Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 26

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April 26th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Monday, April 26 at Indiana Grand and Thistledown, including thoughts on a $30,248 Pick 6 jackpot carryover.

Don’t forget to opt in to the TwinSpires “Build Your Indiana Derby Day Bankroll” promotion! Wager at least $1,000 (excluding show wagers) at Indiana Grand in April, May, and/or June and receive $30 to wager at Indiana Grand on Indiana Derby day, July 7. Wager $1,000 at Indiana Grand in all three months and receive $150.

Picks and plays

Indiana Grand, Race 1: $16,000 maiden claiming (one mile, 2:25 p.m. ET)

#6 Contact Tracing (1-1) will be tough to beat in his Indiana Grand debut. The three-year-old gelding hasn’t missed the trifecta since he stretched out around two turns and ran well in three straight races against $15,000 and $30,000 maiden claiming company at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park.

Contact Tracing was claimed two starts back by trainer Tom Amoss, a 28% winner at Indiana Grand over the last five years. Amoss wins at a 33% rate with horses running back for the second time following a claim, and Contact Tracing is a standout from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective. All signs suggest a winning effort is in the offing.

#1 Alpine Ghost (7-5), a second-time starter from the barn of high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, can round out the exacta on the stretch out in distance and switch from synthetic to dirt.

$30 exacta: 6 with 1

Thistledown, Race 3: $7,500 maiden claiming (six furlongs, 1:50 p.m. ET)

#3 Lemon Slush (5-2) failed to crack the trifecta in her first six starts against maiden special weight company, but she took a nice step forward with a drop into a $15,000 maiden claiming race at Mahoning Valley last month.

After she rated in sixth place, Lemon Slush rallied nicely to finish second for a career-best 54 Brisnet Speed rating.

Lemon Slush figures to be formidable on the drop to the $7,500 maiden claiming level. None of her rivals have earned a Brisnet Speed rating better than 49 this season, and Lemon Slush has hot connections in her corner. Trainer Richard Zielinski wins at a 29% rate in maiden claiming races, and jockey Edgar Paucar has struck at a 21% when he teams up with Zielinski over the last two months.

Let’s bet Lemon Slush to win, then play her on top of trifecta tickets, with #6 Carolina’s Thing (3-1) underneath.

$20 to win on #3 Lemon Slush
$2.50 trifecta: 3 with 6 with 2,4 ($5)
$2.50 trifecta: 3 with 2,4 with 6 ($5)
Total: $30

Thistledown, Race 5: $7,500 claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 2:50 p.m. ET)

The only true frontrunner in this claiming sprint for fillies and mares is #7 Congrats Jensen (5-2), a gate-to-wire winner against $6,500 claiming company at Mahoning Valley last month.

Congrats Jensen has carved out the pace in four of her last six starts, which could give the three-year-old daughter of Congrats a significant tactical advantage Monday.

Trainer Oscar Barrera and jockey Yarmarie Correa have won all three of their starts together over the last two months, and I think we have a recipe for victory.

We’ll bet Congrats Jensen to win and play her on top of straight exacta and trifecta tickets, with #6 High Cupper (3-1) and #5 Ma Kettle (7-2) for second and third place.

$25 to win on #7 Congrats Jensen
$10 exacta: 7 with 6
$5 trifecta: 7 with 6 with 5
Total: $40

Carryover watch

Indiana Grand, Race 2: $30,248 Pick 6 Jackpot

The only carryover up for grabs at a North American Thoroughbred racetrack Monday is the $30,248 Pick 6 jackpot at Indiana Grand, also known as the “Straight Fire 6.” Construct a unique winning ticket and the whole jackpot is yours, though payoffs can be solid, even on days when multiple winning tickets are sold. Wednesday’s sequence returned $1,813.36, even though all six winners started at single-digit odds.

Monday’s Straight Fire 6 kicks off in Race 2, a one-mile allowance race for three-year-olds. With just six entries, it’s seems like the race should be easy to handicap.

It isn’t.

#6 Pats Property (2-1) is the favorite for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, but the chestnut colt was all-out to win his debut in a 6 1/2-furlong, $30,000 maiden claiming race over the synthetic track at Turfway Park.

Now he will switch to dirt, stretch out in distance, and step up in class — that’s a formidable trio of obstacles.

#1 Ghostlighter (3-1), #3 Commandeer (5-2), and #5 Good First (6-1) all appear capable to give Pats Property a run for the money.

If you want to beat favorites and construct a unique winning ticket, Race 2 seems like a logical place to start, but do we really want to use half the field?

At least Race 3 (a 5 1/2-furlong allowance/optional claiming event for fillies and mares) presents a possible single to help cut costs.

#4 Auberge (4-5) finished second in the 2020 Santa Ynez (G2) at Santa Anita, and she recently returned from a 13 1/2-month layoff to finish fourth in a six-furlong allowance at Oaklawn Park. Auberge was only beaten 5 3/4 lengths, after she carved out a quick pace, and she is eligible to step forward without blinkers and on an easier circuit. Trainer Michael Stidham wins at a 22% rate when he removes blinkers.

The Straight Fire 6 concludes in Race 7, a one-mile maiden special weight for Indiana-breds.

#1 Henry Rules (8-5) is the morning-line favorite, after he finished second in a five-furlong maiden race at Indiana Grand on April 12, his first start of 2021. But Henry Rules finished behind #3 Royal Icing (7-2) in a pair of starts running long at Indiana Grand last fall, so victory is far from guaranteed.

Royal Icing might be the preferable choice, and a case can also be made for #9 Cielo Blu (4-1), who posted a competitive 66 Brisnet Speed rating when he finished third in his debut dashing five furlongs at Indiana Grand.

My advice? See if you can beat Henry Rules to end the sequence and boost the payoff.

Good luck!