McLean’s Selections for the Fair Grounds on Sunday, Jan. 20

Day Results14-5-4-5
2019 Overall 104104/32-35-56
Win % of Top Pick30.77%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.42%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –66 of 10463.46%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 193-28368.20%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 105-28337.10%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 62-28-15-545.16%
“Key Horses” in 2019 35-12-8-234.29%

Not a bad day, overall on Saturday down in the “Big Breezy” of New Orleans. We tabbed 5 winners out of the 14-race card, and had exacta returns of $44.80, $74.90, $57.60, $27.60 and $8.50 for each $1 wagered. Now, those exotics can fix a lot of wrongs — right?

Here’s a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 2-3-4/6-7-5/1…Savage Battle (2) ran in a nice Stakes event here on Dec. 22. Didn’t fare too well in that affair, but was 5-wide and bumped throughout. Could have fared better. Now, returns in a claiming event. Barn does hit with .13% runners on the grass and this one does have a win over this course. Looks good on the drop for me with a top rider in the irons. Corot (3) is 6-1 ML odds and could spice up the odds rack a bit here. Won over this course in November and now has a 1-1-0 record in three grass starts. Dam of this one has 4 winners over the turf, and a top local rider gets back in the saddle today. Barn hits with .18% trying to win two in a row. Clouded Judgement (4) has a second in only start over this sod previously, and that was two back. I can toss the last out over a sloppy track here on Dec. 31. Work here on Jan. 13 very solid and the barn is sure to warm up. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 1-6-5/7-4…A tough one to find a winner in this spot, but I will give a slight edge to Kairos (1). This one is getting the class plunge of the day, going from MSW ranks all the way to MCL $15,000. Never ran a lick in the debut, but goes for a high percentage barn and a solid rider. Works since the race have been OK, too. Look for improvement out of this one at some odds, maybe? Cairo Holiday (6) cost $120,000 as a 2016 Keeneland November weanling. Now on the table for $15,000. Has a couple of thirds against better, and gets the meet’s top rider in the saddle. The one to beat, maybe? Lethal Levy (5) ran a much-improvd race last time out, tiring in the mud in the late going. Could improve off that effort over a faster track. Gets a top rider up. I bet the 1-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

3rd: 5-6-(16)/10-11-9/4-14/2-8-3…The second grass event of the day, and a wide open affair, as well. I will go with Ghurair (5) in this spot. This 9YO horse has not raced since November, but was a close second against tougher competition. Does have a win over this track before and goes for very nice connections. Barn does it with .19% of those returning off a short layup. War Bond (6) won last time out here on Nov. 17. Goes for a barn that has won with .29% of the first 45 starters here this meet, and gets the meet’s top jock up. Dam of this 6YO son of War Front has 7 turf winers from 9 starters and 3 SWs. The one to beat. I bet the 6 (Take Note) to win/place/show and then box the 5-6 in one exacta. I will key the 5-6 over/under the 10-11-9-4-14 in two smaller versions.

4th: 1-8-4/9-3-6-5-2…A Louisiana-bred MCL event for $10,000 level, and I will go to the rail and Lil Kylie (1). This one has hit the board in three of the last four outs and will be running at this level for the third time today and the third time off a layup. Barn is cold right now, and so, too, is the rider. But this one figures if she can rev the engine just a bit earlier in the proceedings. Keen Move (8) goes for a barn that has a win and a second in just 4 starts here this meet, and will take over the training for this one for the first start today. Did run a nice second at this level at Delta Downs back in February of last year. Has been away since May. Barn does hit with .14% of those returning off a gap. Speak Briley (4) is 10-1 ML odds and could spice up this rack jut a tad. Ran with some speed in each of the last three before spitting the bit in each. Gets a new rider today and the shorter distance may be a big factor here. Anyone’s guess. I bet the 1-4 across the board and hope for the best.

5th: 2-12/11-5-8-13/6/3-7-9-10…The third of the grass races carded today and I will focus on the top 2 numbers here in my betting strategy. I will go strong on Chaos Theory (2), a 4YO gelded son of Curlin who will be making his second career start for this barn. Trainer hits with .14% of those kind. Ran well off a layup here on Dec. 26. Closed strong that day. If he improves any, he could be rolling at the wire. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under all the numbers listed above in the exactas.

6th: 6-1-4-2/3-8-9…Irish Hustle (6) gets a slight edge in this MSW event for Louisiana-breds only. This 3YO filly by Data Link was third two starts back and looked to be making a nice run with the jockey lost the whip in the last one. Gets a new rider today and could be a huge factor with the second start against State-breds. May have won the last out with better luck. Aloha Betty (1) is a first time starter for my great friend Buff Bradley. This one has flashed some speed in the a.m., and could be the real deal with the rail. Dam of this one has 4 winners from 4 starters, and the rail has been golden all meet. I bet the 6-1 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I will key the 6-1 over/under the 4-2 in another two smaller versions.

7th: 1/9-7-(15)/6-10-13-3-12/4-8-2-14…The final grass race of the day and another wide open affair on paper. But not for me. I will give the slight edge to Cypress Point (1), who gets the rail and will go for a trainer that wins with .25% of those routing for the first time. Gets the blinkers for the first time and the work on Jan. 14 was very solid. I toss the last one, where she was abused from start to finish. My first and only Key Play of the Day. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under the “all button.”

8th: 6-8-3/10-2-12-5/7-1…Hatties Jewell (6) nearly won at this level last time out in the first start for a new barn. The trainer of this one now gets .24% winners on the second start after the claim. Gets a top rider in the saddle and this one has hit the board in 19 of 36 career starts. Worth a shot. Sonoma Crush (8) drops all the way from a $17,500 price tag to the bargain bin in here. Never been this low before and should wake up against these types. Does have a win and a second in only 2 starts here. I bet the 6-8 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

I was absolutely dancing into the Winner’s Circle. It was so exciting and Joel has been like one of my kids ever since he came from Bay Meadows. We tease each other a lot. We greet each other by grunting and everybody looks at us like, ‘what’s that all about’ but we’ve been doing it for years. So it’s wonderful to win with him. The owners are great people that really deserve something like this.

“This horse seems like he’s more adept at seven furlongs to a mile so I’m not sure he wants a mile and a quarter …

“I could tell my horse had won, but I was so excited in the stretch I thought I was gonna pass out.

“We are very happy with the way our horse had trained for this race, but it’s always scary when you get a look at those Baffert ‘Maseratis’, it pretty much unfolded the way we had hoped.

“The people that own this horse, they’ve got this colt a seven furlong-miler type maybe time will tell differently, but the other colt they are focusing on him going the two turns.”

JEFF BONDE, SPARKY VILLE, WINNER
  • 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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