Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for July 2

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July 2nd, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Friday, July 2 at Arlington Park and Ellis Park, along with horses to single in carryovers at Arlington and Los Alamitos.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Rosehill (Australia).

Picks and plays

Arlington Park, Race 1: $12,500 maiden claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 3:27 p.m. ET)

#1 Grapevine (9-5) has cracked the trifecta a couple of times against maiden special weight company, so a drop down the class ladder should make the daughter of Flatter dangerous at a short price.

She owns the best Brisnet Speed ratings in the field and has hot connections. Jockey E. T. Baird has 12 wins from 50 mounts (24%) at Arlington this meet, while trainer Steve Manley strikes at a 30% rate with horses beaten as the favorite in their previous start. Over the last 60 days, Baird and Manley have won both of their starts together.

If Grapevine is a logical choice on top, then #4 La Guerrerita (5-1) is the runner we want to use underneath. After three disappointing runs on turf, the dark bay filly transitioned to the Arlington Polytrack course and showed more promise in a $15,000 maiden claimer, when she pressed a solid pace and weakened to finish fourth.

The drop to the $12,500 level should allow La Guerrerita to round out a cold exacta, with Grapevine on top. We’ll also play a $10 double, with Grapevine in combination with Burl, our choice in the second race.

$20 exacta: 1 with 4
$10 double: 1 with 2
Total: $30

Arlington Park, Race 2: Allowance/optional claiming (six furlongs, 4:02 p.m. ET)

#2 Burl (9-2) made a great impression in a maiden special weight for Illinois-breds at Arlington last month. In his first start over a synthetic track, the four-year-old gelding broke from the rail and spent most of the race boxed in behind rivals.

Burl had nowhere to go around the turn and had to wait in traffic, which cost him an opportunity to challenge for command. He remained in tight quarters on the turn for home but fought his way between rivals to seize the lead. Once clear, Burl roared away with a terrific burst of acceleration and won by 7 1/4 lengths.

This eye-catching effort produced an 81 Brisnet Speed rating, and Burl might have posted an even better figure if he’d been able to run freely around the turn and through the whole length of the homestretch. If he gets a clean trip on Friday, I’m confident Burl will take a step forward in his second start back from an 11-month layoff. Trainer Michele Boyce has been hot at the Arlington meet, with seven wins from 23 starts (30%).

#1 Nicky Two Shoes (7-5) and #3 Temper Tantrum (5-2) can battle to round out the exacta and trifecta.

$15 to win on #2 Burl
$5 exacta: 2 with 1,3 ($10)
$2.50 trifecta: 2 with 1,3 with 1,3 ($5)
Total: $30

Ellis Park, Race 4: Maiden special weight (one mile on turf, 3:14 p.m. ET)

#1 Tiz the Bomb (5-2) ran evenly in his debut, a five-furlong sprint on dirt, but finished just 5 1/4 lengths behind the winner. Trainer Kenny McPeek doesn’t typically crank his first-time starters to win right out of the gate, so we can expect Tiz the Bomb to take a step forward in his second start.

The stretch out to one mile on turf can also help Tiz the Bomb’s chances. His sire, Hit It a Bomb, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at one mile on grass. Tiz the Bomb has turned in three fast half-mile workouts since his debut and retains the services of jockey Brian Hernandez (a 23% winner when he teams with McPeek), so the bay colt looms as a deserving favorite.

#8 Hrothgar (7-2) can round out the exacta in his debut for trainer Brad Cox, who has won five of 20 starts (25%) with debuting two-year-olds in turf routes at Ellis Park since 2016.

$20 to win on #1 Tiz the Bomb
$10 exacta: 1 with 7
Total: $30

Carryover watch

Arlington Park, Race 2: $1,554 Pick 7 carryover (4:02 p.m. ET)
Arlington Park, Race 3: $2,811 Pick 6 carryover (4:33 p.m. ET)
Arlington Park, Race 8: $76,925 Super High 5 carryover (7:06 p.m. ET)

Three carryovers are up for grabs Friday at Arlington Park. Small, non-jackpot pools are available in the Pick 6 and Pick 7, while the jackpot-style Super High 5 features a larger pot of $76,925.

All three of these 20-cent wagers involve Race 8, a $12,500 claimer where #7 Fixico (5-2) looms as the horse to beat for trainer Larry Rivelli, a 39% winner at the meet. The frontrunning son of Union Rags kicked off 2021 on a high note, when he wired a $12,500 claimer at Arlington by 4 1/2 lengths.

Fixico will stretch out over 6 1/2 furlongs Friday, but the added distance shouldn’t be an issue. In his final start of 2020, Fixico dominated a six-furlong, $16,000 maiden claimer at Hawthorne by five lengths. The bay colt boasts competitive Brisnet Speed ratings and retains the services of Arlington’s leading rider, Jareth Loveberry, which sets the stage for another easy victory in his second start of the season.

We suggest singling Fixico in the Pick 6/Pick 7 and keying him on top of Super High 5 tickets.

Los Alamitos, Race 3: $66,725 Pick 6 carryover (1:49 p.m. ET)

If you miss the old days of $2, non-jackpot Pick 6 wagers, you’re in for a treat. Los Alamitos has retained this traditional Pick 6 wager, and Friday’s sequence features an enticing $37,205 carryover.

A $2 Pick 6 can be expensive. A ticket with just two horses in every leg would cost $128. Finding a reliable single (or two, or three) is a good way to keep costs down.

The best single in Friday’s Pick 6 is #2 A. P. Pharoah (2-1) in Race 5, a one-mile maiden special weight. The well-bred son of American Pharoah has spent much of his career competing over turf and synthetic tracks, but the switch to dirt shouldn’t be an obstacle. His half-brother, Moreno, won the Whitney S. (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on dirt, and two starts back, A. P. Pharoah finished third on a one-mile maiden special weight over the Santa Anita main track.

As a late runner, A. P. Pharoah has the right running style to excel racing one mile at Los Alamitos. Just 12% of those races are won in gate-to-wire fashion.

Best of all, A. P. Pharoah has hot connections. Trainer Peter Miller has gone three wins from six starts at the Los Alamitos meet, while jockey Abel Cedilllo has four wins from 11 starts.

I think we have a recipe for victory.

Good luck!