Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Aug. 19

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 19th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Aug. 19 at Ellis Park, Saratoga, and Del Mar, along with horses to single in lucrative carryovers at Saratoga and Emerald Downs.

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 Randwick (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.

Picks and Plays

Ellis Park: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 4:28 p.m. ET)

Trainer Kenny McPeek wins at only an 8% rate with first-time starters, but his success rate jumps to 14% with horses debuting over one mile or farther. This stat bodes well for McPeek’s unraced two-year-old #1 Destine to Race (5-2), who is slated to debut over precisely one mile.

A daughter of juvenile graded stakes winner Cairo Prince (who sires 13% winners from first-time starters), Destine to Race has put together a flashy work tab at Keeneland, culminating with a bullet half-mile in :46 2/5. Hot jockey Brian Hernandez (a 21% winner at Ellis this meet) is named to ride, so we’ll bet Destine to Race to win and key her over #6 Fashion Idol (9-5) in a straight $10 exacta capitalizing on the Exacta Insurance promotion.

  • $20 to win on #1 Destine to Race
  • $10 Exacta: 1 with 6
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 10: Skidmore S. (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 6:13 p.m. ET)

#4 No Nay Hudson (4-1) defeated future stakes winner The Big Wam by four lengths in his debut dashing 4 1/2 furlongs over the Keeneland dirt. No Nay Hudson subsequently faltered to fourth place in the 5 1/2-furlong Tremont S. at Belmont Park, but perhaps switching to turf can trigger a rebound.

After all, No Nay Hudson is a son of Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up and Prix Morny (G1) winner No Nay Never out of Raw Silk, who won the Sands Point S. (G2) on turf. No Nay Hudson is bred to thrive on grass, and trainer Wesley Ward has been hot at Saratoga (winning at a 26% rate), so we’ll count on No Nay Hudson to spring a mild upset.

Taking advantage of the Saratoga Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on No Nay Hudson. Then we’ll key him over #3 Oxymore (9-5) and #8 Appraise (3-1) in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #4 No Nay Hudson
  • $5 Exacta: 4 with 3,8 ($10)
    Total: $30

Del Mar: Race 7: CTT and TOC S. (1 3/8 miles on turf, 9:00 p.m. ET)

#3 Neige Blanche (4-5) is a standout among California’s long-distance grass mares. She won this race last year and has since picked up four more stakes triumphs, including a trio of Grade 3 events over distances from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles.

Neige Blanche led gate-to-wire in the 1 1/4-mile Possibly Perfect S. at Santa Anita two months ago and should be tough to catch while returning to Del Mar under hot jockey Juan Hernandez. #9 Duvet Day (6-1), victorious in two straight races since stretching out over 1 3/8 miles, can complete the exacta at a nice price.

  • $20 Exacta: 3 with 9

Carryover Watch

Saratoga, Race 5: $167,611 Pick 6 carryover (3:21 p.m. ET)

An afternoon of upsets on Thursday at Saratoga has triggered a $167,611 non-jackpot Pick 6 carryover for Friday’s card.

The best chance to find a reliable single may come in Race 6. Not because there’s an obvious favorite, but because two horses appear to rank a cut above the rest and picking between them might be easier than first appears.

The race in question is a maiden special weight for New York-bred juveniles racing 1 1/16 miles on turf, and the two key contenders are #9 Provision (5-2) and #2 Secretary of War (3-1). They ran second and third in an identical race over this course, distance, and class level on Aug. 4, with Provision finishing 1 1/4 lengths clear of Secretary of War.

But there are reasons to believe Secretary of War can turn the tables on Friday. The pace of the Aug. 4 maiden heat was quite slow, so Secretary of War—who settled farther off the early lead than Provision—was arguably disadvantaged. Throw in the fact trainer Jonathan Thomas wins at a remarkable 32% rate with second-time starters, and Secretary of War is eligible to step forward in his second run under colors.

Provision is certainly a viable win contender, but singling Secretary of War at 3-1 sounds like an appealing way to start constructing a Pick 6 ticket.

Emerald Downs, Race 3: $28,927 Pick 5 carryover (11:01 p.m. ET)

If you’re looking for a non-jackpot carryover to pursue late on Friday evening, check out the action at Emerald Downs, where the 50-cent Pick 5 has tossed up a $28,927 carryover.

The sequence kicks off in Race 3, but Race 4—a 5 1/2-furlong, $8,000 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won three races—looks like the best chance to seek a single in the form of #6 Yes Your Graze (7-5).

Yes Your Graze has been effective in two starts sprinting at Emerald Downs this year. After finishing second in a 5 1/2-furlong, $15,000 claimer for non-winners of two races, Yes Your Graze came back and essentially wired a six-furlong dash over the same class level.

Yes Your Graze brings competitive Brisnet Speed ratings to the table for the hot jockey/trainer duo of Alex Cruz and Tim McCanna, 26% winners at Emerald Downs who have gone 4-for-6 (67%) teaming up together over the last two months. Friday’s class level should fit Yes Your Graze perfectly, stamping the four-year-old filly as a viable single.

Good luck!