McLean’s Selections for the Fair Grounds on Saturday, Feb. 23

Day Results8-3-3-3
2019 Overall 281281/105-106-135
Win % of Top Pick37.37%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall41.04%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –199 of 28170.82%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 326-46070.87%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 178-46038.70%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 101-45-19-1444.55%
“Key Horses” in 2019 73-29-13-1139.73%

It was a dreary day in the “Big Easy,” making the handicapping of racing anything but easy. Especially when the races were washed off the turf, and many of the participants left in their stalls to compete on another day.

But we managed to hit 3 races out of 8 on the day (we had so many scratches in one race, that we declared it a non-betting event for our handicapping purposes, only). And, it was mostly a “chalk day” for us.

Yet, today is another day. And, another opportunity. I’m still looking for that perfect day when we hit all winners. Maybe today is the day? Maybe.

Here’s a closer look at the Saturday card at the Fair Grounds:

1st: 8-7-1/4-2-9-5…This is the first turf race carded on the day, and it is highly speculative whether it will remain on the sod. So, look for the track conditions and the scratches as soon as you can. I handicap the race as it will be switched to the main track and the dirt surface. As such, I will go to the outside and give the top spot to the “Main Track Only” entrant Homefortheweekend (8). This 3YO gelded son of Not Bourbon will be dropping down in class and moving off the turf — if he gets in — after a debacle last time out. Back in October, this one ran well over the synthetic at Woodbine, but has not done well against much tougher since moving here. The barn is doing OK, and gets a top rider. Taking a shot here. Lethal Levy (9) is another “MTO” horse, and will get the saddle from the Mike Maker barn. Broke the maiden impressively last time out and ran over the mud here two back. Gets a top rider for the saddle, if he gets in. Will move up to face winners for the first time, but the barn hits with .17% of those. Big Bobby Brown (1) will be dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time ever and the barn hits with .25% of those. Pedigree suggests that he should like an “off track,” and the rail has been golden all meet. A chance here, for sure. I bet the 8-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 6/2-1/4-3…My first Key Play of the Day comes here with Warriors Gem (6). This has run two straight seconds at this level and has pushed the pace in each of them. In 6 lifetime starts now, he has an 0-2-1 record and looks ready to break the maiden today. Rider is solid and the barn is having a good meet. They will have to catch this one on the front, with a clean break. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under all the other numbers listed in the exacta.

3rd: 2-6-3/5-4-1-7…Carrier Landing (2) comes from a sharp barn of Joe Sharp, and will be stepping up to face winners for the fist time after snapping the maiden last out in impressive fashion as the favorite. Barn has won nearly .20% of the 167 races it has entered this meet, and is rolling right now. Rider won 4 races n Friday, as well. This one should like any racetrack condition, as well, and the barn hits with .19% of those moving up to face winners. Shanghaied Roo (6) could be the horse to beat here. This one broke the maiden at first ask at Keeneland last April. Has not faired well since, but was sunk into two Stakes after that — including the G3 Bashford Manor. A little aggressive. Barn is trying blinkers for the first time today, and the trainer hits with .17% of those getting the shades. Barn also hits with .23% of those dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. Training OK for the return. Could spring and go. Fair Shot (3) goes for the barn of Tom Amoss and the meet’s top rider in James Graham. Won last time out, as well, as the favorite. Barn hits with .24% of those moving up to face winners for the first time. Will flash a lot of speed in this spot. Come catch me if you can. I bet the 2-6 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

4th: 5/6/4-1-3-2…My second Key Play of the Day comes with one of the top LA-breds of our time in Minit to Stardom (5). This 4YO daughter of Star Guitar has 3 wins and 2 seconds in 6 starts and won a very nice allowance against open company at Churchill Downs last May for trainer Al Stall, Jr. Only time off the board came in the G1 Test Stakes at Saratoga last August. Stumbled at the start of that one and never got to settle in for her run. Training very well for this one and I look for a major run out of this one today, making the second start off a layup. Barn hits with .22% of those. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key over/under the 6-4-1-3-2 in the exacta. I box the 5-6 solidly in two more.

5th: 8-7/2-4/6-5-3-1…The second turf event scheduled for today and it will be interesting to see if the track officials decide to leave this one on the sod or no. I am handicapping it as if it will be moved to the main track, and, as such, I will go to the outside and land on Hyper Piper (8) — who is entered for the Main Track Only. This one is coming off a nice Stakes win down at Delta Downs last time out and in 21 career starts, the 6YO mare has a record of 7-7-1. She has a win over this track, as well. Trainer has won .20% of his last 222 races, and this one is a good one. Bermuda Star (7) could be the main challenger. She has two seconds in three tries over an “off track,” and ran a good one here last March when it was moved from the grass to the main track. Trainer is having a very nice meet with just 14 runners. But his horses have gone 3-1-5 in those limited tries. I bet the 8-7 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 8-7 over/under the 2-4 in two smaller versions.

6th: 6-8-7/5/2-3-1/4…This is a route event for the LA-breds only, and I will spread out in my horizontal plays here a bit, using the top 3 numbers in this sequence. I give a slight edge to Luck of the Draw (6). Has hit the board in each of the last three and looks really improved since getting the blinkers the last two tries. Ran second as the even-money favorite at this level last time out, and the barn hits with .23% of those returning as the fan’s choice. Calimambo (8) has raced here three times previously, and has a win and a third. Meet’s top rider takes the reins again and the winner of the last two have both returned to win the next time out, as well. Key races. Typhoon Tycoon (7) comes from the Joe Sharp barn and gets the hottest rider on the grounds. Broke the maiden last time out and moves up to face winners for the first time. Barn hits with .19% of those. I bet the 6-8 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

7th: 8-1/6-5/2-4-9…This is another one scheduled for the sod, for 3YO fillies. No matter what the track condition or surface will be, I will go with a focus on my top two numbers — led by Complete (8). This 3YO Include filly nearly won last time out when running a mile over the grass here. Closed well to miss by less than a neck. The barn hits with .14% of those making the second route race in the career, and this one has a solid “mud” pedigree, as well. Tapital Gains (1) is a 3YO daughter of Tapit and is owned by Gainesway Farm. Trained by the meet’s top barn, and worked super here over the dirt on Feb. 15. Will be making the career debut today with a top jock in the saddle. Dam of this one is a Stakes winner, and has thrown 3 winners from 6 previous starters — including 1 Stakes winner. All is there. Looks ready to roll. Like the 6-1 ML odds. I bet the 8-1 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 1 over/under all the numbers listed in two softer versions.

8th: 3/7-6/2-5-4/1…My third Key Play of the Day comes here with Mo Gayle (3), in what figures to be a really nice allowance event going 6 furlongs over the main track. This 3YO filly by Uncle Mo won impressively on debut here on Jan. 19. Came rolling from off the pace to mow them all down and pull away by over 2 lengths. Runner-up came right back to win the next out. Key race. Gets a top rider to take the reins, and this one has the look. Trainer normally does not crank them up for the first out. Still, this one won impressively. Look for improvement and I love the 9-2 ML odds. My pick. Solid. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under all the numbers listed. More on the 7-6. Less on the 2-5-4. Even less on the 1.

9th: 7-9/8-10-4/5-1-2/3-6…The feature race on the day is another scheduled for the grass. I will go to the outside and land on Revved Up (7). This one will be making his first start for the barn of Mark Casse, who hits with .16% of those making the barn debut. has run against some good ones in the past, and looks to be training well for the comeback effort today. By a very versatile sire, who can produce runners over any kind of surface. And, gets a hot rider, too. Ezmosh (9) was a single for me last time out, when making the first start in over 6 months. Ran well before tiring late in that one. If the exercise helped with conditioning, this 4YO son of Tizway should be a force in this one. Likes to stalk and pounce. Gets a top rider for that call card. I bet the 7-9 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I will key the 7-9 over/under the 8-10-4-1 in two more lesser versions.

10th: 2-7-1/5/4-8-3…The finale of the day is a bargain bin, $5,000-claimer for those that have not won 3 races in their careers — to date. I will give a slight edge to Butta Got Uncs Bac (2) — a Louisiana-bred going against open company. Ran third as the beaten favorite last time out at this same level and condition, and the barn hits with .24% of those returning as the beaten favorite. I will be the 2 to win/place/show 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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