McLean’s Selections for the Fair Grounds on Thursday, Nov. 29

Day Results12-3-4-8
2018 Overall 1810664-645-798
Win % of Top Pick36.69%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall38.80%
Top Selection ITM / CD Nov 118-18962.43%
Top Selection Win / CD Nov 63-18933.33%
“Key Horses” @ CD Nov: 29-9-7-231.03%

So we will move our tack, past performances, pen and paper and head to the Fair Grounds starting today.

Well, not literally. But figuratively and figures-wise, as well.

On Wednesday, we downloaded the PPs from our friends over at and began the handicapping of the full race cards at the beautiful racetrack down in Cajun Country — New Orleans. And, we will do the same every day until the end of this mammoth meet concludes in late March of 2019.

I did the same thing a year ago, and, to be honest, it was my first real exposure on a regular basis to the horses, horse people, jockeys and all the connections down in New Orleans. It took a while to get used to a few track bias issues; to get used to some of the Louisiana-bred trainers and horses; to adapt to the nuances that make this meet both exciting and challenging. But we did it, and our numbers really started to improve toward the end of that meet in the Spring.

Now, I know a little bit more about some of the trainers. I know a little bit more about some of the riders. And, I have a deeper respect and value of the circuit. And, I hope that it helps me pick a few more winners, and hammer a few more exactas along the way.

So, let’s wait no more. Let’s get it going. Here’s our look at our first full race card for the Fair Grounds this meet:

1st: 7-5-2/3-6-4-1…Perin the Pirate (7) is a 3YO, Louisiana-bred son of Discreet Cat trained by Scott Geiner, who has spent much of the year in Southwest and the Midwest. He travels now back to Louisiana and will make the second start off a long layoff with this one. The barn’s numbers sits at .15% with horses coming off this long a layup, and this one returns as a beaten favorite. The barn hits with .22% of those kind. Switched to the dirt and went to the gate for the lowest price tag ever last time out. Made a middle move, but tired and didn’t finish at all. Comes back now in 11 days off that non-performance and goes at the same level. Gets a rider who really rode well here last meet. The pick. El Hombre (5) will get back to facing just LA-breds today after trying open company down at Evangeline in the last go. That didn’t fare too well, but that was in July. Has been training lights out here and will shift over to the dirt track, and get blinkers for the first time. The barn hits with .14% of those getting the shades, and with .17% of those coming back from a layup this long. Gets a top rider for this meet today. Greeley’s Glacken (2) will return to the restricted race company today after a dismal effort against open company last time out. Ran out of gas early in that one, and now drops and gets LA-breds only again. Trainer has not won a race this year, but this one could push the pace from the get-go in here. I bet the 7-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. 

2nd: 3-1-4/5/6-2-7…Flashly (3) will be making her first start since being switched to the barn of Brad Cox. This 3YO daughter of Denman is a Maryland-bred, but she was dominant in her career debut at Arlington Park in July. Was shipped to Saratoga after that for a Stakes try, and that didn’t go well — as she spit the bit after a half. Now, she will go for a red-hot barn, which is off to a great start here this meet. Nice work at Louisiana Downs on Nov. 24. Dam has one turf winner from 3 starters and 1 Stakes winner. Truth Goddess (1) broke the maiden two races back at Keeneland over the dirt track. Has raced twice before on the sod, but couldn’t handle either the surface or the company in either of those. Has been better since getting the blinkers, and you can throw the race over the slop in the last out. Like the 6-1 ML odds here. Work here on Nov. 21 was very nice. Missseventhirteen (4) has raced 19 times to date, with only 1 win to show for the efforts. But does have 4 seconds and 3 thirds on the resume, as well. Has a second in only previous start here. Can’t use on top, but def can use underneath. I 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 5 in two more exactas, as well.

3rd: 7-4/2-3-5…Jericho (7) ran a good one before tiring late here on Nov. 15. The speedster may have needed the last out after a three month layup. Gets a new rider for this one today, and the barn hits with .16% of those making the second start off a down time. Jockey-Trainer have teamed up to win 2 of 3 over the last 60 days. A He’s an O’Prado (4) has hit the board in each of the last 3 tries and 6 of the last 7 outs. Has a 8-6-6 record over 28 race career. Has not won this year in 11 tries, but does have 4 seconds and 4 thirds. Worth using under. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 numbers in the exacta.  I will key the 7-4 over/under the 2-3-5 in two more smaller versions.

4th: 1A-1-(9)/6-2-8/5-7-3-4…A nice turf event contested at a mile’s distance, and I will go strong here with the entry. Both parts have a shot of hitting the board here, and that could double the pleasure of betting on them. I will give a slight edge to Blockbuster (1A), a 2YO son of Medaglia d’Oro. This one cost $450,000 as a yearling last October, and has a win in 2 career starts to date. Got off to a very slow start and was caught 6-wide in the last out — a Grade 3 event at Keeneland. Some very good ones in there. Now, he returns to the allowance ranks and will be running late. If he gets a clean path, he may be tough to hold off with a top rider getting back in riding shape after a horrific injury here this Spring. Moon Colony (1) ran up against a monster in Forty Under three races back, and then won over a soft turf at Keeneland two races back. Faced some good ones on the main track at Churchill Downs in the last out and didn’t run all that badly, but gets back to the turf today and that should help this son of Uncle Mo. The dam was a Stakes winner and has thrown 2 turf winners to date, and a SW. Landofthepharaohs (2) has a win, and 3 seconds in the first 6 career starts. Ran well in the last out, but had significant traffic issues late in that one — requiring him to wait and lose momentum late. If he gets a cleaner trip, this one could be a tough one from a stalking position. Gets a new rider up today, and the raining session at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 was sparkling. Take note. I bet the entry to win/place and then key the entry over/under the 9-6-2-8 in two exactas. I will key the entry over (only) the 5-7-3-4 in a lesser amount.

5th: 7-1-5/4/6-2-8-3…Hunker Down (7) will be one of the favorites for this bargain basement event. This one is a LA-bred going against open company, but he has done that well before down at Evangeline Downs. Has been off since February, which will be a serious test — especially since the barn only hits with .03% of those returning from this type of a layup. Does get a solid rider change for this one and drops significantly in class for this one. El Jake O (1) is coming off a run over a muddy track at Indy Grand, and that surface may have compromised his chances. Drops in class and moves to open company, as well, but the trainer has hit with .30% of the 20 runners she has started in the claiming ranks this year. The work here on Nov. 25 was good enough and a solid rider takes the reins. Dance Caller (5) has 2 wins and 3 seconds in 8 starts this year. Work here on Nov. 14 was solid, over a sloppy track. Gets a really nice rider switch for this event. Will close with a purpose when right. I bet the 7-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the 4 in two smaller versions.

6th: 11-9-1/7/8-6-10/12-3-4-5…Bronco Sally (11) is a 2YO Congrats filly who cost $55,000 at a 2YO Sale in June. Made a really nice run from near the back of the pack to finish 4th in the debut, who was beaten less than 3 in October at Indy Grand. Gets a huge rider switch for this one — who is known for his ability to coax any horse home on the grass. Trainer hits with .33% of those making the grass debut, and with .26% of those making the second career start. A must use for me. Le Moine (9) ran a huge one on debut at Keeneland in early October. Tired late in that one and gave up the lead in the final stages. Trainer hits with .14% of those making the second career start. Nice work here on Nov. 22, and gets a good grass rider in the irons. Winter Sunset (1) is a well bred daughter of Tapit and out of a Stakes winning mare for the Darby Dan Farm connections. Training lights out for this debut, and I like the 7.5-furlong distance. Rail is not ideal for firsters, but the barn hits with .29% of those making the turf debut. I have to use this one and love the 8-1 ML odds. I bet the 11-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 7 in two smaller versions.

7th: 4-6/2/5/1-3…Last Bad Habit (4) has only 1 win in the first 4 starts, but this one has faced some monsters in those events. Lost to Telekinesis in the debut run, and the winner came back to run a monster second in the G3 Lexington. After the win in race #2, this one caught King Zachary, a SW in his own right, in race #3. After a long layup from May to November, this one got Tiz Mischief in the last out and that’s another Stakes Winner, too. Now, he may catch a little class break and the barn hits with .23% with those making the second start off a layup. Rider does very well for this barn — especially at this meet. Solid choice for me. Point Hope (6) goes for a barn that has started this meet super hot. In the first 13 starts, the barn has made the trip to the winner’s circle 5 times. This one drops a bit in class for this event today, and comes in having hit the board in each of the last 5 races and 9 out of the last 10. Gets a nice rider switch for this one, Look for this one to be tough stalking the pace. Speedy Fellar (2) is 8-1 ML odds, and could spice up the exotics rack here. Rider is more than a bit cold to begin the meet — what with one win in the first 32 trips. But this gelding is coming off a win over at Remington Park, and the barn scores with .15% of those trying to win two in a row. I bet the 4-6 across the board and then box those 2 solidly in one exacta. I will key the 4-6 over/under the 2-5 in two smaller versions.

8th: 9-4-7/6/3-12-13-8/2-5…I will focus on the top 3 numbers in this sequence, led by Limari (9). This 3YO filly is very well bred and comes into this one off a near-miss second at Churchill Downs on Nov. 7. That was this one’s first race in over a year, and the first start for one of the Midwest’s top trainers. Has worked well since the last start to boot, and gets the barn’s #1 rider. Looks to be there one to beat, and may be tough to catch with the cutback in distance to just a mile over this grass course. Looks ready to go. Trick (4) is another from the barn of Brad Cox, and will get the blinkers for the first time. The barn hits with .26% of those going a route for the first time, and this one closed very well after a slow start in the debut run. Gets a top grass rider in the irons, and one of my most favorite riders. Love to see this barn hook up with the Jimmy Riccio riders. Coexistence (7) has not run since August, and moving East from Del Mar. Ran two nice seconds on the West Coast before the move, and the show horse in the last race came right back to win the next out. Should like the transfer back to the grass today, and gets the blinkers for the first time, too. Trainer has had a great year, and doing well here, too. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 9 over/under the 4-7-6 in a smaller version. I will key the 9 over (only) the 3-12-13-8 in a smaller version.

9th: 10-2-9/5-3/7-4-6-1…I will go outside in today’s finale, and land on Our Smitty (10). This one comes from the red-hot barn of Ron Faucheaux. This barn got off to a horrid start here last year. But turned it on towards the end of the meet this Spring. The trainer has wasted no time at all getting it cranked up this meet. Has won 5 of the first 13 starts this meet, and this one drops to a career low level, again. Love the work here on Nov. 18, and the rider is off to a good start here this meet, as well. The one to beat. You’ve Got a Friend (2) has hit the board in each of the last 5 outs, and gets a top rider in the irons today. Trainer has hit with .25% of those in the claiming ranks this year, and with .33% of those routing, too. In 15 starts here, he has a 3-4-4 record. Got to like that. Bushido Samurai (9) gets dropped to a level where he could be a threat. In 5 tries at this distance, he has 2 seconds and a third. This one may add some value to the exotics. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the 5-3 in two smaller versions.

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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