Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Oct. 18

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October 18th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Monday, Oct. 18 at Indiana Grand and Presque Isle Downs, along with a horse to single in Zia Park’s $687 Pick 5 carryover.

Picks and plays

Presque Isle Downs, Race 1: $15,000 maiden claiming (one mile, 4:45 p.m. ET)

#3 Sea Captain (2-1) is favored, after he finished second, by a length, at this track, distance, and class level Oct. 5, but I’m tempted to side with #4 Ames Mister (5-2), who finished two lengths behind Sea Captain in that race.

Ames Mister made his debut over a synthetic surface and ran well under challenging circumstances. He rallied into a slow pace, then flattened out in the lane.

Presque Isle’s leading jockey, Pablo Morales, has retained the mount for trainer Tim Girten, which suggests Ames Mister has the potential to step forward and turn the tables Monday.

We’ll favor Ames Mister with a win bet and play him over Sea Captain in the exacta.

$20 to win on #4 Ames Mister
$5 exacta: 4 with 3
Total: $25

Indiana Grand, Race 6: $5,000 starter allowance (six furlongs, 5 p.m. ET)

#8 Polo Art (7-5) is the logical favorite, as he has won four of his last five sprint starts at Indiana Grand, but did you know #5 Crocketts Bluff (8-1) has run almost as fast on the Brisnet Speed rating scale?

Crocketts Bluff has been on the rise since he was claimed by trainer Jamie Grubbs during the summer.

The four-year-old gelding has won two of his last three runs and recently rallied to nab a $10,000 claimer at Belterra Park. That effort was especially impressive, because Crocketts Bluff got trapped in traffic and shuffled back to last place, then charged between rivals to prevail by a nose.

Crocketts Bluff looks like a good fit for the $5,000 starter allowance level, and his 8-1 morning-line odds are enticing. We’ll bet him to win and play him over Polo Art in a cold exacta.

$20 to win on #5 Crocketts Bluff
$5 exacta: 5 with 8
Total: $25

Presque Isle Downs, Race 5: H.B.P.A. S. (one mile and 70 yards on Tapeta, 6:25 p.m. ET)

There is a lot of speed entered in this full field of fillies and mares, which is why we’ll think a bit outside the box, with #8 Amniarix (8-1).

While she doesn't completely lack tactical speed, the daughter of Speightstown does her best work off the pace and has held her own against good company this season. She most recently came home third in a seven-furlong grass allowance at Woodbine.

Amniarix has never run over the Presque Isle Tapeta, but she compiled 3-0-2 record from five starts on synthetic tracks in England, which suggests she can challenge in the H.B.P.A. S.

Trainer Graham Motion wins at a 22% rate with horses who transition from turf to synthetic.

Since Amniarix is 8-1 on the morning line, we’ll bet her to win and call it a day.

$25 to win on #8 Amniarix

Carryover watch

Zia Park, Race 7: $687 Pick 5 carryover (5:12 p.m. ET)

Looking for a carryover to play Monday? If you’re limiting your focus to non-jackpot carryovers at U.S. Thoroughbred racetracks, you’ll have to turn your attention to Zia Park. The day’s only suitable carryover is in the 50-cent Pick 5.

The good news is, it is a compelling sequence. A total of 48 horses (9.6 per race) have been entered, which equates to 76,800 possible outcomes, before scratches. Every field contains at least eight entries and there aren’t any freebie legs with obvious favorites.

The best chance to find a single comes in Race 10, an $8,000 maiden claimer for New Mexico-breds.

Morning-line favorite #4 More Firewater (9-5) might not be 100% unbeatable, but I trust him to run well.

More Firewater has several factors in his favor. He has posted competitive Brisnet Speed ratings and topped out with a 69 when he finished second, by a neck, at this class level at Albuquerque two starts back. More Firewater also ran well in his Zia Park debut last month, when he finished second (again by a neck) in a one-mile, $8,000 maiden claimer.

The knock against More Firewater is his 0-for-12 résumé, but he is a good fit for this class level and brings tactical speed, which sets the stage for a perfect trip under hot jockey Luis Negron. If More Firewater takes a step forward in his second start for trainer Terri Rust (a 38% winner in maiden claimers), the three-year-old gelding can dash to the winner’s circle as a single on our Pick 5 tickets.

You might not see a ton of value in singling a 9-5 favorite, but Race 10 features 12 entries (including two also-eligibles) before scratches. If you are willing to take a stand in this huge field, you can cut the number of Pick 5 outcomes down to 6,400.

Good luck!