McLean’s Selections for the Fair Grounds on Thursday, Jan. 31

Day Results9-3-6-5
2019 Overall 154154/50-56-76
Win % of Top Pick32.47%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.39%
2019 Top Pick in the Money –100 of 15464.94%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 227-33368.17%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 123-33336.94%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 77-34-16-744.16%
“Key Horses” in 2019 50-18-9-436.00%

Time to crank up the ole’ handicapping machine once again and kick start an exciting week in Thoroughbred racing. We had a good day on Monday, cashing three winners from the nine race card. But our “Top 3 Picks” also scored for 6 seconds and 5 thirds on the card.

We are hoping for better today, though, and here’s a closer examination of the card — with sunny skies and temps in the 60s expected:

1st: 6/4-5/3-2-1…Light Her Up (6) gets the day off to a roaring start, we hope, as our first Key Play of the Day. This 5YO Tizway mare dropped to this level last time out off two straight tries in Louisiana-bred Stakes company. Those were too much to ask, but she rallied nicely in the last start and nearly made the lead at the wire as the odds-on favorite. Barn hits with .23% of those returning as a beaten favorite, and this one has a nice 4-1-0 record in 10 starts over this strip. Work here on Jan. 19 was well intentioned, and the barn has a 5-6-4 mark in just 25 starts this meet. Sends them out ready and willing. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the 4-5 in two exactas. I will key the 6 over (only) the 3-2-1 in a much smaller denomination.

2nd: 7-8-1/2-3…Nippy Red (7) gets a slight edge in a wide, wide open grass event. This 4YO gelding came back to the races for the first time in 7 months to run third on Jan. 9 at Delta Downs. That was a 6.5-furlong event over the dirt. Now, stretches back out to the mile distance and converts back to the grass where he has done his best running. The mare is a SW who has thrown a winner on the grass. This one is still looking for that elusive first win, but does have 3 seconds and 3 thirds in the first 9 starts. Gets back to State-bred only, too, and the barn has hit with .25% winners with the last 132 starters. Should improve today. Pancho’s Lucky Boy (8) is 0-for-17 career, but does have 3 seconds and 4 thirds. Would take a move up for him to break the maiden, but gets a huge rider switch for this try today. Maybe? I also include Kowboy’s Bobo (1) in this mix. Has not shown a lot to date, but moves to the grass for the first time today. Barn is 0-for-12 with this angle, but the mare of this one has 3 turf winners from 7 starters. Maybe should have been here all along. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

3rd: 3-6-4/5-7…What a nice race for Louisiana-breds, who will be sprinting 5.5-furlongs over the main track. I will go with Sea Vow (3), who comes into this one off two straight wins for trainer Ron Faucheux. The barn is having a super nice meet with 15 winners in 50 starters (.30%), and this one worked a super nice time on Jan. 13 here. Looks to be the speed of the race and the absolute one to catch. Can they do it? Greeley’s Wish (6) is another speed ball that could compromise the top pick if they hook it up early. This one raced against open company last time out and nearly got the job done at Evangeline Downs. Barn has hit the board in 6 of 10 starts here this meet, and the meet’s hottest jock gets the call. Threat. John’s Luck (4) could be the spoiler in the group. Can rate. Can close a bit. And, the barn is having a solid meet, too. Like the 6-1 odds here. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 3 over (only) all the numbers listed in a smaller number.

4th: 4-2-7/1-6… Flash Hands (4) appears to get a solid edge in this grass event for LA-breds only. This 3YO filly by Flashpoint has never run over the grass before, and the SW-dam has never thrown a turf winner from two starters. But…The trainer hits with .20% of those moving to the sod for the first time, and this one does have 4 seconds and a third in 7 previous races. If she takes to the grass, at all, and improves any, she should be a contender while motoring late. Gets a top class jock in the irons for that move. Gottabegolden (2) has raced three times on the grass to date, and has a second to show for the efforts. Did not fire a single bullet in the last out when running over the dirt at Delta Downs. But two races back was right in the mix late over the grass at Evangeline Downs. If she can bring her “A” game to the big time track today, she has a shot. Should be stalking the pace for a solid reins man. La Louisiane (7) is 10-1 odds in the ML, and could spice up the odds rack a bit. Gets one of the meet’s top riders, who excels on the grass course. Will try the sod for the first time, and the barn hits with .12% of those out of 52 runners. Dam of this one was Stakes-placed, and has thrown 2 turf winners. Pedigree is there. Watch out. Upset Special. I bet the 4-7 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 7 over/under the “all button,” in two smaller versions — trying to land the marlin. 

5th: 4-6/1-5/3-2-7…An allowance event for LA-breds only, and I go to Cool Spring (4) in this spot. The 4YO Concord Point filly will be making the third start off a long layoff, and the barn hits with .25% of the last 36 of those. Also, returns as the odds-on beaten favorite, and the barn hits with .26% of the last 27 of those. This one trained nicely since the last race and picks up a huge jock improvement. Has a win and a third in three previous runs over this track. The pick. Nola Fashion (6) moved way up in class after being claimed two races back. Held her own over a sloppy track here on Jan. 1. Trainer takes the blinkers off today, and the barn hits with .25% of the last 118 horses to do that. Barn also scores with .32% of those making the second start after the purchase. Nice work here on Jan. 25. Can stalk and pounce. Dangerous. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top two numbers solidly in the exacta. I will key the 4-6 over/under the 1-5 in two softer versions.

6th: 4-8/3-1-2-6…A grass sprint for the LA-breds only, and I will give the slight edge to Wild About Star (4). this one comes from the barn of Al Stall, Jr., who has heated up nicely after a wicked “bad luck” start to the meet. Has inched his way up to 10% winners in 67 starts now, and comes into this one against State-bred only having run against much-tougher open company in three of the last four outs. Run in the Richie Scherer Memorial was nice, and the race before was a winner. Trained well here on Jan. 22. Has 2 wins and a second in 6 starts over this grass course, and has 4 wins and a second in this “specialty” distance. The pick for me. Fame Feather (8) is a stalk and pounce type who also comes out of an “open race.” Won that one here on Nov. 29. Absent since, but the trainer knows how to win off the bench — scoring with .21% away from the races this long. Has 3 wins and a second in 4 starts over this grass course and the same at the distance. Tough. I bet the 4-8 across the board and then box those two solidly in the exacta. I will key the 4-8 over the rest of the numbers in a much smaller scale.

7th: 4/1-5-9/10-6… My second Key Play of the Day comes here in a $5,000, bargain basement bin special. Niigon’s Glory (4) is an Ontario-bred son of Niigon, and will be dropping all the way from a $17,500 optional claimer to the bottom of the price tags. Trainer hits with .24% of those in the claiming ranks and is having a solid meet with limited starters here. This one trained well on Jan. 24, and gets a hot rider, who has put up 4 winners in the last 8 rides. My solid choice. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under the 1-5-9-10-6.

8th: 5-8-10/1-4-7/2-9/3…What a nice race has been carded for today’s feature event. This is a 5.5-furlong sprint over the grass for maidens, and has drawn a really good field of 10. I will give a slight edge to Nola Win (5), who is making the first start since February of 2018. Nearly 12 months ago. Has run three previous times, and all against top-notch competition. Ran a game second to Telekinesis in the last out, and that one went on to run second in the G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and then won the Plate Trail at Woodbine. Nola Win will also be making the career debut on the grass. But that doesn’t bother me any. The dam of this one was a SW, and has thrown three turf winners and a SW. Corey Lanerie gets the assignment, and this one should be pushing the pace from the get-go. Works are fine and the trainer does hit with .15% of those coming back from a longer layup. Vogt (8) ran well over the grass first time out, losing to a real good one in Philosophy. Moved to the dirt last time out and didn’t fare as well, as the odds-on choice. Barn hits with .25% of beaten favorites. Watch out. Conquistador (10) draws the outside, but has speed to burn. Will try the grass for the first time, but has the super pedigree to adapt. This one cost $2.45 million as a 2YO a couple of years ago. Ran second in a good matchup on debut in October of 2017. Came back in December after a 14 month layoff and ran well before spitting the bit as the favorite. If this one figures it out, he has the speed. I bet the 5-10 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

9th: 1-2-3-4-10…Your guess is as good as anyone’s in this finale. I’m serious. Who knows? If pressed, I will just go from the rail out. The rail is producing .23% winners, and might as well start there with Chimneyville (3) in this 6-furlong tilt for LA-bred maidens. Ran a distant third here two back on Nov. 24 when in the MCL ranks for the one and only time previous. Had a shot before tiring late in that one. Gets in for half that price tag today, and the rider has hit with .10% of his last 220 mounts. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the 1-2-3-4 in the exacta. Small.

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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