Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Sept. 13
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Picks and plays
#2 Nates Heartthrob (1-1) is a heavy favorite on the morning line, but his 1-7-2 record from 17 starts suggests he has a tendency to settle for minor awards. He hasn’t visited the winner’s circle in more than a year and isn’t a clear standout in terms of recent Brisnet Speed ratings.
In contrast, #5 Cielo Blu (4-1) won a maiden special weight over this track and distance three starts back, then placed in a pair of allowance sprints at Indiana Grand. He has also earned Brisnet Speed ratings comparable to Nates Heartthrob, so if Cielo Blue steps forward on the stretch back out in distance, he can spring a mild surprise.
$20 to win on #5 Cielo Blu
$10 exacta: 5 with 2
#1 Strike Appeal (5-2) has been on fire this year, with six wins and two seconds from his last eight starts on dirt. He has been particularly formidable since a claim by trainer Jeffrey Radosevich, with a 3-2-0 record from five starts and Brisnet Speed ratings in the 91-105 range.
Strike Appeal scored by 2 1/4 lengths at this track, distance, and class level Aug. 4 and figures to score right back under jockey Luis Rivera, a 23% winner when he teams with Radosevich.
#4 Franco (5-1) and #5 Statesboro (6-1), third and fourth behind Strike Appeal last month, can battle for the minor awards.
$20 to win on #1 Strike Appeal
$5 exacta: 1 with 4,5 ($10)
#7 Morning Matcha (2-1) and #4 You Look Cold (7-2) loom as logical favorites, after they earned sharp Brisnet Speed ratings against tougher competition in New York and New Jersey, respectively.
But since neither has run over a synthetic track like the Tapeta at Presque Isle, we’ll take a shot with #3 Isthatyourharley (9-2).
Isthatyourharley rallied to victory in her debut, a five-furlong dash at Presque Isle, then switched to turf for a 5 1/2-furlong allowance at Colonial Downs, where she broke slowly and rallied to finish fourth.
Isthatyourharley will add blinkers Monday for trainer Gerald Brooks (a 29% winner this meet), which sets the stage for an upset.
$20 to win on #3 Isthatyourharley
$5 exacta: 3 with 4,7 ($10)
Looking to kick off the racing week with a non-jackpot carryover? Then you’re advised to check out the Pick 5 at Presque Isle Downs.
The sequence for the 50-cent wager features competitive fields across the board, but we’ll try to assemble a winning ticket for the budget-friendly cost of $24.
Race 1: $5,000 claiming (six furlongs)
Morning-line favorite #2 Ma Meatloaf (2-1) has the Brisnet Speed ratings to challenge for victory, but the Finger Lakes shipper has never run over a synthetic track.
If the switch to Tapeta proves problematic, #3 Ultimate Baroness (7-2) — the runner-up in her last two starts against $5,000 company at Presque Isle — can take advantage.
Race 2: $6,250 claiming (six furlongs)
#6 Puffer Fish (5-2) defeated key rival #2 Cyberburg (3-1) in a $12,500 claimer two starts back, but Puffer Fish’s Brisnet Speed ratings have been in decline since the start of the year, so Cyberburg may turn the tables Monday.
Cyberburg recently won a $12,500 claimer of his own and might be sharper than ever in his third start of the season.
Race 3: $32,000 optional-claiming allowance (6 1/2 furlongs)
#6 Likeable (8-5) has competed on tough circuits and even started in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last season, but he is also on a five-race losing streak and was soundly beaten in his most recent run.
If he falters on the switch to Tapeta, consistent allowance runner #4 Vintage Kitten (5-2) or local maiden winner #5 Resist the Devil (4-1) can steal the show.
Race 4: $20,000 optional-claiming starter allowance (six furlongs)
#3 The Connector (7-5) has placed four times against stakes company on turf this season, but he also boasts a 3-1-0 record from six starts over the Presque Isle Tapeta and should be tough to beat under leading jockey Pablo Morales.
His stiffest competition may come from the speedy #7 Smoky Blues (3-1), who has prevailed in three of his four starts in six-furlong sprints at Presque Isle this year.
Race 5: Mark McDermott S. (six furlongs)
#6 Dr. Steve (9-5) threw down a flashy 86 Brisnet Speed rating when he won his debut against Pennsylvania-breds at Parx, but the son of Jump Start is unproven over Tapeta.
We’ll back him up with #3 Center Mid Maddie (7-2), who dominated a state-bred maiden special weight at Presque Isle by 5 1/4 lengths and will pick up Morales after
50-cent Pick 5: 2,3 with 2,6 with 4,5,6 with 3,7 with 3,6 ($24)