Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 29

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 29th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, April 29 at Belmont Park and Keeneland, along with suggested singles for Belmont’s $26,601 Pick 6 carryover.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 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) at Belmont Park. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.
  • Scandinavian Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Solvalla (SWE), Charlottenlund (SWE), Romme (SWE), or Bergsaker (SWE).
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Hawkesbury (Australia) or Goodwood (UK).
  • $15,000 Place Jackpot at Keeneland: Place at least six winning $10+ place bets at Keeneland to win your share of a daily $1,000 jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Keeneland: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 1:01 p.m. ET)

#12 Rivka (5-2), a daughter of juvenile Group 1 winner No Nay Never, is bred to win from an early age and thrive on grass. No Nay Never sires a solid 12% winners from first-time starters, while dam Rubina has previously foaled two-time turf stakes winner Rubilinda.

Trainer Wesley Ward wins at a 29% rate with first-time starters, and Rivka has been training sharply in preparation for her debut, even clocking a bullet three furlongs in :35 1/5 at Turfway Park. With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the saddle, Rivka looms as the filly to beat.

Her stablemate #1 Love Reigns (7-2) can complete the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #12 Rivka.
  • $10 Exacta: 12 with 1
    Total: $30

Belmont Park: Race 3: Affirmed Success S. (six furlongs, 2:23 p.m. ET)

The first stakes of the spring meet at Belmont Park appears ripe for conquest by morning line favorite #1 Ny Traffic (1-1), who exits a fifth-place finish in a quality renewal of the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2).

Ny Traffic is 2-for-2 sprinting at Belmont Park, dominating a seven-furlong allowance optional claimer by 6 3/4 lengths before smashing the 6 1/2-furlong Hudson H. by 8 3/4 lengths. Both of these flashy victories produced strong 101 Brisnet Speed ratings.

After facing open company in the Gulfstream Park Mile, Ny Traffic figures to be formidable while squaring off against fellow New York-breds at Belmont Park. Taking advantage of the Exacta Insurance promotion, we’ll bet Ny Traffic on top of the red-hot #2 Reggae Music Man (5-1) in a cold $10 exacta.

  • $10 Exacta: 1 with 2

Keeneland: Race 8: Bewitch S. (G3, 1 1/2 miles on turf, 4:07 p.m. ET)

#4 War Like Goddess (3-5) was arguably North America’s most accomplished grass mare last season, rattling off victories in the Orchid S. (G3), Bewitch S. (G3), Glens Falls S. (G2), and Flower Bowl S. (G1) before finishing third by just half a length in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

A stretch runner with a powerful turn-of-foot, War Like Goddess dominated last year’s Bewitch by 3 3/4 lengths and should have every chance to do the same in 2022. Recent Orchid S. (G3) winner #3 Family Way (7-2) can battle with the consistent speedster #7 Breeze Rider (15-1) to complete the exacta.

  • $20 Exacta: 4 with 3
  • $10 Exacta: 3 with 4
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Belmont Park, Race 4: $26,601 Pick 6 carryover (2:52 p.m. ET)

The Belmont Park spring meet is barely underway, but already there’s an enticing $26,601 Pick 6 carryover up for grabs.

The sequence for the $1 wager looks competitive, and finding viable singles is difficult. However, we’ve identified a couple of promising (and non-favored) runners potentially worth building tickets around. If both prevail at nice prices, we’ll be well on our way to cashing a lucrative Pick 6 payoff.

Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs on turf): #2 Queen of Lies (3-1)

Granted, Queen of Lies never really challenged in her Jan. 15 debut racing 1 1/16 miles over the Gulfstream Park Tapeta track, racing evenly to finish fifth. But the four-year-old filly ran into some early traffic trouble, and the quality of competition was deep — both the runner-up and third-place finisher returned to win their next starts.

Queen of Lies brings a reasonably turf-oriented pedigree to the table and is eligible to improve while cutting back in distance. Trainer Michael Stidham wins at a 20% rate with first-time grass starters, and at an identical rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more, so the stats suggest Queen of Lies can produce a big effort on Friday.

Race 8: $62,500 Allowance Optional Claiming (seven furlongs): #4 Betsy Blue (3-1)

Only six fillies and mares are slated to contest this allowance sprint, stamping the race as a logical opportunity to look for a single. All things being equal, picking at random would yield a 17% chance at selecting the winner.

We’ll throw our support behind Betsy Blue. She completely misfired in a six-furlong dash over this class level at Aqueduct last month, finishing fifth. But perhaps running back on 13 days of rest was too quick of a turnaround for Betsy Blue, who had won her previous two starts (against somewhat easier allowance company) in comfortable fashion.

Sprinting seven furlongs at Belmont Park should suit Betsy Blue just fine, considering she dominated the 2021 Bouwerie S. over this track and distance by 5 1/4 lengths. Her best Brisnet Speed ratings look competitive against Friday’s field, so if Betsy Blue bounces back to peak form, she can deliver a victory.

Good luck!