McLean’s Selections on Saturday, Dec. 8 — LA Champions Day — at the Fair Grounds

Day Results10-5-4-6
2018 Overall 1854691-662-820
Win % of Top Pick37.27%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall39.07%
Top Selection ITM / FG Nov-Mar 43-5676.79%
Top Selection Win / FG Nov-Mar 30-5653.57%
“Key Horses” @ FG Nov-Mar 14-10-4-071.43%

Another great day at the Fair Grounds on Friday. Have I told you lately, how much I love you, FG?

We finished the day with three winners in a row and tallied five winners out of the 10 race card. We also hit for exactas that returned $5.20, $36.10, $32.70, $16.60, $27.50, $9.00 and $5.50 for each $1 played.

That’s not a bad day, right there.

But so far this meet, we have picked 30 of 56 winners — for 53.57%. Our top pick has hit the board 43 of 56 times — for 76.79%. And, our “Key Plays of the Day” have been spectacular, with 10 winners and 4 seconds in 14 races.

Let’s keep it going, shall we?

Here’s a closer look at today’s card on Louisiana Champions Day:

1st / 2nd /3rd: These are all races for the Quarter Horses. While they are a great breed and as fast as Bourbon Street, I will leave this selection process to those that handicap and know this type of racing better. I will journey on to the Thoroughbreds, starting in Race 4.

4th: 3-6-9/2-4-7-1…This is the first of four races scheduled to be contested over the turf track. But with rains scheduled in the forecast for much of the day, one begins to wonder if the races will stay on the sod. I have tried to handicap this with an eye toward both, but that is such a tricky proposition. Here is what I have — but keep an eye on the scratches. Two Utes (3) will be making the first start ever over the grass, if it stays on it. Ran very well in the first two starts this Spring, and then was off for 7 months. Return was not good, when off very slow. Gets the blinkers for the first time today and that may help, and gets the meet’s leading and hottest rider in the saddle for the first time. Trainer is looking for career win #1, as well. Beam (6) nearly pulled off the win last time out when running over a muddy track at Delta Downs. Has the form and pedigree to enjoy the slop, and is by Arch. Has a nice run over the sod back in June, as well. Versatile and the one to beat. Pancho’s Lucky Boy (9) has run 16 times and still no trips to the winner’s circle. Does have 3 seconds and 3 thirds, though, and could clean up the back end of the exotics. Has a second in 3 tries over an “off track” and has a second and a third in 7 previous runs here. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 3-6 over the 9-2-4-7-1 in a smaller version.

5th: 4-1-5/6/3-2…Lassie Stakes…This is a 6-furlong event for the 2YO fillies, and I will give a slight edge to Silvercents (4). This one is by the KY stallion Goldencents and has carved out a nice 2-3-1 resume in the first 7 starts for Karl Broberg — who has won with .28% of the 1,454 starters this year. Jockey assignment is interesting, but she has been riding this one all over the globe for the previous barn connections. She will be making her first start for this barn, who hits with .22% of those getting the saddle here for the first time. Midnight Fantasy (1) is a Midnight Lute filly who broke her maiden in her career debut last time out here on Nov. 15. Now, she jumps right into the state-bred Stakes event. But she won that first out by nearly 10 lengths. Gets the rail, which has been golden and a top rider in the saddle for a barn that has been hot all year. Can they catch her? Goodprofit (5) ran off with a state-bred Stakes victory last time out. And, that was to break her maiden, as well. Loves to close and run late, and will need some help softening up the speedster. But she has late gas and may run them all down with a top rider getting the assignment for the first time today. I bet the 4-5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

6th: 10-3-1/2-8-11/7-5-9…This is the second of the proposed grass races, and if it stays on the sod, it will be contested at a mile distance. Zippy (10) broke his maiden over this course in March. Ran well in a Stakes event at Gulfstream Park against open company after that, but then found the racing a little tough. Gets back to a nice level today and should improve off the last start. Gets a huge rider switch for this one. Likes to stalk and pounce. Watch out. Ruston Vow (3) has a win over he turf and one over an off track, as well. Has 7 career wins under his girth, and the barn hits with .17% of those making the second start off the layup. This one possesses more speed, and does get a good pedigree mud mark, as well. Sand Pit Road (1) has hit the board in 20 of 28 lifetime starts. Only 4 wins, but likes to be in the hunt when the wire hits. Barn hits with .14% of those making the second start off the layup, and gets the apprentice in the saddle for the first time. Weight allowance may help. The blinkers were added two starts back and he has two nice, closing thirds with the shades. Improvement expected. I bet the 10-1 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 10-1 over/under the 1-2-8-11 in two smaller versions.

7th: 5/1-4-3/6-7/8-9-2…Juvenile Stakes…This 6-furlong sprint event is for the 2YOs, and I get my first Key Play of the Day right here in Classy John (5). This Songandaprayer colt has raced twice to date, winning at Saratoga and running a very nice second to Hog Creek Hustle at Churchill Downs. Both of those races were obviously against open company. But they were also against very good company. The runner-up to Classy John in the Saratoga debut came right back to win. And, Hog Creek Hustle is a talented closer who impressed at Ellis Park and has already tried Stakes company. If this one breaks clear from the gate, he has the front-end speed to say goodbye in a hurry. Should like the cut back to 6 furlongs, too. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key the 5 over/under the 1-4-3. I will key the 5 over the 6-7 in a smaller version. 

8th: 7-6-3/1-2/8-4-5…Turf Stakes…This is an event for the 3YOs & Up and originally scheduled to go 11/16-miles over the sod. If it stays. In the Navy (7) has to be a play today on the same day as the annual renewal of the Army-Navy football game. This 4YO son of Midshipman has a 4-2-2 record in 10 starts over the grass and has never been off the board in 4 starts here. Has 2 wins, a second and a third. In the only try over an “off track,” though, he has only one third. So? I still go here. Was very impressive in the last start here on Nov. 16, pushing the pace and closing great under the steady hand of a solid rider. The winner of the race two back has already come back to win again. Over the last six races, he has hit the board five times. Steady. Ninety One Assault (6) is the one to beat if it stays on the grass. But, in two starts over an “off track,” he has not hit the board. One of those occurred here in February, when he tried and slouched home fourth. That was the first start off a layup, though. Still, this one has been facing tougher company for much of the year and has a 2-1-2 record in five starts over this track’s turf. The one to beat, for sure, IMO. Magic Vow (3) could spice up the odds rack in here. In one start over an “off track,” he has a win. Ran very well against the first two choices in the last out and went wide in that one. Moves to the meet’s top rider for the first time today, and the jockey has never been hotter. Could move up. 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 1-2 in two smaller versions.

9th: 6-1-5/3/4-2-7…Classic… Grande Basin (6) will be switching back to the dirt today after a very nice try over the sod and against In the Navy in the last out. Should prefer this surface today, though, and has 3 seconds and a third in 8 tries over an “off footing.” In 18 starts here, though, he has a 6-5-3 record. This will be his third start off a layup, and the barn hits with .21% of those. Will be closing very late, and will need an opening. Autumn Warrior (1) could be a shocker in here, though. This one is 8-1 ML odds, but I can toss the try over the grass the last time out, when he was extremely wide. The race before, he was up against it in the G3 Super Derby and the likes of Lone Sailor. the first three races of the career were dynamite, and the trainer — although off to a very slow start to this meet — has been spectacular here in the past. He is due. And, this one may shock start this barn. Upset Special of the Day. Mageez (5) has 10 starts here with just one win. But he has 6 seconds. Likes the off going, too, and will get a huge rider switch for the return to the dirt. Barn hits with .23% of those making this surface switch, and with .18% of those making the third start off a layup. I have to use this one. I bet the 6-1 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the 6-1-5 over/under the 3 in two smaller versions.

10th: 5-4-9/7-1-8/6-3…Ladies Stakes…This is the last of the grass races carded on the day, and it could be one of the most exciting, if it remains on the sod. Viva Vegas (5) is a very talented LA-bred daughter of The Factor, who, in turn, is by one of the best turf sires in the biz today and War Front. She has been facing very tough competition this year, including the G3 Dowager, G3 Violet,, the G3 Matchmaker and another G3 event all in a row. She did manage a second and two 4th place finishes in those lofty aspirations. She is a press-the-pace type and should relish a return to this distance. In 7 previous runs at this distance, she has 2 seconds and 3 thirds. Gets a top rider here, and one of the best in the world over the grass. My solid pick. Remember Daisy (4) has had 3 starts over this course with 2 wins and a third. Has a win over an “off track,” as well. Comes into this one off two wins in a row, and the barn hits with .13% of those making the third start off a layup. Barn is red hot right now, with 4-2-2 record in the first 14 starts this meet. Pacific Pink (9) has a 2-3-2 record in 7 starts on an “off track.” If it is moved to the main track. Look out, at some nice odds, too. I bet the 5-9 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 5-9 over/under the 4-7-1-8 in two softer versions.

11th: 2/3/1-5-4/6-9-7-8…Sprint Stakes…My next Key Play of the Day comes right here with Givemeaminit (2). Love the 4-1 odds this one was posted at in the ML, too. Ran huge last time out at Churchill Downs against a solid group, and won easily here in the only career win to date — and it was the only time he has faced only LA-breds. Has faced very tough company in a very nice career and could have piled up more wins if kept in the state. Son of Star Guitar could roll this group today, and I will be supporting. Likes an off track, too. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the 2-3 in one solid exacta. I will key the 2 over/under the 1-5-4 in two smaller versions, and key the 2 over (only) the 6-9-7-8 in a lesser set.

12th: 2/1-3/8/6-4-5-7…Ladies Sprint…My next Key Play of the Day will come here with another off-spring from the standout LA sire Star Guitar — in Minit to Stardom (2). After winning each of the first three races to start the career, the connections pushed this one up to Saratoga to take on G1 company in the Test Stakes. She was no match for those — especially after she stumbled leaving the gate. But she has world class ability and speed, and I think she will dominate this group, too. Has a win in only try over an “off track.” I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under the 1-3-8. I will key the 2 over (only) the 6-4-5-7 in a very small amount.

13th: 7-5/4/6-3-2-8/1-9…Today’s finale is a MSW event for LA-breds only, and I will go with two horses in here: Unrestricted (7) and Shang (5). Both of these figure to be the favorites, so you may want to take only one and fire. The former was bet down to odds-on favoritism on debut here and came with a furious rally late to just lose at the wire for a top barn. Barn hits with .35% of those returning to the races as a beaten favorite. Would have won that first out if he could have found his stride earlier in the proceedings. The latter is from the barn of Steve Asmussen and lost by a skinny neck on debut here on Nov. 17. He, too, was off a bit slow in the first out. Now, he gets the barn’s “go-to” rider and looks to be the one to beat. I will play them both across the board and then box them solidly in one exacta. I will key the 7-4 over/under the 4 in two more smaller ones. 

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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