McLean’s Selections for the Fair Grounds on Saturday, Feb. 2 & Happy Birthday to My Daughter Alex

Day Results9-4-7-2
2019 Overall 172172/57-68-81
Win % of Top Pick33.14%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.92%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –116 of 17267.44%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 243-35169.23%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 130-35137.04%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 83-36-17-1043.37%
“Key Horses” in 2019 54-20-11-737.04%
Alex McLean
Alex McLean, my most beautiful daughter

First and foremost, today is the birthday of my beautiful, talented, amazing daughter Alex. I still remember the first time I took her to the races. On the back of the program page, she wrote about what she saw when a filly that was named after her, Dutchess Alexandra (and, yes, I know that Duchess is not supposed to have a ‘t’; but I had to insert it to get the name approved) ran at Keeneland.

That description — written out by longhand — still sits on my desk today. I read it from time to time. Makes me smile and cry all at once.

The note starts out:

“Today, I went to the races to see Dutchess Alexandra. She’s named after me. She did good when she game (sic) out of the gate and she led the way until they were pushing her around and she became dead last and lost. But it was her first time ever. But she was nervice (sic) and she was nice and comb (sic) in the beginning.”

That was written on April 26, 1996. Alex was 7 years old. Her first horse race. We’ve had more horses since then, but I will always remember that one. That day. That race.

Wish I could give her a good one. A really good one. A Stakes winner. That I could name after her. And, she could go to watch and root for, and cheer. And, most of all, write about. If there was anything in the world that I could give her, it would be that.

But until that horse comes along, I will just keep giving her my love. And, my heart. And, my undying support.

Happy birthday, pretty girl. Happy birthday.

Now, let’s get to the races down at the Fair Grounds today. Here’s a closer look at the card:

1st: 1A-2-1/5-3/4…Salt Bae (1A) is part of a powerful, two-horse entry in this event, going 6 furlongs over the main track. This part of the entry has raced three times previously at the Fair Grounds and has a win and two seconds. In addition, he has two wins and three seconds in 6 tries at the distance. Gets a top rider, who nearly booted him home to win here on Dec. 20 in the mud. Work here on Jan. 23 was spot on. Upset Brewing (2) is a dynamite filly, who has put up a 2-9-3 resume in 18 career starts for my good friend Buff Bradley. Ran her heart out in a Stakes event over the grass here on Jan. 5. Not her spot, after breaking from the #11 hole. But the time before? Ran off by nearly 6 to win. I expect her to be a handful late. Broome (1) has hit the board in each of the last four outs, and has two wins in that mix. has a win and a third in two starts here. Speed ball draws the rail, which is producing .22% winners. I bet the entry to win/place/show — hoping that both of them can crack the board for a double payoff — and then box solidly with the 2 in the exacta.

2nd: 3-5-1/4/6-2…Cool Individual (3) gets the nod in this spot, what with the significant drop in class from a LA-bred MSW event to LA-Bred MCL for $12,500 price tag. Ran well three starts back, when closing from the clouds. Toss the last when connections tried the turf. Rough trip two back. Excuses add up, but this one should be better spotted here. Take Charge Chase (5) ran well at this level last time out. Barn hits with .15% in the MCL ranks. He’s No Bully (1) has a couple of thirds on the resume in 6 starts. Maybe? Wide open race here, so I tread a bit lightly in the wagering department. Still, if pressed, I will bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 4 in two smaller versions.

3rd: 2-2B/6-5-1A/1-4-3…My first Key Play of the Day will come here with the entry of the 2 and 2B. Steeles Run (2) is the first to be saddled by Jack Sisterton for owner Calumet Farm. This one ran a very nice second here over the grass on Jan. 18. Made the lead before being caught late. Could really improve off that effort. Entrymate High Mounte (2B) will be making a return to the grass after running over the synthetic at Turfway Park in late December. Didn’t like that a little bit. Ran well in Ireland last summer, with two seconds over the grass. Gets a top rider in the irons and should relish the grass under his feet once again. Love the work here on Jan. 26. Ready. I bet the 2-2B to win/place/show and then key the entry over/under the 6-5-1A-1 in two exactas.

4th: 5-6-8/1-3-2-4…Northcut (5) gets the edge in this one, coming from the Brad Cox barn. Trainer is hitting with .23% this meet and sits atop the Fair Grounds Trainer Standings. This one won two starts back here and then ran well when facing winners for the first time on Jan. 1. Was a beaten favorite in that, and the barn hits with .31% of those kind returning to the races. Gets a top rider up. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

5th: 8-9-3-(10)/6-2/1…I’ll go to the outside for my top two selections in this event, led by Voodoo Spell (8). This 8YO gelding is trained by Hugh Robertson, who is winning at a .21% clip here this meet with 28 starters. This one was closing strong last time out, but had to go too wide to make the move. Ran super two starts back. Veteran has 14 wins in the career and 8 of those came at this distance. Has 5 of those wins here over this sod. Knows his way around the oval. Uncle Youdge (9) is trained by Joe Sharp, who is having a solid meet here, as well. Won the last time out at this level. This one loves the lead, and will push hard from the gate. Has 6 wins in 16 starts at the specialty distance. Love the work here on Jan. 25. Very good right now. I bet the 8-9 across the board and then box the 8-9-3 in one exacta.

6th: 1-6/4/7-5-2/3…This is a super nice MSW event for the 3YOs, and two highly-touted and expensive buys for the barn of Steve Asmussen seem to be the class of this field. I will give a slight edge to Rubin Hurricane (1). This son of Orb cost a whopping $1 million at the Keeneland September Sale of 2017. That was the top price paid for a son of Orb out of 73 sold at that sale, and the average was $169,600. Has been training very well in the Bayou, especially on Jan. 20. Rail wins at .24% rate at this 11/16-mile distance. Copper King (6) cost $625,000 to purchase at the same sale as the one above. He, too, will be making the first career start for a barn that hits with .18% of those. This one comes from a dam that has 4 winners from 3 starters. And, get this. She has produced 3 Stakes winners. Wow. Nice Smart Strike mare. (Editor’s note: I have one of those in the upcoming Fasig-Tipton February Sale. First Kiss is her name. Come check her out.) Copper King is training very well, too, and gets a top rider up for the ownership team of Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton. I bet the 1-6 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 1-6 over/under the 4 in two lesser versions.

7th: 1-6-3/2-7-4/5-8…Lloyd Captain Maestri Memorial Stakes…This is a 1-mile turf event for the 3YOs, and I will go to the rail for my top selection in Marquee Prince (1). This one will be getting back to the grass for the first time since he won by 12 lengths on Sept. 30 at Churchill Downs. In the last out, he ran a nice and competitive 5th in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park. Winner of that one came back to run very well in a Stakes recently. And, two starts back, this one caught the highly touted Improbable in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. Both of those efforts were on the dirt. Love him back on the grass today. Corruze (6) is a son of Into Mischief and won sprinting over the sod here on Jan. 11. Will stretch out to two turns for the first time today, and the barn hits with only .05% of those trying that. Did work well here on Jan. 26, but distance is the main concern. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under all the numbers I have listed above.

8th: 6/5/1A-2-8/1-3-4…My second Key Play of the Day comes here with Bobby’s Wicked One (6). The problem is that the 4YO Speightstown colt is 3-5 in the ML. So, what to do? I will key in the horizontal plays (Pick 3s, Pick 4s, and Doubles). And, I will cover by hitting the “all button” on top and wheeling this one underneath. No money to be made with the win bet. 

9th: 9/4-3-8/6-2-5-10/1-7…Nelson J. Menard Memorial Overnight Stakes…This will be my last Key Play of the Day, and the odds look a lot better on this one. I will go to the outside and land on Oxford Comma (9), who surprisingly is named at 3-1 ML odds. This one has won 4 races in a row and 7 of the last 8. In 12 lifetime starts, he has 9 wins. Loves the front end, and will get back to the turf today after winning over the dirt at Delta Downs in the last out. But this one is very versatile and very game. And, obviously, knows how to find the winner’s circle for a top barn operation. Gets the meet’s top rider up. Adds up for me. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key the 9 over/under the 4-3-8. I will key the 9 over (only) the 6-2-5-10 in much smaller denomination.

10th: 5-1/3/7-4-6…Today’s finale is a $5,000 bargain bin event for the Louisiana-breds only. I will go to Machinist (5). This one is cropping to a career-low price tag for this one and the barn has hit with .18% of the last 335 mounts. When dropping this much, the barn hits with .15%. Didn’t win in 2018, in 5 starts. Zero for 2 this year. Been awhile, but a chance in this one with the meet’s top rider getting back aboard. Ten Brownies (1) broke the maiden last time out and now will face winners for the first time. Barn hits with only .06% of those moving up to the next level the first time. But the win was impressive as the odds-on favorite. Hot rider gets up and the rail is golden. Chance. I bet the 5-1 across the board and then box the 5-1-3 in the exacta. I go light.

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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