Johnson's North American free racing picks for Sept. 28
Handicapper Keeler Johnson kicks off Preakness (G1) week with free picks for Delaware Park, Prairie Meadows, and Presque Isle Downs.
#4 Allende (8-5) ran impressively in her debut over this track and 6-furlong distance on June 20, carving out blazing fractions of :21.78 and :44.87 before weakening only slightly to finish second. This performance yielded strong Brisnet E1 and E2 Pace ratings of 103 and 105, plus an 81 Brisnet Speed rating higher than par for this class level and distance. Conditioned by high-percentage trainer Michael Stidham (7-for-31 during the current Delaware meet), this Godolphin homebred looks tough to beat in her second career start.
#7 Blushing Scarlett (10-1) won maiden special weight and allowance races over this track last summer, and while the 5-year-old daughter of Midshipman is 0-for-3 in 2020, she’s been competing against tough company and should appreciate dropping in class for this $7,500 claimer. She fits well in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings and has some tactical speed, suggesting she can work out a clean trip from her outside draw.
Presque Isle Downs
The 6 1/2-furlong Peach Street H. looks ripe for conquest by #7 Fast Fire (5-2). The 7-year-old veteran boasts a 11-7-3-1 record over the Presque Isle Tapeta track, including three victories since being transferred to the care of Gerald Brooks during the summer. A powerful stretch runner, Fast Fire has posted competitive Brisnet Speed ratings of 91, 88, and 86 and retains the services of hot jockey Willie Martinez, a 20% winner at Presque Isle. If the pace is quick, Fast Fire can come rolling late to prevail.
Formerly a turf sprinter/miler on the Kentucky circuit, #7 Life Mission (2-1) has improved since switching to Tapeta under the care of trainer Leland Hayes, a 27% winner at Presque Isle Downs. After romping to a maiden win dashing 6 furlongs on Sept. 7, the 4-year-old son of Noble Mission stepped up in class for an allowance race and finished fourth after dueling for the lead through fast fractions of :22.02 and :44.42. Presque Isle’s leading jockey Pablo Morales retains the mount, and it’s worth noting Hayes and Morales have gone 3-for-6 (50%) together over the last 60 days. Even better, Hayes strikes at a 38% rate with runners defeated as the favorite in their previous start, so a rebound should be in the offing for Life Mission.