Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for July 12

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July 12th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Monday, July 12 at Delaware Park, Presque Isle Downs, and Thistledown, along with three singles for Presque Isle’s $960 jackpot Pick 6 carryover.

Picks and plays

Delaware Park, Race 6: $10,000 claiming (one mile and 70 yards, 3:45 p.m. ET)

In a race without a ton of pace on paper, #1 Team Effort (7-2) looks like the “speed of the speed.” The five-year-old chestnut regularly sets or stalks the pace and most recently finished second in a $16,000 claimer at Monmouth Park, after he carved out the early tempo.

#2 El Pillo (6-1) also has speed and won a $16,000 claimer at Delaware last month, after he set a slow pace. But El Pillo does his best work on the front end and tends to falter when headed, so Team Effort — who boasts faster Brisnet E1 and E2 Pace ratings — should be able to win the battle for early supremacy, put away El Pillo, and kick on down the lane to prevail on the drop in class.

Let’s bet Team Effort to win and play him over #4 Flight Risk (5-2) in the exacta.

$20 to win on #1 Team Effort
$5 exacta: 1 with 4
Total: $25

Presque Isle Downs, Race 1: $5,000 claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 4:45 p.m. ET)

#1 Maximum Factor (4-1) hasn’t factored in two dirt sprints at Thistledown this year, but he was a force to reckon with over the Presque Isle Downs Tapeta track last season.

His lifetime record over the local oval stands at 2-5-0 from seven starts, and he routinely throws down solid Brisnet Speed ratings in the 72-79 range over the synthetic footing.

Since morning-line favorite and fellow Presque Isle Downs specialist #5 Samurai Zip (6-5) is an 11-year-old veteran and unraced since October, we’ll place our faith in the considerably younger Maximum Factor, who should move forward on the return to Tapeta for his third run of the reason.

$20 to win on #1 Maximum Factor
$5 exacta: 1 with 5
Total: $25

Thistledown, Race 5: $12,500 claiming (one mile, 2:50 p.m. ET)

#2 Queenofcatniphill (3-1) faltered in a pair of one-mile allowance heats at Mahoning Valley during late winter/early spring, but after three months off, she returned as good as ever in a $12,500 claimer June 23 at Thistledown.

In the six-furlong sprint, Queenofcatniphill led for most of the journey and settled for third, just 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner, and equaled her career-best 87 Brisnet Speed rating.

Queenofcatniphill handled one mile just fine in the fall, when she won a Thistledown allowance by 3 3/4 lengths, and I’m optimistic she can return to this level of form in her second start back from the layoff.

Queenofcatniphill will have every chance to shake loose up front in this small field, which stamps her as an appealing choice at 3-1.

#1 Freshman Class (5-2), a runner-up at this track, distance, and class level two starts back, is a logical choice for second place.

$20 to win on #2 Queenofcatniphill
$5 exacta: 2 with 1
Total: $25

Carryover watch

Presque Isle Downs, Race 3: $960 jackpot Pick 6 (5:35 p.m. ET)

Ready for a fun evening of racing at Presque Isle Downs? An eight-race card is on tap for Monday, and there is a $960 carryover in the 20-cent jackpot Pick 6.

When short-priced runners win the day, jackpot-style Pick 6 wagers can pay surprisingly well. On Wednesday at Presque Isle, a logical sequence that featured four winning favorites and two victorious 19-5 chances returned $485.08. Blindly betting the top two favorites in each leg of the Pick 6 would have produced a winning ticket at a cost of just $12.80.

With that in mind, there’s no reason to spread too deep in Monday’s Pick 6. We’ve identified a trio of short-priced favorites who loom as logical singles.

Race 3: #1 Bummer (8-5)

Although Bummer’s recent form has been muddied by efforts on dirt and turf, he is a different horse when he competes over the Tapeta track at Presque Isle Downs.

His record over the local oval stands at 1-2-0 from four starts, including a maiden victory in a six-furlong dash last summer.

Bummer brings solid Brisnet Speed ratings and should be tough to beat on his return to his preferred footing.

Race 6: #1 Franz Josef (8-5)

Trainer Glenn Wismer has two wins from two starts at Presque Isle this meet, and he can keep his perfect record intact with Franz Josef. The three-year-old son of Mshawish went 1-0-1 in three starts over the course last year, highlighted by a gate-to-wire maiden victory. He subsequently finished fifth in a strong renewal of the Street Sense S. on dirt at Churchill Downs, behind future Lexington S. (G3) winner King Fury and Arkansas Derby (G1) victor Super Stock.

Franz Josef hasn’t seriously factored in two starts against allowance competition at Churchill Downs this year, but the return to Presque Isle — and a drop down into a $32,000 allowance/optional claimer — can send him back to the winner’s circle.

Race 7: #3 We the Clouds (6-5)

We the Clouds has never run over a synthetic surface, but she has been competing against tough grass allowance company on the Kentucky circuit, where she most recently finished sixth, just two lengths behind the winner, in a 1 1/16-mile event at Churchill Downs.

Easier competition at Presque Isle is bound to make a difference for We the Clouds. If she handles the switch to Tapeta, she can romp home an easy winner for hot trainer Timothy Hamm, a 63% winner this meet and a 25% winner with horses who transition from turf to synthetic.

Good luck!