PICKS: McLean’s Picks for Sunday at Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

Race 1: 5-3-6-2

Westfest (5) caught a muddy track at Keeneland in the last, but nearly got there in the first drop into the claiming ranks. Gets the same spot here and Steve Asmussen’s horses are running well here. This horse could still turn out to be OK, and may get on that winning roll starting today. Speightful Song (3), trained by Ian Wilkes, takes the drop today and gets the “dot” (must use) here. I’m boxing the top two and then wheeling the 5-3 over the Sir Douglas (6) and Funny Questions (2), for some cover.

 

Race 2: 4-1-3-6-2

Stand and Cheer (4) is the top selection. If you throw out the races on synthetics, and turf, the form indicates that this horse prefers conventional dirt by a lot. The run in the Illinois Derby was pretty good, and Multiplier has come out of that race with a bit of a following. I’m keying the 4 with Junket (1), who has been knocking on this condition’s door for the past couple. If the 4 stays 2-1, then I’m playing a win/place bet, too. If it sinks to even money, then I’ll use Junket more – especially with the addition of blinkers today (that is a good angle for this barn). To cover, I will use the 6, Wicked Zar, over and under the top 2 for some possible odds.

 

Race 3: 4-1-6

Inside Joke, who runs for red-hot trainer Brad Cox, gets the top spot here. If this daughter of Distorted Humor is not claimed today, I would be shocked, since she is dropping all the way from MSW to MC20 for owner-breeder Fred Hertrich. Cox has a winning percentage of .22 with these kind of drops. Sales Call (1), trained by Neil Pessin, had a good run before getting swamped by Doll Face at Keeneland. That performance may be good enough today. Will Wants Candy (6) didn’t finish her last race, but comes right back in a very light field. I box the top 3 and then play 4 over the 1 & 6.

 

Race 4: 2-5-4-6

Hollywood Handsome (2) has faced some tough ones this year, and actually beat Multiplier on Jan. 21 at The Fairgrounds. My best bet of the day. I will key the 2 over/under Grandpa’s Dream (5), War Daddy (4) and Awesome Thought (6). Low odds on the 2 may prevent much in the name of a straight wager, but I will play to win if even money or more. This is my key in all pick 3s today.

 

Race 5: 9-10-1-3-8-4

Looks to be a very competitive and wide open race, but I put my “dot” here on Asticou Trail (9). This filly, by Hard Spun, was left in Kentucky by trainer Shug McGaughey, who long since moved the majority of his operation to homebase in NY. With the addition of Lasix, three back, this filly has jumped forward and looks to be the horse to beat here. To add value, I will key her over/under five other horses listed above. Bluegrass Sunset (10) will get played a lot, but has not been out since last July and may need this one. If so, that opens the door for some value to spice up the exactas – so that’s the reason for the spread on the numbers above. A filly that may fit that category is Pauline Revere, a Distorted Humor home-bred who is in the third race of a cycle. She had no shot against Salty, who ran in the KY Oaks. My find the grass to her liking.

 

Race 6: 8-2-6-1-9

Another race that I spread out after the top pick, which is American Sparrow (8). Another Wilkes’ horse that gets the third race cycle angle, but faces much, much easier today – getting away from Timeline, GiuseppetheGreat and others. Timeline may just develop into one of the best in the country (did you watch the Peter Pan at Belmont yesterday?). So I key the 8 (8-1 ML, too) over and under four others – 2-6-1-9. I put Daddy’s Placer on my “Horses to Watch” list after a troubled second here last October. But to write that he has been a bit inconsistent is not enough. He did run a huge one against Senior Investment in December and has since gotten the ultimate equipment change and will run as a gelding for the first time today. If that makes him more focused, then he has the talent.

 

Race 7: 5-1-2-9-8-7

I will box the top three selections here, led by High Noon Rider (5). This one made a huge move in his last at Keeneland and then hung, indicating that he may have needed that one. He may move forward off that race. If so, he will be tough. I will box with Dujac (1) and Seeking Alpha (2). Both are getting class relief today. Seeking Alpha is 20-1 ML, and I may drop a few dollars across the board for this speedster – who is firing for his third trainer. To cover, I am playing a small exacta wheel of 5-1-2 over the 9-8-7. For $2, that will cost me $18.

 

Race 8: 4-7-9-10-2-8

This is an “All Button” race if I play the pick 3s. Wide, wide open MSW with some good horses all around, which will make for a great betting strategy. If I throw a dart at the board here, I will start with Strong Yen (4). Lost a tough one to repeat winner Hot Item and a talented 3YO Teletap, who was scratched yesterday after drawing in wide. Strong Yen has faced some good ones and held his own. If he stays 5-1 odds, I will take a shot here. Main Road (7) has speed and may hold on today; Stone Mountain (9) is another one that needs to figure out how to finish what he starts; Class Won (10) picks up leading rider Corey Lanerie. All have a shot, but I may wheel Strong Yen over and under them all here.

 

Race 9: 6-3-1-4

Scatter Gun (6) gets my “top number” in this race, and Mo Knows (3) could be the best closer in a small field full of horses that appear to prefer the front. My selection and the “dot” horse here is Sky My Sky (1) for the team of Casse-Oxley (Classic Empire team). Bernardini (the sire) doesn’t have great numbers (so far) with grass runners, but they paid $450,000 for this one in 2015 and she may now just be hitting her stride. Third race in this cycle. I will box the top three, but then wheel the 1 over/under and key in my pick 3s. I will also bet her to win/place – if the odds stay north of 7/5.

 

Race 10: 7-6-11-10

Dream Seeker (7) picks up Lanerie today and he is light’s out with this barn. Lanerie and trainer Randy Morse have had 10 mounts this meet and have a win percentage of .40 and a ROI of $3.54. Enough written. I use the 7 over and under the others here and play to win/place.

Telekinesis was purchased for $470,000 at the Keeneland November Sale in 2015 and is out of Intentional Cry, whose mother is six-time graded stakes winner Gold Mover. He has been stabled at Casse’s barn on the Fair Grounds backstretch under the supervision of David Carroll all winter long and has turned in some noticeable works in doing so. Such moves include a bullet work on Jan. 6 where he drilled a half-mile in 47 flat.

“He’s a horse we like a lot,” Carroll said. “He’s a beautiful looking colt that’s real well-bred and owned by great people. He’s a two-turn horse and that will be his end game. We’re looking forward to getting him started and just running well and moving forward from there.”

Telekinesis will be piloted by Florent Geroux.

David Carroll, who will saddle the highly regarded 3YO colt Telekinesis for the barn of Mark Casse at the Fair Grounds this Thursday. This son of Ghostzapper may soon join the ranks of those on the Road to the Kentucky Derby
  • 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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