Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for July 28
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $75 worth of picks and plays for Wednesday, July 28 at Saratoga, Indiana Grand, and Colonial Downs, along with a ticket for the $2,955 Pick 5 carryover at Belterra Park.
Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:
- Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Indiana Grand.
- Build Your Virginia Derby Day Bankroll: For every day you wager at least $100 at Colonial Downs from July 26-Aug. 30, receive $5 to wager at Colonial Downs on Virginia Derby day, Aug. 31.
- 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.
Picks and plays
#6 Step Dancer (2-1) ran a big race in a seven-furlong division of the New York Stallion Series S. last month. With a hard charge from off the pace, the Barclay Tagg trainee gained 3 1/4 lengths in the final furlong to finish second, beaten only one length by #4 Ocala Dream (9-5).
The stretch out to one mile can make all the difference for Step Dancer. Last year, the son of War Dancer won the 1 1/16-mile Awad S. and placed in the Pilgrim S. (G2), also at 1 1/16 miles. The longer trip should give Step Dancer every opportunity to turn the tables on Ocala Dream.
$20 to win on #6 Step Dancer
$10 exacta: 6 with 4
Since 2016, trainer Brad Cox has compiled an 21-19-10 record from 93 starts (23%) with debut juveniles at Indiana Grand. That flashy résumé indicates Cox’s first-time starter #3 Head Start (8-5) is a logical favorite to prevail.
A daughter of Upstart, who placed in multiple Grade 1 events as a juvenile, Head Start has put together a solid work tab in preparation for her debut, including a half-mile from the Keeeland starting gate in :47 flat and five furlongs at Indiana Grand in 1:00 3/5. Cox has been hot at Indiana Grand this meet, with a 23% win rate, and jockey Fernando De La Cruz has struck at a 26% when he teams with Cox.
A $10 win bet on Head Start will be our first order of business (to take advantage of the Midweek Bet Back offer), followed by a small exacta, with #7 Mi Crescendo (6-1) in the runner-up spot. Trainer Cipriano Contreras is a 23% winner with debut juveniles at Indiana Grand, and sire Bayern is responsible for 18% winners from first-time starters.
$10 to win on #3 Head Start
$5 exacta: 3 with 7
#8 Barberini (9-2) looks like a logical threat to win on debut in this turf route for juveniles.
A son of turf champion Flintshire, out of a mare by Belmont S. (G1) winner Empire Maker, Barberini is bred to excel running long on turf.
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Barberini has shown some speed in the morning, with a bevy of bullet workouts at Fair Hill Training Center over the last two months. The Arnaud Delacour trainee capped off his preparations with five furlongs in 1:01 over the Fair Hill training track and has picked up jockey Mychel Sanchez, a 25% winner when he rides for Delacour.
We’ll round out our trio of win bets with a large wager on Barberini.
$30 to win on #8 Barberini
A rare Pick 5 carryover is on tap for Wednesday at Belterra Park. Here’s how we’re betting the 50-cent, non-jackpot wager.
Race 4: $8,000 starter allowance (1 3/8 miles on turf, 2:05 p.m. ET)
#3 Vortices (5-2) boasts a 5-2-0 record from 13 starts on turf and enters off a solid victory in a $7,500 claimer at 1 1/16 miles over the Belterra Park lawn.
She is a logical favorite for trainer Jamie Grubbs (a 45% winner this meet), though #2 Solar Kitten (6-1) came within a neck of catching Vortices in that $7,500 claimer and can’t be counted out.
Race 5: $5,000 claiming (six furlongs, 2:35 p.m. ET)
#4 Improbable Story (2-1) recently returned from a layoff to finish second, by a head, in a 5 1/2-furlong, $5,000 claimer at Belterra. The son of Justin Phillip closed fast at the finish and should be tough to beat on the stretch out to six furlongs in his second start back.
Race 6: $5,000 claiming (one mile and 70 yards, 3:05 p.m. ET)
#1 Showstopper (4-1) enters off a third-place finish against $16,000 company at Indiana Grand earlier this month, when he earned a sharp 70 Brisnet Speed rating. But #3 Run Away Hiden (5-2) will likewise drop down the class ladder for hot trainer Hugo Andrade. We’ll use them both.
Race 7: $10,000 claiming (one mile, 3:35 p.m. ET)
Coupled entrymates #1 Momenta Kat (5-2) and #1A Miss Vicki (5-2) are logical but slim favorites in this competitive heat.
You can make a case for a bunch of contenders, so we’ll spread deep, with the favorites plus #3 Joplin (5-1), #5 Fashion Frame (12-1), #6 Competitive Fire (20-1), and #7 And I Know (9-2).
Race 8: Maiden special weight (five furlongs on turf, 4:05 p.m. ET)
#5 Jerry’s Secret (5-2) brings tactical speed and sharp Brisnet Speed ratings.
In her lone turf run, she finished second in a five-furlong maiden special weight sprint at Indiana Grand. A repeat should put Jerry’s Secret in the hunt for victory, though #2 Kantpaythetoll (4-1) has the speed figures to challenge, if she handles the switch to turf. Kantpaythetoll’s dam, Pay the Toll, has already foaled five turf winners from eight starters.
50-cent Pick 5: 2,3 with 4 with 1,3 with 1,3,5,6,7 with 2,5 ($20)