McLean’s Selections for the Fair Grounds on Thursday, Jan. 10

Day Results9-1-3-6
2019 Overall 3511-14-20-x
Win % of Top Pick31.43%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall42.86%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –21 of 3560.00%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 148-21469.16%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 84-21439.25%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 40-20-8-350.00%
“Key Horses” in 2019 9-4-1-044.44%

We are ready to get back up on the hoss, and give her another big shot this week in New Orleans. The weather looks promising, and the horses look ready. So, here’s a closer look at today’s card in the “Big Easy:”

1st: 1-6/5-4-7/3…Say Yes Again (1) looks to be the headliner in this MCL $25,000 event for Louisiana-breds only. The 3YO Custom for Carlos filly will be dropping out of the MSW ranks into the claiming level for the first time for a trainer that hits with .24% of those making this type of class plunge. Barn also hits with .19% of those making the second start. The blinkers come off after the first race, when she broke in after the start, and the barn hits with .26% of those losing the shades. This one did return after the race to work OK over the slop on Dec. 31. Trainer is normally at his best at this meet, but got off to a horrible start. Trying to climb out of the bucket now. Rail is winning at a .21% rate at this sprint distance, too. The pick for me. Foreign Connection (6) will be making the career debut for a hot barn, who hits with .11% of those out of 209 starters last year. When making the debut in the MCL ranks, the percentage climbs to .15%. Jockey has hit with a 7-4-2 record in the last 28 starts for this barn and the dam has one winner from one previous starter. Nice work on Dec. 22. A shot. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the 1-6 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 1-6 over (only) the 5-4-7-3 in a smaller version.

2nd: 7-2-3/8/6-10…I will focus on the top 3 numbers in this sequence, led by Back Page Star (7). This one comes from the barn of my good friend Louie Roussel, who is off to a solid start here with 2 winners and 4 seconds in just 12 starts. Claimed this one last time out after losing her three starts ago. This barn had some fun with her in 2017, when she won four races in a row. Be nice if she could find that old form again. Sandstorm (2) goes for a high-percentage trainer, who won with .21% of 197 starters a year ago. This one is plummeting down the class order and the rail is winning with .24% rate. Jockey has a 2-2-1 record for this barn in the last 7 races. Adds up to a speedball contender to go gate to wire. Previous Honor (3) won her last race, and the barn hits with .28% of those returning to try to win again. If she can pull the trick today, it will be here third win in a row. Another speedball could spell doom if she tries to match strides with the mare to her inside, though. Needs to avoid those :21 & change figures early on. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 8 in two smaller versions.

3rd: 6/5-1/7-8-4-2…My first Key Play of the Day comes here with Paddy’s Notes (6). This 10YO gelding is a senior citizen, for sure, but was a ball of fire all of 2018. Had 6 wins and a third in 10 starts last year, and since the claim by this top trainer three starts back, he has run third in the slop and won over a fast track. Expect a fast one again today, and with the drop in class off the win, he may just make it two in a row. Will try to take them gate-to-wire, for sure. Jockey has been red-hot for this barn, too. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the 5-1. I will key the 6 over (only) the 7-8-4-2 in a smaller version.

4th: 8/4-6-7/1…My second Key Play of the Day will come right here and back-to-back races with Musical Man (8). Ran OK when trying the grass here on Dec. 16, but now gets back to more familiar territory on the dirt. Barn hits with .17% of those making this type of surface switch. Ran super against high-end Maiden Claimers up at Churchill Downs — when facing open company. Now, gets State-breds only again and should be able to figure out a way to dominate this group, with a top rider taking the assignment for the first time. Love the work on Nov. 7 before heading South. My solid choice. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then key the 8 over/under the 4-6-7-1 in the exactas. 

5th: 2-7-3/9-1/5…The second of four grass races carded today, and this one will be contested at 7.5-furlongs. I’ll give a slight edge to Day Dreamer (2), who comes from a barn that has made two trips to the winner’s circle so far this meet with only 6 starters. This one was claimed last time out for $20,000 and now drops to $15,000 level on the first back. Barn hits with .28% of those running for the new connections for the first time. Will get the sod for the first time, too, and the barn is 1-for-1 with that angle. Gets a top end jock in the saddle, and the work here on Dec. 30 over the slop was OK. Bye Bye Shanghai (7) could spice up the odds rack with a nice run today. Comes in at 8-1 ML odds for a barn that has only managed one win in 21 starts this meet. Does have 7 seconds and 2 thirds, though, and will be getting back to the turf, where he has 2 thirds in 3 career starts. Love the work on Jan. 5 at Delta Downs. Looks ready. Go For Moonshine (3) comes back at the same level that he ran fifth at on Nov. 22 here. Was bumped and wide throughout that race, and had problems getting a free run from pillar to post. Dam has two turf winners from three starters, and should fit with these. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

6th: 5-8-6/7-4/1-3…Wings Up (5) gets the nod in this MCL event, and will be making the first start since running second at Churchill Downs on Nov. 22. Faced similar company that day, and suffered a very slow start. Was at the back of the pack throughout the early going before making a nice middle move to get in position. Couldn’t catch the run-away winner, but got up for the place position. Gets a new, aggressive rider in the irons today, and the works here have been steady, if not splashy. Barn hits with .33% of those returning from this kind of a layup, too. Just in Tee (8) gets a serious drop in class after a disappointing non-run in the slop at Churchill Downs on Oct. 31. Has show a bit more speed in the a.m. here, and the barn does hit with .11% of those making the second career start. Has a chance to improve. Jerrys Pridenjoy (6) ran third at this level here on Dec. 16 in the second start off a layup. Barn hits with .12% of those making the third start coming back. Three starts back managed to be second at $80-to-$1 odds at Canterbury Downs in Minnesota. Ran up against Swordsman, a nice one two starts back. Could figure here. I bet the 5-6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

7th: 6/11-7-9-(12)/5-3-10/1-2-8…My third Key Play of the Day comes here with Shangroyal (6). This one returns to the turf for the first time since he ran in the expensive Franklin-Simpson Stakes at KY Downs back in September. Ran huge that day to be third after pushing the pace for much of the 6.5 furlong race. Has faced tougher ever since, and now winds up in a claiming race for the first time. Rider has a 4-3-1 record in the last 14 starts here, and the barn does hit with .24% of those that race in the claiming ranks. Trainer off to a super cold meet so far, with just a single win in the first 23 starts. But the work here on Dec. 17 was outstanding, and I look for huge improvement with this class plunge. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the 11-7-9-(12) in two exactas. I will key the 6 over (only) the 5-3-10-1 in a smaller version.

8th: 6-5/3-1/7-2…My Friend Flavin (6) gets the edge in this one. The 7YO gelding raced seven times in 2018 with a 1-2-1 record, but the last out here in December was a State-bred Stakes event contested at 6t furlongs over a sloppy track. Didn’t care for that one — especially after being steading and racing wide in the turn. Now, gets a better spot and the barn hits with .17% of those making the second start off a layup. Has 3 wins and 3 seconds in 12 starts over this track. Autumn Warrior (5) has raced in five straight Stakes events — including two against Open Company and one in a Grade 3. Has not fared well in any of the last three, but before that? Won impressively in the first three career races. This will be the third try off a layoff, and the barn hits with .22% of those. Works of late have been good — especially the bullet back on Nov. 30 here. Gets the regular rider back in the irons and could be much improved at this level. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the 6-5 in one exacta. I will key the 6 over/under the 3-1-7-2 in two smaller versions, as well.

9th: 1-2-6/3-8-7/10-4-9/5…The last grass race of the day, and this one will be contested at 11/16-miles. I will go right to the inside for both of the top picks, led by Chip Leader (1). This 7YO gelding ran well here on Dec. 14 when the race was moved off the grass course to the main track. Ran second that day after pushing the pace the whole way. That was the first race in nearly 7 months. Now, will get the second start off the layoff, where the barn hits with .11%. Gets the meet’s top rider back in the irons. And, will be back at the same level for the second try under the new barn roof. Has a 4-1-1 record in 7 starts over this grass course. Loves it here. Potomac River (2) could really spice up the odds rack in this one. Made 12-1 in the ML, and becomes our Upset Special of the Day. This 10YO horse ran 8 times last year. Didn’t win, but had 2 seconds and 3 thirds. Now, drops considerably in class. Ran super well over a yielding grass course in an open company Stakes event two races back and ran OK off a short layup here on Nov. 23. Was wide throughout in that one. Gets a new rider today. Has hit the board in nearly half of the 39 runs over the sod. Son of a Saint (6) goes for the barn of Brad Cox, the leading trainer here this meet. Gets a big class drop to the lowest level ever. Won three starts back at Indy Grand and has 5 wins in 16 career starts. Seems to be an “all or nothing” type. Like the 5-1 odds, though, and the rider selection. Chance. I bet the 1-2 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 1-2 over/under the 6-3-8-7-10 in two smaller versions.

10th: 9/10/4-6-8/3-7-2…The finale on the day and the last Key Play of the Day, as well. Point Hope (9) will drop all the way from a $17,500 optional-claimer to the basement bin for this one. Never been below $20,000 before, so the connections may be trying to get eligible for a Starter Allowance down the road. Had 7 starts last year with 2 wins and 3 thirds. Before the last race debacle, this one had hit the board in five in a row and 8 of the last 9. Could jump right back on track in this one today. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the 9-10 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 9 over/under the 10-4-6-8 in two smaller versions, and key the 9 over (only) the 3-7-2 in another one.

Comments on the last five races to come shortly.

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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