Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Aug. 5

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August 5th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $75 worth of picks and plays for Friday, Aug. 5 at Saratoga and Del Mar, along with a horse to single in the $13,816 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 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

Saratoga: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 3:55 p.m. ET)

#8 Stellar Lady (3-1) ran well in her July 20 debut at Saratoga, rallying to finish second in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on dirt. This is noteworthy since trainer Kenny McPeek isn’t known for cranking his juveniles to excel on debut.

Stellar Lady will switch to turf for her second start, and while the transition is a question mark, it’s worth noting McPeek has gone 3-for-10 (30%) saddling experienced juveniles on grass at Saratoga since 2018. If Stellar Lady moves forward in her second career start, she can vie for victory.

Taking advantage of the Saratoga Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Stellar Lady. Then we’ll bet her over #2 Love Tank (7-2) in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #8 Stellar Lady
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 2
    Total: $15

Del Mar: Race 6: Real Good Deal S. (seven furlongs, 9:29 p.m. ET)

#9 Big City Lights (5-2) went 2-for-2 as a juvenile last year. In his debut sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs against California-breds at Santa Anita, Big City Lights led all the way to dominate by 12 1/2 lengths over a field including future stakes winner Rock N Rye. Then in the five-furlong Fasig-Tipton Futurity, Big City Lights again led all the way to prevail by an easy 7 1/4 lengths.

These blowout victories produced flashy Brisnet Speed ratings of 105 and 100. Big City Lights hasn’t run in some 13 1/2 months, but trainer Richard Mandella strikes at a 20% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more, and Big City Lights has compiled an impressive work tab in preparation for his return. Even off the extended break, I’m optimistic Big City Lights can beat #1 Finneus (8-1) and #3 Straight Up G (4-1) to the Del Mar winner’s circle.

  • $20 to win on #9 Big City Lights
  • $5 Exacta: 9 with 1,3 ($10)
    Total: $30

Del Mar: Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (6 1/2 furlongs, 10:27 p.m. ET)

Encode failed to seriously factor in his debut at Del Mar last summer, finishing fourth. But the stoutly bred son of Empire Maker was only beaten six lengths by stablemate and future graded stakes winner Rockefeller.

Encode has been cranking out fast workouts in preparation for his three-year-old debut, including a pair of recent five-furlong moves from the Del Mar starting gate in :58 3/5. Hot jockey Umberto Rispoli is named to ride, and Encode is slated to race on Lasix for the first time, a winning move 38% of the time for hot trainer Bob Baffert.

We’ll bet Encode to win and box him in the exacta with his unraced stablemate #3 American Refugee (4-1), a half-sibling to Grade 1 winners Hoppertunity and Executiveprivilege.

  • $16 to win on #2 Encode
  • $7 Exacta box: 2,3 ($14)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Ellis Park, Race 4: $13,816 Pick 5 carryover (3:14 p.m. ET)

Racing returns to Ellis Park on Friday with a $13,816 Pick 5 carryover on the table. One warning though—constructing a winning ticket won’t be easy.

The sequence for the 50-cent wager is packed with large fields. The five races have drawn a total of 57 horses (averaging 11.4 per field) before scratches, and while a few of those are also-eligible and coupled entries, it’s clear the races will be highly competitive.

Wouldn’t it be nice to find a single to build tickets around? You bet it would. And wouldn’t it be nice if our single was a non-favored runner with a chance to boost the payoff?

It might seem like too much to ask for, but such a possibility may exist in Race 4, the opening leg of the Pick 5. The race in question is a five-furlong maiden special weight for two-year-old fillies, and trainer stats suggest #5 Windy Bay (9-2) has a serious win chance.

Windy Bay is conditioned by ultra-hot trainer John Ortiz, who has gone 8-for-23 (35%) at Ellis Park this summer. But more importantly, Ortiz has been on fire debuting juveniles on dirt this year. After pouring through results and statistics, it appears Ortiz has gone 4-for-4 with such runners in 2022, and two of those victories came at Ellis Park.

Windy Bay has turned in some encouraging workouts at Ellis Park, including a swift half-mile from the starting gate in :48. Hot jockey Reylu Gutierrez (a 23% winner at Ellis this meet) is named to ride, and it’s worth noting Gutierrez and Ortiz have won at a 35% rate teaming up over the last two months.

But wait, there’s one more angle in Windy Bay’s favor. Her dam is Co, a Candy Ride mare who has already foaled a pair of juvenile winners from three starters. Windy Bay’s pedigree hints she’ll be ready to win from an early age, so although there are other promising first-time starters in Friday’s field—such as the Godolphin homebred #4 Twice as Sweet (7-2) and the Steve Asmussen trainee #8 Fee (4-1)—I’m willing to bet Windy Bay can outrun her odds and come home on top as a nice-priced single.

Good luck!