Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Aug. 12

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 11th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $75 worth of picks and plays for Friday, Aug. 12 at Saratoga and Del Mar, along with a ticket for the $56,630 Pick 5 carryover at Ellis Park.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Saratoga Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Saratoga.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in eligible races at Rosehill (Australia).
  • Exacta Insurance: Receive refunds on exacta bets (up to $10) if your two selected horses finish in the first three home (but not in the winning order) in select races at Ellis Park. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.
  • Dan Patch Night $5,000 Late Pick 4 Hit It & Split It at Hoosier Park: Hit the Late Pick 4 at Hoosier Park on Friday to win your share of a $5,000 bonus jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Saratoga: Race 3: John Morrissey H. (six furlongs, 2:15 p.m. ET)

#1 Saint Selby is a head away from being undefeated in five starts on dirt. He’s been especially hot in his last two starts at Belmont Park, wiring a six-furlong allowance optional claimer for New York-breds before winning a non-state-restricted allowance by 8 1/2 lengths.

The latter victory produced a career-best 101 Brisnet Speed rating, stamping Saint Selby as a candidate to upset logical favorite #6 Ny Traffic, who exits a fourth-place effort against champion Jackie’s Warrior in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) at Saratoga.

  • $20 Exacta: 1 with 6

Saratoga: Race 6: Union Avenue H. (six furlongs, 3:55 p.m. ET)

#4 Bank On Anna endured a troubled trip when finishing fifth in a six-furlong allowance at Saratoga last month, her first start off a two-month layoff. Now she’s squaring off against fellow New York-breds, the type of competition against which all three of her victories have been achieved.

Bank On Anna is versatile in terms of running style and brings respectable Brisnet Speed ratings to the table for hot trainer Philip Serpe, a 30% winner at Saratoga this meet. She looks ready to beat #3 Mashnee Girl and #7 Chasing Cara to the finish line.

  • $20 win: #4 Bank On Anna
  • $5 Exacta: 4 with 3, 7 ($10)
    Total: $30

Del Mar: Race 6: Graduation S. (5 1/2 furlongs, 9:30 p.m. ET)

#2 The Big Wam has put together a solid resume for hot trainer Luis Mendez, a 29% winner to start the Del Mar meet. Runner-up in his debut against unrestricted maiden special weight competition at Keeneland, The Big Wam subsequently finished second in the Kentucky Juvenile S. at Churchill Downs before returning from a 2 1/2-month break to win a maiden special weight for California-breds at Del Mar.

The Big Wam’s maiden victory produced an 89 Brisnet Speed rating, easily the highest figure in Friday’s field. He is sticking to the California-bred ranks and retains the services of hot jockey Juan Hernandez (a 26% winner at Del Mar this meet), so we’ll key him over impressive Los Alamitos maiden winner #9 Straighten Up in a cold exacta.

  • $25 Exacta: 2 with 9

Carryover Watch

Ellis Park, Race 4: $56,630 Pick 5 carryover (3:14 p.m. ET)

Ready for an enticing handicapping challenge? The Friday card at Ellis Park boasts a $56,630 non-jackpot carryover in the 50-cent Pick 5.

Let’s review the sequence in race-by-race fashion, then assemble a ticket for less than $50:

Race 4: $30,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs)

#4 Awesome Charge (6-5) is the heavy favorite while dropping in class out of a pair of $50,000 maiden claimers, but he hasn’t run since March 2021. He’s trained nicely for his return and should fire a competitive shot for trainer Robertino Diodoro (a 22% winner with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more), but we’ll toss in the class-dropping #6 Oro de Moro Moro (6-1) for good measure.

Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (one mile on turf)

Trainer Brad Cox has gone 5-for-14 (36%) debuting two-year-olds on turf at Ellis since 2020, so we have to respect Godolphin homebred #2 Thunderian (9-2) in this maiden heat for juveniles. We’ll also use #7 Cajun Blast (2-1), beaten a head in a one-mile dirt race at Ellis last month, and #3 Sherlock’s Jewel (20-1), a first-time starter conditioned by hot trainer Shug McGaughey.

Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs)

#4 Meraj (9-5) is a logical favorite after finishing second in his debut sprinting five furlongs at Ellis, beaten only half a length after carving out the pace. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen wins at a 21% rate with second-time starters, so Meraj is eligible to move forward. For backup, we’ll include the Brad Cox-trained Godolphin homebred #8 Last Cookie (7-2), a half-brother to brilliant Metropolitan H. (G1) winner Frosted.

Race 7: Allowance (5 1/2 furlongs on turf)

This allowance sprint is arguably the toughest leg of the Pick 5 sequence. #8 Hunter John (3-1) wired a maiden special weight over this course and class level last month and is eligible to win right back for hot trainer John Ortiz, but we’ll include #1 Twirling Roses (4-1), #2 Switzer (9-2), and #4 Of the Moment (10-1) as well.

Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles on turf)

#2 Blue Devil (5-2) finished third in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight over the Churchill Downs turf course last month, an effort flattered when the runner-up returned to win his next start. The only other horse we’ll include is #3 Predominate (6-1), a half-brother to turf stakes winners Are You Kidding Me and Core Values. Predominate is eligible to move forward while trying grass for the first time, and trainer Wayne Catalano wins at a 22% rate with horses switching from dirt to turf.

  • 50-cent Pick 5: 4, 6 with 2, 3, 7 with 4, 8 with 1, 2, 4, 8 with 2, 3 ($48)

Good luck!