Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Sept. 1

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September 1st, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Sept. 1 at Colonial Downs and Presque Isle Downs, along with a pair of singles for the $161,541 Pick 6 carryover at Saratoga.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Colonial Downs Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in any race at Colonial Downs.
  • Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Presque Isle Downs.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Greyville (South Africa).
  • Virginia Derby Day and Virginia-Bred Stakes Day $10,000 Jackpot: Place $20+ win wagers in stakes races on Tuesday and Wednesday at Colonial Downs for a chance to win shares of jackpot bonus pools totaling $10,000.
  • Build Your Assiniboia Closing Day Bankroll: For every day you wager at least $100 in win, place, or win-place wagers at Assiniboia Downs from Aug. 30 through Sep. 14, receive a $5 bonus to wager on closing day at Assiniboia (Sept. 15). Wager $100 all eight racing days and receive an additional $100. For every $1,000 wagered from Aug. 30 through Sep. 14, receive an additional $50 bonus.

Picks and plays

Colonial Downs, Race 2: Jamestown S. (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 2:13 p.m. ET)

Here’s something you don’t see every day. All the entrants in this $100,000 stakes for Virginia-bred juveniles are maidens. There isn’t a proven winner in the field, which is why we’ll think outside the box with #5 Strands of Pearls (8-1).

Strands of Pearls never really factored in her debut, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint over the Colonial Downs dirt, when she finished fourth, 16 lengths behind the winner. But there are reasons to believe she can improve Wednesday.

Trainer Phil Schoenthal wins at a 21% rate with second-time starters, which is a jump up from his 8% success rate with debut runners.

Strands of Pearl is also bred to handle grass, and her debut run was taken off the turf and moved to the main track Aug. 21. Her dam, Pearls, has foaled four turf winners from five starters, including Pink Pearl and Ring Knocker, who placed in multiple turf stakes apiece.

We’ll place a $20 win bet on Strands of Pearls, then play her over logical morning-line favorite #3 Continentalcongres (2-1) in a cold exacta.

$20 to win on #5 Strands of Pearls
$5 exacta: 5 with 3
Total: $25

Presque Isle Downs, Race 4: Maiden special weight (six furlongs on Tapeta, 6 p.m. ET)

In terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, #3 Resist the Devil (3-1) and #7 Society Boy (5-2) rank a cut above their rivals in this six-furlong maiden dash.

Both have placed multiple times in sprints at this track and class level. They’ve squared off twice in the past, and each got the better of the other on one occasion.

On Wednesday, I prefer the chances of Resist the Devil, who will cut back in distance, out of a one-mile and 70-yard event at Presque Isle. Trainer Kevin Rice wins at a 33% rate with horses who transition from a sprint to a route and back to a sprint, and Resist the Devil signaled his readiness with a recent half-mile workout in :46 flat from the Presque Isle starting gate.

To take advantage of the Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Resist the Devil. Then we’ll play him over Society Boy in a straight exacta.

$10 to win on #3 Resist the Devil
$10 exacta: 3 with 7
Total: $20

Colonial Downs, Race 11: Punch Line S. (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 6:25 p.m. ET)

#6 Boldor (6-5) has been sprinting with aplomb against open company all season, with a pair of wins in dirt stakes during the winter, before a transition to turf, where he finished fourth or better in three of his four starts.

The son of Munnings ran particularly well in the 5 1/2-furlong Da Hoss S. at Colonial Downs last month, when he finished fourth, just two lengths behind the winner, after steadied in the homestretch.

That effort produced a career-best 95 Brisnet Speed rating, which suggests Boldor will be tough to beat against fellow Virginia-breds in the Punch Line S. 

He is a speed-figure standout, and he has drawn well in post 6, which sets the stage for a clean and unencumbered trip.

#1 Kenny Had a Notion (5-1) and #5 Elusive Mischief (5-2) can battle for the runner-up spot.

$20 to win on #6 Boldor
$5 exacta: 6 with 1,5 ($10)
Total: $30

Carryover watch

Saratoga, Race 5: $161,541 Pick 6 (3:21 p.m. ET)

Six-figure, non-jackpot carryovers don’t come along every day, which is why bettors across the country will be eager to play Wednesday’s Pick 6 at Saratoga.

Unlike many Pick 6 wagers, Saratoga’s Pick 6 is traditional, which means all winning bettors will share the carryover pool — no unique winning ticket is required. But the minimum bet amount ($1) gets pricey, if you want to play a large ticket.

With that in mind, we’ve identified a pair of potential Pick 6 singles to keep ticket cost down.

Race 8: #6 Vindictive (9-5)

Todd Pletcher’s promising three-year-old, Vindictive, looks like a perfect fit for this 1 1/8-mile allowance. After a fourth-place finish in his debut, a one-mile maiden race at Belmont Park, the son of Uncle Mo tackled a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight at Saratoga and prevailed by a head.

Vindictive’s maiden triumph was impressive on multiple levels. He showed tactical speed when he tracked fractions of :23.81, :48.69, and 1:12.01, then rallied resiliently through quick closing fractions (fourth quarter in :24.74, final furlong in :12.76) to get up and win in the snappy time of 1:49.51. The effort produced a 99 Brisnet Speed rating, plus a 101 Late Pace rating. 

Pletcher strikes at a 24% rate with last-out maiden winners, and Vindictive figures to receive a perfect trip stalking #3 Runnin’ Ray (2-1) in this paceless field.

Race 9: #1 Limited Liability (7-5)

Trainer Shug McGaughey doesn’t typically saddle ready-to-win first-time starters. His win rate with such runners since 2000 stands at 10%. So when a McGaughey trainee wins on debut, it’s wise to sit up and take notice. They often turn out to be very nice runners.

That’s why we’re viewing McGaughey’s promising juvenile Limited Liability as a potential single in the With Anticipation S. The son of Kitten’s Joy caught the eye in his July 31 debut, a 1 1/16 mile test over the Saratoga turf, when he burst from the back of the pack to dominate by 2 3/4 lengths.

If he steps forward at all in his second start, he’ll be tough to deny.

Good luck!