Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Sept. 2
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $75 worth of picks and plays for Thursday, Sep. 2 at Thistledown, Saratoga, and Indiana Grand, along with a pair of singles for the $12,051 Pick 6 carryover at Canterbury 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.
- 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.
- $16,000 Hoosier Park Pick 4 Hit It and Split It: Make a winning early Pick 4 wager at Hoosier Park to win a share of $1,000. Offer applies to the early Pick 4 (Races 3-6) at Hoosier Park every Thursday, from Aug. 19 through Dec. 2.
Picks and plays
#6 Esplanande (2-1), the runner-up in the 2020 Spinaway S. (G1) at Saratoga, has compiled a 6-3-0 record from nine starts and has won multiple stakes on the Ohio circuit.
Freshened since June, the daughter of Daredevil is a logical favorite to prevail in this six-furlong sprint for Ohio-bred fillies and mares.
But the up-and-coming #3 Amadevil (5-2) can give Esplanande a fight. Unbeaten and unchallenged in three starts, Amadevil has been beating up on allowance competition at Thistledown and earned strong Brisnet Speed ratings. Trained by David Wolochuk (a 42% winner at Thistledown this meet), Amadevil looks like a stakes star in the making.
Let’s bet Amadevil over Esplanande in a cold exacta.
$30 exacta: 3 with 6
#3 Money Merger (6-1) looks like a live threat to win on debut for trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Sackatoga Stable.
Money Merger has the pedigree to win from an early age. Sire Central Banker and dam Submerge both placed in stakes as juveniles, while Submerge’s first foal to race — Spin Cycle — broke his maiden at age two.
Tagg has three wins from 15 starts (20%) with debut juveniles at Saratoga since 2018, and Money Merger has put together a lengthy work tab, capped by a couple half-mile drills at Saratoga.
Jockey Dylan Davis (a 29% winner when he rides for Tagg) has been assigned the mount, so let’s bet Money Merger to win and call it a day.
$25 to win on #3 Money Merger
#1 Nana’s Gray (5-2) wasn’t flashy when she finished fifth in her debut at one mile over the Ellis Park turf course, but there are reasons to believe she can visit the winner’s circle at Indiana Grand.
Trainer Brad Cox wins at a 26% rate with second-time starters, which is a noteworthy jump up from his 18% strike rate with debut runners. The competition at Indiana Grand should also be a bit easier. The 65 Brisnet Speed rating Nana’s Gray posted on debut is tied for the highest figure in Thursday’s field, so she is already fast enough to vie for victory.
Throw in the fact that Nana’s Gray will add Lasix for her second start (a winning move 29% of the time for Cox), and she looks tough to beat.
To take advantage of the Midweek Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Nana’s Gray, then bet her over #3 Lizy D (10-1) and #7 Wingspun (3-1) in the exacta.
$10 to win on #1 Nana’s Gray
$5 exacta: 1 with 3,7 ($10)
You have to love any day when there’s a carryover up for grabs in the Pick 6 at Canterbury Park. The $1 wager offers a 10 % takeout rate, so the low takeout and a non-jackpot carryover pool provides a terrific betting proposition.
Thursday’s Pick 6 sequence looks a bit tricky. The six races feature 49 entries (8.2 per race) before scratches, which equates to 266,112 possible outcomes.
On the bright side, you can slice the number of options down to just 4,752, if you’re willing to single these two horses on your tickets.
Race 5: #5 Baildon (9-2)
Baildon is consistent, with Brisnet Speed ratings in the 57-68 range in her last 10 starts.
At first glance, her winless record from 13 starts isn’t eye-catching, but it is important to note she has competed against $16,000, $25,000, and even maiden special weight company. Surely she will be more effective on the drop to the $10,000 level, where she owns the best recent Brisnet Speed ratings in the field.
Baildon was far from disgraced in a $16,000 maiden claimer at Canterbury last month, when she rallied to finish fourth, just 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner. A repeat of that effort should be sufficient to win Thursday.
Race 9: #7 Super Constitution (2-1)
Although Super Constitution has run well in a couple of recent turf starts, a return to dirt for this one-mile allowance should suit the son of Constitution. The McLean Robertson trainee boasts a solid 1-5-1 record from 11 starts on dirt, including a runner-up effort at this track, distance, and class level May 27.
The winner of the May 27 heat was Market Analysis, a former graded stakes performer who has since won two more allowance events at Canterbury. Super Constitution brings strong Brisnet Speed ratings to the fold and will pick up hot jockey Alonso Quinonez (a 25% winner when he teams with Robertson), so we’ll view the four-year-old gelding as a logical single to conclude the Pick 6.