Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 30

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April 30th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Friday, April 30 at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, including a ticket for the $25,697 Pick 6 carryover on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) card.

Before you place your wagers, be sure to opt in to the Kentucky Derby Week Money Back offer and receive a refund on your first win bet in any race (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third.

Picks and plays

Belmont Park, Race 7: Allowance/optional claiming (1 1/16 miles, 3:54 p.m. ET)

After he finished second in his debut sprinting, #2 Creed (4-1) went undefeated in two starts running 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park, including a comfortable allowance victory, when he counted future Jim Dandy (G2) runner-up #6 Liveyourbeastlife (9-2) among his beaten rivals.

A son of Honor Code trained by Shug McGaughey, Creed is bred for stamina, so I don’t mind that he finished fourth in a six-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park last month. Creed returned from an eight-month layoff and closed ground steadily to finish just 3 1/4 lengths behind the winner in a respectable performance.

I expect Creed to take a big step forward on the stretch back out in distance for his second start of the season. And since morning-line favorite #8 Highest Honors (8-5) hasn’t run since he finished sixth in the 2019 Travers (G1), I think Creed is the more trustworthy play.

We won’t get too creative. At 4-1, we’ll bet Creed to win and leave it at that.

$25 to win on #2 Creed

Churchill Downs, Race 7: Edgewood S. (G3, 1 1/16 miles on turf, 2:09 p.m. ET)

#6 Aunt Pearl (4-5) went undefeated and unchallenged in three starts last season, including a 2 1/2-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Aunt Pearl was never headed, a testament to both her frontrunning speed and her ability to carry it over a distance of ground.

But Aunt Pearl hasn’t run since November, so there is no way to know whether she has progressed as a three-year-old. If her rivals have caught up in maturity, or if Aunt Pearl simply needs a sharpener off the layoff, #2 Gift List (7-2) can steal the show.

Formerly based in Great Britain, Gift List ran a deceptively strong race in her U.S. debut. Overlooked at 8-1 in the one-mile Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland, Gift List settled a few lengths behind pedestrian fractions of :24.82, :49.87, and 1:14.29, which gave an insurmountable advantage to frontrunning favorite Jouster. But Gift List never stopped trying to catch up and sprinted the final quarter-mile in about :22.30 to finish second by just 1 1/2 lengths.

There isn’t much speed in the Edgewood, so Gift List should be able to stay within range of Aunt Pearl early. From there, we’ll hope Gift List's strong turn of foot can win the day.

$10 to win on #2 Gift List
$10 exacta: 2 with 6
Total: $20

Churchill Downs, Race 8: La Troienne S. (G1, 1 1/16 miles, 3:03 p.m. ET)

Last year's Kentucky Oaks winner, #2 Shedaresthedevil (8-5), is the logical favorite, after she kicked off 2021 with a gritty, frontrunning victory in the Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn Park, where she beat next-out Apple Blossom H. (G1) winner Letruska by a head.

But I think #5 Paris Lights (8-1) can give Shedaresthedevil a fight at a fair price.

Paris Lights has four wins from five starts and is undefeated in three starts running long. She most notably defeated a quality field in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga last summer. She subsequently went to the sideline with an injury, but returned in fine form to win Aqueduct’s seven-furlong Distaff H. (G3) by a half-length.

A stoutly bred daughter of Curlin, out of a Bernardini mare, Paris Lights should relish the stretch back out around two turns in the La Troienne.

Hot jockey Tyler Gaffalione has picked up the mount, so let’s bet Paris Lights to win and play her over Shedaresthedevil and #3 Dunbar Road (5-2) in the exacta and trifecta.

$10 to win on #5 Paris Lights
$4 exacta: 5 with 2,3 ($8)
$1 trifecta: 5 with 2,3 with 2,3 ($1)
Total: $20

Carryover watch

Churchill Downs, Race 6: $25,697 Derby City Pick 6 carryover

The classiest carryover up for grabs Friday is the $25,697 Derby City Pick 6 jackpot at Churchill Downs. The 20-cent wager is comprised exclusively of graded stakes races, culminating with the Kentucky Oaks (G1).

Although a unique winning ticket is necessary to win the jackpot, the daily pool figures to be large. And since 90% of the daily pool will be split among winning bettors, the Derby City Pick 6 is well worth playing.

Let’s take a race-by-race look at the sequence, then put together a play on a ~$75 budget.

Race 6: Alysheba S. (G2)

Grade 1 winner #6 Maxfield (4-5) faltered to third place when he stretched out over 1 1/4 miles in the Santa Anita H. (G1), but he won his previous five starts in fine fashion and should be tough to beat on the cut back to 1 1/16 miles.

Race 7: Edgewood S. (G3)

We’ll use #2 Gift List (7-2) and #6 Aunt Pearl (4-5).

Race 8: La Troienne S. (G1)

#2 Shedaresthedevil (8-5), #3 Dunbar Road (5-2), and #5 Paris Lights (8-1) are the three we’ll include.

Race 9: Eight Belles (G2)

This competitive seven-furlong sprint drew a dozen three-year-old fillies, and you can make a case for most.

Since there is a lot of speed in the mix, we’ll favor runners who have shown the ability to rate and finish strongly, including #3 Souper Sensational (6-1), #6 Slumber Party (6-1), #7 Obligatory (10-1), #9 Li’l Tootsie (8-1), and #12 Caramel Swirl (12-1).

But we’ll also toss in stakes winners #8 Kalypso (5-1), #10 Dayoutoftheoffice (3-1), and #11 Abrogate (8-1), the most accomplished of the speed horses in the mix.

Race 10: Twin Spires Turf Sprint S. (G2)

#3 Fiya (4-1) is undefeated in five starts sprinting on turf, but the speedy frontrunner will step up in class and could face stiff challenges from defending Twin Spires Turf Sprint winner #9 Diamond Oops (5-1), San Simeon (G3) runner-up #10 Somebeyay (4-1), and Turf Sprint S. winner #8 Fast Boat (7-2).

Race 11: Kentucky Oaks (G1)

Ashland (G1) winner #10 Malathaat (5-2) is undefeated in four starts and possesses a strong turn of foot, but #6 Travel Column (3-1) was a flashy winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and has more tactical speed.

20-cent Derby City Pick 6: 6 with 2,6 with 2,3,5 with 3,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 with 3,8,9,10 with 6,10 ($76.80)

Good luck!