McLean’s Selections for the Fair Grounds on Monday, Feb. 18

Day Results9-5-1-6
2019 Overall 255255/95-96-120
Win % of Top Pick37.25%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall40.65%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –175 of 25568.63%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 302-43469.59%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 168-43438.71%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 99-44-18-1444.44%
“Key Horses” in 2019 71-28-12-1139.44%

What a nice day on Sunday. What a nice day. We had 5 winners in the 9 races, and hit a winner in the second race that returned $44.20 for a simple $2 win, place, show ticket. Hope you caught that train.

Hope to keep it up today, too.

Here is a closer look at today’s special President’s Day card at the Fair Grounds:

1st: 2-1-1A/5-6/7…Sugar Bite (2) was claimed out of the last race, which was at this same level. The new barn wins with .22% of those making the first start for the new barn. Ran well in the early stages of each of the last two, before spitting the bit. Has a 5-2-2 record in 12 starts here, and gets the rail. The post is producing winners at a .22% rate to date. Also, this one returns to the races today as a beaten favorite in the last out. The barn scores with .26% of those coming back. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the 2-1-1A in one exacta. I will key the 2-1-1A over/under the 5-6-7 in two lesser versions.

2nd: 1-8-7/5/12-13/9-6-3…Piocho (1) — a 4YO gelded son of Malibu Moon — ran against a winner that returned in the next out to make the winner’s circle again. This one was beaten less than 4 lengths in that effort and was wide throughout. In 5 starts to date, he has 2 seconds and a third. Could be running late. Postimpressionist (8) ran super back in June of last year. Was off from that run to Jan.27 when running for the barn of Buff Bradley for the first time. Stumbled badly at the start of that one, and was eliminated from the get-go. Look for huge improvement out of this one today. At 10-1 ML odds, this one gets my Upset Special of the Day. The horse just to that one’s inside, Hero of the Hour (7), has a shot in here, as well. This one will be making the second start off a layup, and the barn hits with .27% of those. Ran well in the last out, and was beaten less than 2. If he improves any, he could be right there at the end. I bet the 1-8 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 8 over/under all the numbers listed above, as well. Looking for a hammer lock.

3rd: 8-5/1-3/2-7…Mardi Gras Mask (8) gets the nod in this event for the LA-breds, only. This one comes form the barn of Ron Faucheux, who is winning with .32% of his runners this meet, and he has started 57 so far. This one won the last time out, and now must move up in class. But he does drop down in the price tag department, and the apprentice rider gets the assignment, again. Barn hits with .14% of those trying to repeat in the claiming ranks. Exchange Gold (5) won the last time out, as well, and moves up the class order. Trainer hits with .21% of those that won the last race. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the 8-5 in one exacta. I will key the 8-5 over/under the 1-3-2-7 in two smaller versions.

4th: 2-11-12/1-1A/8-10-4/5…This is the second grass race on the card today, and I will focus my betting strategy on the top 3 numbers listed. But I will key Mary Celeste (2) has hit the board in all four of her previous races, with a second and 3 thirds. Got Lasix for the first time in the last start, and nearly won as the post time favorite. Gets blinkers for the first time today, and the barn hits with .21% of those getting the shades for the first time. Gets the meet’s top rider. My first Key Play of the Day. I will bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the 2-11-12 in one exacta. I will key the 2 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller versions.

5th: 3-8/1-5/7…This is a MSW event for the LA-breds only, and I will go with Nuggetsofknowledge (3). This one is trained by my great friend Buff Bradley, who could have a power day today at the Fair Grounds. Ran second here on Jan. 10 in a similar event as the post time favorite. Barn hits with .20% of beaten favorites returning to the races. Trained well since the last start, too. My solid pick. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the 3-8 in one exacta. I will key the 3 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller versions.

6th: 9-2-5/8-3-6/7-4…The third of the grass races on the day, and another event that I will spread out a bit. I will give the slight nod to Uncle Artie (9), who returns the races off a very nice effort here on Jan. 18. Ran fourth that day to a colt who has already returned to win again. Was beaten less than 3 in that one, too, when getting the blinkers for the first time. Went from a deep closer to a speedster with the new equipment, giving this one a definite “Z” pattern going into this one. The “Z” pattern is an old handicapping trick, first taught by “Pittsburgh Phil.” I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the 9-2-5 in one exacta.

7th: 6-3-8/5-7/2-4-9…Trust In Diane (6) ran a good second in the last out here on Jan. 25 at this same level. Will make the second start for the barn of Tom Amoss and owner Maggie Moss today. The barn hits with .37% of those making the second start after a claim. In addition, this one returns as a beaten favorite, and the barn hits with .30% of those. Gets the meet’s top rider, too. My solid pick. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then both top 3 numbers in the exacta.

8th: 8-9-4/1-2-3/5-11…The final grass race of the day is a nice allowance event going 5.5-furlongs. Draws a nice, and well-balanced field, but I will go to the outside for my top two candidates in this one. Riverside Walk (8) has shipped in from Florida for trainer Brendan Walsh, and will make her first start over this sod today. This Great Britain-bred will get one of the meet’s top jockeys. Has been training well, and may improve with the shorter distance today. Dream Passage (9) is a NY-bred who has not done that well while facing open company here in the last two out. Has had serious issues in both of those previous runs, though, and gets a good grass jockey in the irons today. I look for improvement here. I bet the 8-9 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 8-9 over/under the 4-1-2-3 in two smaller versions.

9th: 10-7-11/1-8-2/1A-3-5…The last race of the day is a $12,500 claiming event for the LA-breds, only. I will go to the outside for the top choices in this 6-furlong sprint, led by Phat and Fast (10), who ran a real good second here on Nov. 18 in the last out. Works just OK as he returns to the races today. But the trainer hits with .34% with those that are returning to the races as a beaten favorite. Barn hits with .21% of those away from the races this long, too.  Will have solid competition in this spot, but I give this 4YO gelded son of Songandaprayer the edge. I bet the 10-7 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 10-7 over the 1-8-2 in a smaller one, too.

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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