McLean’s Selections for the Fair Grounds on Friday, Jan. 25

Day Results6-3-2-6
2019 Overall 118118/38-37-64
Win % of Top Pick32.20%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.27%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –74 of 11862.71%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 201-29767.68%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 111-29737.37%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 68-31-15-545.59%
“Key Horses” in 2019 41-15-8-236.59%

With all the scratches and racetime changes that were incurred when the races were moved off the grass course on Thursday, we were left with only 6 races that we had “selections” for and picks with. Of those 6 races, we did have three winners. Not a bad effort.

But we are hoping to ramp things up for an exciting weekend of racing across the country. Here’s a closer look at today’s card in New Orleans.

1st: 1/2-4-6/5-3-7…Whatelse Igot Todo (1) gets the first Key Play of the Day designation. This one comes out of a MSW win for Louisiana-breds only on Jan. 11 and will face winners for the first time. That is normally not a good winning move, but this one was dominant in the win and flashed nice speed from gate-to-wire for a barn that hits with .67% of those moving up to face winners for the first tim. The rail is producing .20% winners at this distance and this one did well against open company at Churchill Downs on Nov. 14 before he was claimed and before moving South for the winter. Jockey change is not a positive, but this one could repeat right back with a nice start. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under all the other numbers listed.

2nd: 8-1-2/7-6-5…For the second race in a row, I will go with a horse moving up off a maiden win to tackle winners for the first time. This time I will go with Awesome Figure (8), who won here on Dec. 9 in a 5.5-furlong race that was moved off the turf to the main track. Won gate-to-wire that day, pulling away impressively at the end in a 5-horse field. Has returned to work really well, and the dam of this one has two turf winners in 9 starters and 2 Stakes winners. Should love the surface switch. The races at both Keeneland and Churchill Downs in the Fall were solid and against top competition. Could handle the move up today. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

3rd: 3-5/4-6/1-7-2…Lurey An (3) ran off to an easy win here on Dec. 28 when sloppy around the 1-mile distance over a muddy track. Never threatened in that event, and pulled away to a 4-length victory margin over six rivals. Comes back on a fast track today and has 3 wins and 4 thirds over that surface type in 12 starts. Has 3 wins here, too, in 9 starts. Trainer plucked this one out of the claiming ranks three back and has done well. Barn hits with .22% of those that won the last race. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the 3-5 solidly in one exacta. I key the 3-5 over/under the 4 -6 in two smaller versions.

4th: 2-12/5-(14)-4-6/3-13/1…Jus Wow (2) broke the maiden at first ask nearly a year ago in impressive fashion. Was off for 11 months, and came back in a race over the sloppy main track here on New Year’s Day. Ran very well before tiring late in that one. Will stretch out to a route for the first time and the question will be whether she can carry her speed that far. Gets a top rider up, and the barn hits with .16% of those stretching out for the first time. If the last race helps with conditioning at all, she could be tough to run down late. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the 2-12 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 2-12 over/under the 5-(14)-4-6 in two smaller versions.

5th: 6/1-7-4/5-8…My second Key Play of the Day is Aubrey (6). This 4YO Warrior’s Reward filly is dropping all the way from a $15,000 price tag to the bargain bin for this tilt, and the barn hits with .50% of those making this kind of class drop. Will be moving from the turf to the main track, but does have 2 nice seconds in 3 starts over a fast dirt surface. Like the work on Jan. 4, and should be rumbling late. Gets a rider who understands that concept. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the rest of the numbers listed.

6th: 7-4/9-8/1-5/2-3…My Upset Special comes in this grass event and with Compagno (6), a 5YO Gio Ponti horse making his first start for the barn of Michael Stidham. Listed at 6-1 in the ML, but I think will likely drop before PT. This one will be hitting the claiming ranks for the first time since winning for $50,000 last May. Ran 4 times last year against much, much tougher and that win at Belmont when facing fellow claimers. Been off since mid-September, but the works here have been lights out. Check out the move here on Jan. 16. Gets an underrated rider in the irons. My pick. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the 7-4 in one exacta. I will key the 7-4 over/under the 9-8-1-5.

7th:2-5-6-1…Wide open one here, for maiden claimers in for the $12,500 price tag. Of the ones that have run before, I tend to give Civil (2) a slight edge. Ran against much, much tougher in the last three. Drops to a level that he was comfortable at last summer. Work here on Dec. 24 was solid enough. Has some speed and has hit the board in 3 of the 6 starts at the distance. Tread lightly in this spot. I bet the 2 across the board and then box the top 4 numbers in the exacta.

8th: 13-12/8-1/4-5/11-3-2-6…This is the last turf race of the day and it is scheduled for the 5.5-furlong sprint distance. I will go to the far outside for both of the top picks — Mary Celeste (13) and Seeking a Star (12). The former has run three previous times and has bee in the money in each. Ran well on debut at KY Downs back in September, and that’s a tough place to win on first ask. Was second to a nice one. Ran close in each of the next two, when stretched out. But lost ground late. Now, she shows up sprinting again. Like the work on Jan. 12. Has speed enough. The latter is coming off a debacle of a race as the beaten favorite here on Dec. 9. That was a race moved off the grass and going long. This one shortens up, too, and should relish the shorter distance for a barn that is winning with .26% of all starters here this meet. Work on Jan. 19 was eye-opening. Don’t discount Awesome One (8) at some nice odds. This one is trained by my great friend, Buff Bradley, and has an excuse in the last. Gets one of the meet’s top riders up. I use. I bet the 13-12 across the board and then box the 13-12-8 in the exacta.

9th: 8-6-7/5-2-3…General Basil Duke (8) drops all the way from $15,000 to the bargain bin for this one. Never been close to this level. Has hit the board in 4 of 11 starts and the barn does hits with .25% of those dropping this much and with .23% of those making the third start off a layoff. Work on Jan. 8 was nice. Gets the meet’s top rider in the irons. Adds up for me. Lion Rampant (6) nearly won at this level last time out here on Dec. 27. Made the lead late before giving it up near the wire. Comes back as the beaten favorite and the barn hits with .29% of those kind. I bet the 8-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

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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