McLean’s Selections for KY Downs on Saturday, Sept. 8

Day Results5-3-0-3
2018 Overall 1351498-495-604
Win % of Top Pick36.86%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.48%

With a bit of rain in the forecast, it will be interesting to see exactly what happens on this glorious Saturday for the races at KY Downs. As you know, the track has the one — and only — grass course, and the slick conditions can make things a bit tricky over the “European-Styled” turf course, where horses have to negotiate up, down, over and around several key hills, undulations, moles, and the sort.

In the past, the rain has trended towards helping the front-end runners a bit more. So, we shall see how the conditions materialize as we head closer to post times.

As for now, here is how we are playing the races:

1st: 3-6-4-12-2-8-10…I think, as with most of the races carded on Saturday, you have to take a look at the horses on the AE List to see if any of them drawn into the body of the race. In the initial race, take a strong look at the 14-15-12, in that order. If any of them get the call, and make the race, then I think you have to factor them into the equation. If they remain scratched, then I go this way, led by Perfect Kind (3) in the first. This 2YO daughter of Noble Mission has raced once, going just 5.5 furlongs. Closed some in the final stages of that first run to get up for third, and should really appreciate the added ground in today’s 1-mile tilt. Trainer hits with .20% of those being treated with Lasix for the first time, and with .15% of those going a route of ground for the first time, as well. This one gets both today. Unapologetic Me (4) has raced twice and closed to hit the board in each. Like the preferred choice, this one will stretch out today for the first time. Trainer hits with .16% of those routing for the first time. Gets a solid rider switch for this one, and this jockey has won with .33% of the last 15 mounts for the barn. Had real traffic issues in the stretch of the last try, or could have won it. Beware. Prima Valentina (4) did go a mile in her only previous start and ran a solid, closing third. Gets a top rider in the irons today, and is coming off some good post-race morning works. Trainer hits with .30% of those racing for the second time. I bet the 3 across the board , and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over the rest in a smaller version.

2nd: 2-4-7-5-9-8…Keep an eye out to see if the 14-13 draw into this one, in that order. Both should have a shot if they do. If not, I will focus my betting strategy on the top 2 numbers — led by Taxman (2). This 3YO son of Congrats will be making his U.S. debut here, and will be treated with Lasix for the first time. Trainer hits with .24% of those joining the barn for the first time, and with .15% of those shipping to the States. This one is coming off a nice third in France, going a bit shorter. Should like the ground and the extra distance. Gets a rider who loves to race here, and has .24% winners out of the first 17 rides. Fooch (4) will be moving over to the grass for the first time for a trainer that knows how to coach these sprint kinds. Works have been good at Saratoga, and the last two were good efforts each. While wilting late in each of those, the winner of the two back came right back to win. Dam has 1 winner from 2 starters, too. Barn hits with .21% of those getting the first try over the sod. Latrobe’s King (7) could add some punch to the exotics here. Goes for a top notch trainer who hits with .14% of those getting the first grass try. This one was bet down for the debut run, but got off to an extremely slow start and had no shot the rest of the way. Look for improvement out of this Candy Ride, who will be shifting to the grass. He cost $200,000 as a 2016 Keeneland September Yearling. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under the rest of the numbers listed.

3rd: 2-3-12-4-7-10-6-8…I will focus on the top 4 numbers listed here. Meantime (2) will be racing for the first time under the tutelage of trainer Darrin Miller. He hits with .40% of those making the barn debut, and with .24% of those returning from a layup like this one. The works have been super nice over at the Churchill Downs training facility, and he has some good runs in the past. The only try over the grass was the last out, and he spit the bit early in that endurance race. Shortens up to a sprint today, and that should help. Gets a top rider in the saddle, too. Look out here. Im a Patriot (3) will be moving up to face winners for the first time after breaking the maiden last time out at Ellis Park. Runner-up in that race came right back to win, and that bears good witness to this one, too. New rider gets up today, and should fit this one perfectly. Like the works since the win. Extricate (12) and Morethanfishin (4) both come from the barn of Steve Asmussen, and both figure to have a shot in this one at some decent odds. I would def include both in the exotics. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under the 3-12-4. I then key the 2 over (only) the rest of the numbers in another exacta at a lower rate.

4th: 11-10-7-3-2…I will def keep an eye out on the #13 here, to see if they draw in from the AE List. If they do, I use. If not, I go with the a couple from the outside posts. I prefer East Moon (11) on top. This 3YO filly is super well bred, being by Speightstown. This one has raced six times to date. Has 4 seconds and a third. The only time she ran over the grass, though, was the last out, when she was a near-win second at Saratoga. If she can duplicate that run, it should make her a winner for the first time today. Hasn’t raced in 48 days, but there trainer hits with .13% of those returning from this down time. Bee Balm (10) has not raced since December 2017. Daughter of English Channel is working lights out for the owner’s new, in-house trainer. Works are solid for the return. And, she draws an outstanding grass rider, to boot. I have to include. Trainer hits with .25% of turf starts to date. Angel of Mischief (7) ran well on debut at Ellis Park on July 21. Now, daughter of Into Mischief will switch over to the sod for the first time. Young trainer has only had two starters to make the first grass start ever. Neither of the two previous ones won. But…this one is training so well and ran so tough, it would be difficult not to utilize here. I bet the 11-7 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I key the 11-7 over the 10-3-2 in another.

5th: 7-10-6-2-3-4-12-9…Look out to see if the 14-15-or 12 draw in from the AE list. They figure. If not, I will focus my betting strategy on the top two numbers listed here, led by Sir Sahib (7). I’ve liked this son of Fort Larned since he made his debut at Churchill Downs last September. Ran third in the debut, and has now hit the board in 6 of 8 lifetime tries. Has faced some real good ones in his career to date, and now looks like he could develop into a nice grass horse. In four runs over the sod to date, he has a win and 2 thirds. Closer could be kicking it nearing the wire. Like the 10-1 ML odds and that will make this one my Upset Special. Zumurudee (10) will be one of the ones to watch in this spot. Since coming over from Great Britain to race this year, he has a third and a second in the first three starts. Had trouble in both of those races, or could have another win under the girth. Love the works recently at Fair Hill. Should be ready to run for a top grass rider. Take heed. Demolition (6) will be getting moved over to the grass for the first time today. Won two races back, but that was at Tampa Bay in March. Trainer hits with .08% of those getting the green, green grass of home for the first time. But the dam has two turf winners to date. And, this one gets a red-hot rider for the drive home. Look for late. I bet the 7-10 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I bet the top 3 over the 6-2-3 in another smaller version.

6th: 2-5-8-11-10-9-6-3-4-7…KY Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint…I will focus on the top 2 numbers in this grouping, led by Chattel (2). This 2YO son of Giant Oak has raced three times in his career over the sod. He has two wins and a second when beaten just a nose. The win in the Skidmore Stakes last time out was very convincing. Very. So much so, in fact, that if he runs anything close to that effort in this spot, he is likely to put this group away early and often. My solid Best Bet of the Day selection. Carter Cat (5) did not perform overly well in the first grass start over a “good” grass course at Saratoga in the last. Ran 5 lengths behind our top choice. But…This one is bred for the grass, and should improve the farther they go. Barn’s go-to rider gets the call today. Watch for improvement quickly, and like the 8-1 ML odds. Life Mission (8) will be making his first start in the U.S. today, after posting two thirds in Ireland to begin the career. Trainer hits with .10% with horses getting Lasix for the first time. Winner of the last race came right back to win again. Top rider gets the irons. I use these 3 over the two, Wesley Ward fillies. Just writing. But fillies v. colts is never a good idea. I bet the 2-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the 2 over/under the 5-8-11-10 in two more and then key the 2 over the rest in another. Love the 2.

7th: 5-1-3-7-6-9-8-2…KY Downs Ladies Turf Stakes…I will focus on the top 2 numbers here, led by a nice upset choice in Valadorna (5). This filly has been off since mid-June, but does run well fresh. In three previous starts back after a layup, she has two wins and a second. Training super well at Churchill for the return, and the trainer already has a winner at this short meet. This filly ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2016 and won the G3 Doubledogdare. Now, she will get grass for the first time, and the trainer does hit with .12% of these kind. Dam has produced a turf winner already, and she is by the great Curlin. I love this one. But, then again, I love off-spring of Curlin. I’m Betty G (1) is a much safer bet, and the likely PT favorite. This one has won three in row and has hit the board in the last six tries. In 15 starts to date, she has a record of 5-1-5. All of those top three finishes have come in 12 grass starts. Simple math? She has hit the board in 11 of 12 sod tries to date. Storm the Hill (3) had a troubled trip in the G2 Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar in the last out. Two back, she wins at this 1-mile distance in the G3 Wilshire. Never been on a giving grass course, but she has the talent to stand out on a firm one. I bet the 5-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I key the top 2 over/under the 3-7-6. I key the 5-1 over (only) the 9-8-2.

8th: 6-5-7-1-3…KY Downs Ladies Sprint Stakes…I will key on Lull (6) in this spot today. And, why not? In two races over this same course, she has a perfect 2-for-2 record. She won this race a year ago by an easy two lengths. While it is very difficult to win the same Stakes event two years in a row, this one has raced three times this year with a win and two thirds. In the two thirds, which are back-to-back now, she had troubles at the start of each. Has the stamina and the class to put this group away again. Love the work at Saratoga on Sept. 3. Looks ready. Ruby Notion (5) looks to be the one to beat on paper, if you don’t like the odds on the top choice. She comes in off an impressive victory at Saratoga on July 23. But she has never been this 6.5-furlong distance, and that could be a real challenge for her today. Looking for an upset try? I love Originator (7) form the barn of Ian Wilkes. This one ran a nice closing second last time out at Saratoga and has a win and 4 seconds in just 6 tries over the grass to date. Love the 12-1 ML odds and Jose Ortiz. Another Upset Special. I bet the 6-7 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 6-7 over/under the other numbers listed.

9th: 7-2-1-12-10-3-4…KY Downs Turf Sprint Stakes…A wide open affair for me, and I will spread out here with the top 4 picks. White Flag (7) may get a slight edge on paper, coming off a really nice win at Belmont Park on July 11. In 9 grass tries to date, this son of War Front has a record of 4-1-3. Steps it back up and into Stakes company here, but looks ready for that effort now — especially off the last work at Saratoga on Aug. 31. But…I like some real long shots in here…Including Proforma (2) and Done Deal (12). The former is 20-1 ML, but will get Jersey Joe Bravo in the saddle — again. In the last three tries — all in Stakes company — they have teamed up for two thirds and a fourth. The two thirds were the first and only grass tries in this one’s career to date. Love the works at Fair Hill in prep for this one. May be ready for a huge effort. The latter is trained by Wilkes, and is coming off a 7th in the G1 Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga. But now he gets back to sprinting on the grass — for the first time since May 18. In two tries at this game, he is a perfect 2-for-2. And, love the win over the dirt two back. I definitely use and is my next Upset Special. Can’t totally dismiss the chances of Conquest Panthera (1) either. This one has three thirds in a row — two of them in Graded Stakes events. Has a win in his only race at this distance. But I think he can def hit the board. I bet the 7-12 across the board and then box the 7-2-12 in one exacta. I key the 7-2-12 over/under the 1-10-3-4 in two more. 

10th: (16)-6-8-3-5-4-9-10-(13)…G3 KY Turf Cup Stakes…If the #16 draws in, then he moves immediately to the top of the class here. If not, though, I will go with a focus on the next two numbers — led by Oscar Nominated (6). This 5YO son of Kitten’s Joy has won his only two races over this course, and has a 2-3-0 record in 5 tries at this distance. Ran 6th in the G1 United Nations last time out, but was checked severely goin into the first turn of that endurance try and never had a shot after that. Before that one, ran a nice second in the G2 Elkhorn Stakes. Lost to a super hot horse that day, too. Works are good of late, and he is reunited with Jose Ortiz today. In the three times they have hooked up together they have a win — in the G3 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Gulfstream Park in January. Arklow (8) is my last Upset Special on the Day. This one is 12-1 ML odds, but is coming into this one off a nice win in the KY Downs Prevue at Ellis Park on Aug. 5. In 5 starts this year, he has 2 wins and a second, and does have a win in the G2 American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs last year. Ran fourth in the G3 Stars and Stripes at Arlington park two starts back, but was 6 wide at the top of the stretch of that one. Yoshida beat this one at Churchill Downs in May. Good company in all. I bet the 6-8 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I key the 6-8 over/under the 3-5-4-9 in two more.

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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