Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for July 15
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, July 15 at Canterbury Park, Saratoga, and Woodbine, along with horses to play in lucrative carryovers at Arlington Park and Woodbine.
Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:
- Saratoga Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races at Saratoga. Offer must be unlocked each day of the meet; see offers page for details.
- Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Canterbury Park and Woodbine.
- $10K Pick 4 Hit It and Split It at Hoosier Park: Hit the early Pick 4 at Hoosier Park on any Thursday from July 8-Aug. 5 to win your share of a $2,000 weekly jackpot.
Picks and plays
Trainer Robertino Diodoro (a 31% winner at Canterbury this meet) has entered two promising first-time starters — #1 Mischievousofficer (7-2) and #4 Viva El Capitan (5-2). Both bring promising pedigrees and solid work tabs, but since 2016, Diodoro has just one win from 15 starts (6%) with two-year-old first-time starters at Canterbury. There is no guarantee his fillies will be cranked for peak efforts right out of the gate.
Let’s take a shot against them with #5 Heart On the Run (8-1), who should offer a significantly better price. A daughter of Tavasco (who sires 29% winners from first-time starters), Heart On the Run hails from the barn of Wade Rarick, who has three wins from 14 (21%) debut runners at Canterbury since 2016.
Sold for just $3,200 as a yearling, Heart On the Run breezed a :49 1/5 half-mile at Canterbury two weeks ago and will be ridden Thursday by Alfred Juarez, a 33% winner when he has teamed with Rarick over the last two months. Heart On the Run is an intriguing value play in a wide-open race.
$10 to win on #5 Heart On the Run
$3 exacta: 5 with 1,4,6 ($9)
$1 trifecta: 5 with 1,4,6 with 1,4,6 ($6)
#11 Camp Hope (20-1) was tons the best in his 1 1/16-mile debut at Churchill Downs last fall, when he rallied from a couple lengths behind a slow pace to win by four lengths, over a pair of next-out winners. The son of Summer Front dashed the final five-sixteenths of a mile in :30.09, to earn a 104 Brisnet Late Pace rating.
Unfortunately, Camp Hope failed to fire when he wheeled back, less than two weeks later, for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). In a Churchill Downs allowance, three weeks after that, Camp Hope misfired again, as he faded from a pressing position to finish fourth, behind future Kentucky Derby (G1) starter Hidden Stash.
Camp Hope didn’t fare much better in his 2021 debut, when he came in fifth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance June 26 at Churchill Downs, but he is eligible to improve in his second start off the layoff for trainer Kenny McPeek, so at 20-1, Camp Hope offers some longshot appeal.
Let’s place a $10 win bet on Camp Hope, then box him in the exacta, with #2 Southern District (4-1), a flashy winner in his dirt debut at Churchill Downs two months ago.
$10 to win on #11 Camp Hope
$5 exacta box: 2,11 ($10)
#4 Frankel At Ascot (8-5) looks like a live contender for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse, after she rallied to finish second in a seven-furlong sprint at this course and class level last month.
The daughter of Frankel is a logical choice, but I prefer the chances of the other Casse trainee, #6 Mademoiselle Nova (5-2).
Slated to be ridden by Rafael Hernandez (a 25% winner when he teams with Casse), Madamoiselle Nova hasn’t missed the board in four starts against maiden special weight company on the Florida and Kentucky circuits. The daughter of Into Mischief has tactical speed, but has run well both in sprints and routes, so the 7 1/2-furlong distance of Thursday’s test should suit Madamoiselle Nova.
A $10 win bet (to capitalize on the Midweek Bet Back) will be our first order of business. Then we’ll play Mademoiselle Nova on top of an exacta, with Frankel At Ascot and #3 Shes the North (10-1) for second.
$10 to win on #6 Mademoiselle Nova
$5 exacta: 6 with 3,4 ($10)
Think you have what it takes to select eight consecutive winners? Then you need to play the 20-cent Pick 8 at Arlington Park, which features a $33,533 non-jackpot carryover.
The sequence begins with a pair of 5 1/2-furlong Polytrack sprints, and since 60% of those races this meet have been won in gate-to-wire fashion, betting speed horses is the way to go.
With this strategy in mind, we’ve identified two singles to kick off the Pick 8.
Race 1 ($6,250 claiming): #3 Pitaman (7-5)
Although Pitaman isn’t a pure frontrunner, he employed pace-pressing tactics to break his maiden for a $6,250 tag in a six-furlong dash at Arlington last month.
He’ll face just four rivals Thursday, with #2 Irish Lighted Road (7-2) his only pace rival on paper. But the latter has run slower on the Brisnet Speed rating scale and has lost ground from the eighth pole to the wire in all 14 of his starts, so we’ll look for Pitaman to press the pace, take over in the lane, and prevail at a short price.
Race 2 ($6,250 maiden claiming): #3 King’s Story (1-1)
King’s Story has set, pressed, or tracked the pace in each of his last eight starts, so he definitely looms as the “speed of the speed” in this five-horse field. He has placed against $12,500 maiden claiming company in two of his last three starts, so the drop down the class ladder can produce a breakthrough victory.
The 20-cent Power Pick 6 is normally a jackpot-style wager that pays out the carryover only if a unique winning ticket is sold. But there is a mandatory payout scheduled for Thursday, so all winning bettors will equally split the six-figure carryover.
Planning to play along? Here are a couple of horses to include on your tickets.
Live longshot: Race 3 ($40,000 claiming), #5 Nisha (20-1)
Nisha hasn’t run in 13 months, but trainer Gerald Seymour wins at a 20% rate with horses who return from layoffs of 90 days or more, and Nisha’s Brisnet Speed ratings are competitive.
She was last seen against against stakes and allowance company on the New York circuit, so she’s bound to find the competition a bit easier at Woodbine. Nisha also won her lone start on a synthetic surface, as she won her debut over the Polytrack course at Arlington in 2017.
She has turned in a lengthy work tab in preparation for her return and appears capable to outrun expectations.
Best single: Race 5 ($75,000 allowance/optional claiming), #5 Drunk Dial (6-5)
Drunk Dial was a gate-to-wire debut winner over this Tapeta course and six-furlong distance last fall, when she romped by 5 1/2 lengths, for a field-best 89 Brisnet Speed rating.
The daughter of Dialed In has only run once since, when she got burned up on a fast pace in the June 19 Star Shoot S., but she is eligible to improve in her second start back for trainer Josie Carroll.
Drunk Dial will be tough to catch if she shakes loose up front.