Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Sept. 20

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September 20th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Monday, Sept. 20 at Indiana Grand, Thistledown, and Presque Isle Downs, including tickets for Indiana Grand’s $2,321 Super High 5 carryover.

Picks and plays

Indiana Grand, Race 2: Maiden special weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 2:56 p.m. ET)

Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox will saddle the first-time starters #3 Golden Retreiver (9-2) and #5 Abuela’s Humor (6-5) in this maiden sprint for juveniles.

But Cox hasn’t been unbeatable with debut two-year-olds at Indiana Grand this meet, with just three wins from 20 starts (15%), so it’s possible #7 Optionality (4-1) can spring a mild surprise.

Optionality ran OK as the favorite in her debut at this track and distance last month, when she carved out the pace and faded to finish third. Her tactical speed is an asset, which sets the stage for a trouble-free trip, and trainer Steve Asmussen wins at a 23% rate with second-time starters.

Let’s bet Optionality to win and key her over Abuela’s Humor in a cold exacta.

$20 to win on #7 Optionality
$5 exacta: 7 with 5
Total: $25

Thistledown, Race 6: $15,000 optional-claiming allowance (six furlongs, 3:20 p.m. ET)

There is a ton of speed packed into this six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, which could compromise the rail-drawn favorite #1 Hasty Lady (5-2). Although Hasty Lady looms as a logical contender, off five consecutive victories, we’ll try to beat her with #4 J P’s Gladys (9-2).

J P’s Gladys finished behind Hasty Lady in a pair of sprints at Thistledown earlier this year, but she may get a better pace setup Monday. A versatile mare who is capable of pressing the pace or rallying from far behind, J P’s Gladys enters off a win in a $7,500 claimer and brings competitive Brisnet Speed ratings for her first start with trainer Nestor Rivera, who wins at a 24% rate with new claiming acquisitions.

We’ll bet J P’s Gladys to win and play her over Hasty Lady in a small exacta.

$20 to win on #4 J P’s Gladys
$5 exacta: 4 with 1
Total: $25

Presque Isle Downs, Race 3: Maiden special weight (one mile, 5:35 p.m. ET)

#7 Kiss Principal (5-1) didn’t show much in his debut, a 7 1/2-furlong race over the Gulfstream Park turf course. He raced near the back of the pack throughout and finished eighth.

But there are reasons to believe the two-year-old gelding can improve in his second run.

Kiss Principal will switch from turf to Tapeta, which is a positive move, since his half-brother, Like the King, won the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on Tapeta earlier this year. Kiss Principal is also trained by Timothy Hamm, who has 26 wins from 65 starts (40%) at Presque Isle this meet. Kiss Principal will pick up Presque Isle’s leading jockey, Pablo Morales, a 44% winner when he teams with Hamm.

Kiss Principal is worth a win bet, and we'll play him over #4 Mark the Moose (5-2) in the exacta.

$20 to win on #7 Kiss Principal
$5 exacta: 7 with 4
Total: $25

Carryover watch

Indiana Grand, Race 4: $2,321 Super High 5 carryover (3:58 p.m. ET)

Spicing up the Monday card at Indiana Grand is a $2,321 carryover in the “Grand High 5.”

The prize pool for the 10-cent, non-jackpot Super High 5 wager is up for grabs in Race 4,  a six-furlong allowance for Indiana-bred fillies and mares who have never won three races.

Only seven horses have been entered, so a winning ticket shouldn’t be too difficult to construct. There are only 2,520 possible outcomes to consider, and you could bet them all for just $252. It will be important to play this Grand High 5 on a modest budget, just in case favorites dominate and the payoff comes out on the small side.

We’ll key logical favorite #4 Chandana (6-5) on top.

A versatile three-year-old filly, Chandana hasn’t missed the exacta in her last four dirt sprints and has demonstrated frontrunning, pressing, and stalking ability. She has finished second by a length, a nose, and a head in her last three starts at this track and class level and earned Brisnet Speed ratings of 79, 77, and 76. If Chandana produces her "A" game Monday, she’ll be tough to defeat.

Underneath, we have to respect #6 D D Seven Thirty (5-2), a late runner who rallied boldly to finish just three-quarters of a length behind Chandana in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance Sept. 2. D D Seven Thirty doesn’t have as much tactical speed as the favorite, but she has cracked the trifecta in four of her five starts this season and looms as a contender for the minor awards.

The improving #2 Miss Sugarbaby (7-2) hasn’t run quite as fast on the Brisnet Speed rating scale as Chandana and D D Seven Thirty, but she has won her last two starts at Indiana Grand by daylight margins, including a 5 1/2-furlong allowance. A stalking type trained by Aaron West, Miss Sugarbaby should land a top-three finish Monday.

By counting on either D D Seven Thirty or Miss Sugarbaby to finish second behind Chandana, with the other cracking the top five, we can hit the “ALL” button for the remaining two slots of our Grand High 5 tickets and still spend just $7.20.

10-cent Grand High 5: 4 with 2,6 with 2,6 with ALL with ALL ($2.40)
10-cent Grand High 5: 4 with 2,6 with ALL with 2,6 with ALL ($2.40)
10-cent Grand High 5: 4 with 2,6 with ALL with ALL with 2,6 ($2.40)
Total: $7.20

Good luck!