Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 22

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 22nd, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Thursday, April 22 at Belmont Park, Lone Star Park, and Keeneland, including tickets for a $13,538 Super High Five carryover.

Picks and plays

Belmont Park, Race 2: Allowance (1 1/16 miles on turf, 1:31 p.m. ET)

Could #4 Principled Stand (4-5) be a turf star in the making for trainer Chad Brown?

The four-year-old son of elite miler Kingman certainly looked like a force to reckon with when he dominated his Jan. 8 debut at Tampa Bay Downs. In a one-mile race over the turf course, Principled Stand set the pace and widened powerfully down the lane. He sprinted the final two furlongs in :11.85 and :11.54 to dominate by 7 1/4 lengths.

Three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz (a 33% winner when he teams up with Brown) is named to ride, which suggests expectations are high for Principled Stand. If he repeats his debut effort, his rivals are likely running for second place.

Taking advantage of the Midweek Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Principled Stand and get our money back if he finishes second. Then we’ll play him in a cold exacta, over #7 Red Storm Risen (9-5).

$10 to win on #4 Principled Stand
$10 exacta: 4 with 7
Total: $20

Belmont Park, Race 5: Allowance/optional claiming (six furlongs on turf, 3:07 p.m. ET)

#3 Maxwell Esquire (4-5) is the morning-line favorite, and understandably so.

Trained by Christophe Clement, who does strong work with turf sprinters, Maxwell Esquire won a pair of allowance races over the Belmont grass last fall and wasn’t disgraced when he finished fifth in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship. His Brisnet Speed ratings are strong, and Ortiz is named to ride.

But 4-5 seems like a short price to accept on a horse who hasn’t run since November. If you’re going to bet a runner off a layoff, why not consider 2020 Lucky Coin S. winner #7 Battle Station (2-1) at a slightly better price? He finished just 1 1/2 lengths behind Maxwell Esquire in the Aqueduct Turf Championship, which came at the conclusion of a 13-race campaign.

Battle Station has since been freshened by trainer Rob Atras, which sets the stage for an improved performance. The son of Warrior’s Reward boasts significantly more tactical speed than Maxwell Esquire, which could be an advantage, since 54% of six-furlong turf sprints at Belmont last meet were won in gate-to-wire fashion.

Following along with the Midweek Bet Back promotion, let’s bet $10 to win on Battle Station, then play him over Maxwell Esquire in a small exacta.

$10 to win on #7 Battle Station
$5 exacta: 7 with 3
Total: $15

Lone Star Park, Race 1: Bluebonnet S. (6 1/2 furlongs, 7:35 p.m. ET)

#3 Ima Discreet Lady (8-5) is bound to be favored, after she used her early speed to win back-to-back stakes for Texas-breds and earned sharp Brisnet Speed ratings along the way. But Ima Discreet Lady was just barely best in the six-furlong Yellow Rose S. on March 20, when she hung on to beat #1 Shes Our Fastest (2-1) by a neck, when both carried 123 pounds.

The outcome may be different in the Bluebonnet. There is plenty of speed in the mix, so Ima Discreet Lady risks getting caught up in a speed duel. Plus, Shes Our Fastest will carry just 117 pounds this time, six fewer than Ima Discreet Lady.

Throw in the fact the rail post won 34% of 6 1/2-furlong sprints at Lone Star last meet, and Shes Our Fastest looms as a logical alternative to the favorite.

There are a couple TwinSpires offers worth pursuing at Lone Star on Thursday. The first is the Lone Star Park Opening Week Bet Back. Opt in to get your money back on win bets (up to $10 per race) if your horse finishes second.

The second promotion is the Lone Star Million Bet Club. Each time you wager $100 (excluding show bets) on a single day at Lone Star, between April 22 and May 23, you’ll earn $5 to wager on Lone Star Million Day, May 31. Wager $100 every day and you’ll receive an additional $100 bonus; wager $10,000 between April 22 and May 23, and you’ll pick up another $500.

If you’re not a big bettor, we suggest placing a $10 win bet on Shes Our Fastest and calling it a day. But if you want to pursue the Lone Star Million Bet Club offer, we suggest boxing Shes Our Fastest and Ima Discreet Lady in a $50 exacta.

$10 to win on #1 Shes Our Fastest
$50 exacta box: 1,3 ($100)
Total: $110

Carryover watch

Keeneland, Race 1: $13,583 Super High Five jackpot

The final week of racing at the Keeneland spring meet continues with a $13,583 jackpot carryover in the Super High Five pool. The 50-cent wager is available in every race with seven betting interests or more, but the jackpot portion only pays out if a unique winning ticket is sold.

The first opportunity to chase the jackpot Thursday comes in Race 1, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for juveniles. Trainer Wesley Ward has a 4-3-2 record from 10 starts with two-year-olds this meet, so we can’t recommend opposing the well-bred #1 Ruthin (2-1), a $475,000 yearling acquisition who will have jockey Joel Rosario up for her debut. The daughter of four-time Group 1 winner Ribchester has put together a solid work tab and may be impossible to catch.

The second Ward trainee, #7 Pammy’s Ready (3-1), has likewise shown speed in the mornings and has the pedigree to be a speedy, early maturing sort. For Super High Five purposes, we’ll back them to run first and second, with Ruthin on top.

Underneath, we’ll emphasize #2 A Lot to like (3-1), a daughter of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Hit It a Bomb, out of Cedar Summer, who previously produced the stakes-winning juvenile sprinter Populist Politics. After that, we’ll spread deep and hit the “ALL” button for one slot.

50-cent Super High Five: 1 with 7 with 2 with 4,5,6,11 with 3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11 ($14)
50-cent Super High Five: 1 with 7 with 4,5,6,11 with 2 with 3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11 ($14)
50-cent Super High Five: 1 with 7 with 2 with 3,8,9,10 with 4,5,6,11 ($8)
Total: $36

Race 2 drew only five entries, so the second opportunity to chase the Super High Five jackpot comes in Race 3, a 4 1/2-furlong maiden sprint for juvenile fillies.

Ward holds a strong hand, with the well-bred duo of #1 Guajira (5-2) and #7 Golden Bell (5-2), but I prefer the chances of #6 Cartel Queen (2-1), a Tom Amoss trainee bred top and bottom to be a speedy and early maturing sort. Cartel Queen has cranked out a couple bullet half-mile workouts from the Keeneland starting gate and will be tough to catch if she runs to her training.

50-cent Super High Five: 6 with 1,7 with 1,7 with 2,3,4,5 with 2,3,4,5 ($12)
50-cent Super High Five: 6 with 1,7 with 2,3,4,5 with 1,7 with 2,3,4,5 ($12)
Total: $24

Good luck!