at the 1-mile distance, and I will give the nod to Amandrea (6). This one ran a nice fourth in a Stakes event at the Fair Grounds on March 9. Lost by only 2 in that one, and was wide into and out of both turns. In 5 career starts, has 3 thirds on the resume. Should be able to snap that record and find the winner’s circle with a clean run in here. Will be closing late, with a top jock in the saddle. Barn hits with .18% of those away from the races this long. Queen Medb (1) ran a disappointing 10th in a Stakes event at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 8, in her first career start in the U.S. Goes for a top grass barn, and has gotten a lot of lessons here since that debacle of a race effort. Has been training well here after moving North, and the dam of this one has 4 turf winners from 5 starters. Look for huge improvement — if not great odds — out of this one. Temple City Terror (12) gets a horrendous draw for the post, but has been close in each of the first three races. This one, like others, will be closing late. Gets a top grass rider, and the barn is having a phenomenal meet — scoring with 5 winners in 19 starters. If this one gets a good trip, watch out. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. 

7th: 2-7-6/3-8-1/5…The feature race of the day is a 11/16-mile event over the main track for Maiden 3YOs. I give the edge to Passion Play (2), who hit the board in the first three starts before tossing in a clunker last time out at Oaklawn Park. Don’t know what happened in that one, but some times the second start off a layoff can be disappointing. This barn is having a very good meet here in April — with a 4-3-1 record in 20 starts — and the work on April 18 is lights out. Looks ready to pounce to me. Red Right Hand (7) will be getting his first start for a new barn, which hits with .13% of those making the trainer debut. Will be switching back to the dirt after a debacle on the grass at Churchill Downs last June. Was 6-wide at one point in that one, in a brain-fart effort by the rider. Watched the replay. You have to be kidding me. Has worked well for the return and now gets a new rider — who rode this one to a second place finish here last April. Look for a nice rebound effort today. Sandville (6) is stretching out a bit and will be making his third start after a year layoff. Comes back as a beaten favorite in this spot, and the barn hits with .14% of those. The runner-up in the race two back came right back to win. Bodes well for this one, and gets one of the hottest riders on the planet. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

8th: 1A-9/4-1-7/8-5/2-6…Today’s finale is the fourth grass race on the card, and will be contested at 11/16-miles. I’ll go with Vegas Kitten (1A), who will break from the #8 post. This 4YO son of Kitten’s Joy ran well in the last race on March 16 — which was his first race in six months. Wide into the stretch of that one, comprising the effort. Gets a top rider in the irons today, and the new trainer knows how to get them ready. Horses making their second start with this barn hit at a .13% clip, and those making the second start off a layup score at a .22% clip. I expect a big run out of this one today. After all, he broke his maiden over this same course last April. St. Denman (9) is the 9-5 ML favorite, and has hit the board in four of the last five races. Broke the maiden last time out, running off to a nice 21/4-length win. Nice work here on April 17. Trainer having a super nice meet. adds up for me here. I bet the 1A to win/place/show and then box the 1A-9 in one exacta. I will key the 1A-9 over the 4-1-7-8 in a lesser version.

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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