Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Sept. 3

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September 3rd, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Sep. 3 at Saratoga, Ellis Park, and Del Mar, plus a ticket for the $6,950 Super High 5 carryover at Gulfstream Park.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 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.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Randwick (Australia).
  • Exacta Insurance: Receive refunds on exacta bets (up to $10) if your two selected horses finish in the first three home, but not in the winning order. Offer applies only to straight exacta bets at Albuquerque.

Picks and plays

Saratoga, Race 2: Maiden special weight (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 1:41 p.m. ET)

#3 Bubble Rock (8-5) ran just fine in her debut over this course and distance last month, when she charged from the middle of the pack to finish second by two lengths. The daughter of More Than Ready led at the eighth pole but was passed by a filly who rallied from even farther behind.

All the stats suggest Bubble Rock can visit the winner’s circle Friday. Trainer Brad Cox wins at a 26% rate with second-time starters, and at a 32% rate with horses who run on grass for the second time. Throw in the presence of three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, and we have a recipe for victory.

The first-time starters #2 Nay Say (7-2), #6 Old Pho (4-1), and #10 Vaccine of Hope (5-1) can battle for spots in the exacta and trifecta.

$6 exacta: 3 with 2,6,10 ($18)
$2 trifecta: 3 with 2,6,10 with 2,6,10 ($12)
Total: $30

Ellis Park, Race 6: Maiden special weight (one mile, 4:10 p.m. ET)

#2 Bunduki (9-2) never had a realistic chance to win her debut, a seven-furlong sprint at Ellis Park last month.

Incredibly slow fractions of :23.97 and :48.15 placed the daughter of Gun Runner at a disadvantage, so the fact she rallied to finish third — beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by the two pacesetters — is impressive.

Trainer Ken McPeek doesn’t crank his juveniles to win on debut, so Bunduki is eligible to produce a much-improved effort on the stretch out to one mile in her second start.

With this in mind, we’ll bet Bunduki to win and key her over logical favorite #6 Juju’s Map (2-1) in a cold exacta.

$20 to win on #2 Bunduki
$10 exacta: 2 with 6
Total: $30

Del Mar, Race 5: Maiden special weight (one mile on turf, 8:30 p.m. ET)

The field for this two-turn turf test doesn’t appear deep at first glance, so we’ll favor the chances of #8 Fore Flag (3-1).

The Michael McCarthy trainee didn’t show much when he finished fifth in his debut, a sprint over the Arlington Park Polytrack course, but there are reasons to believe Fore Flag can improve significantly Friday.

McCarthy wins at a 24% rate with horses who try turf for the first time. He also strikes at a 24% rate with horses who make their route debut. And Fore Flag will add blinkers, which may sharpen his speed and get him into contention sooner. The colt will be ridden by Del Mar’s leading jockey, Flavien Prat, a 27% winner at the meet.

With all those positives in mind, we’ll bet Fore Flag to win and play him over #4 Street Humor (12-1) and #6 Quincey (7-2) in the exacta.

$20 to win on #8 Fore Flag
$5 exacta: 8 with 4,6 ($10)
Total: $30

Carryover watch

Gulfstream Park, Race 1: $6,950 Super High 5 carryover (2 p.m. ET)

If you wish to start your racing afternoon by pursuing a non-jackpot carryover, you’ll want to check out the opening race at Gulfstream Park. There is a $6,950 carryover in the Super High 5, and a strong chance the $1 wager will produce an enticing payoff.

The Friday opener is a $16,000 maiden claimer for juvenile fillies, in a six-furlong sprint over the main track. Sixteen horses have been entered, including four also-eligibles, and constructing a winning ticket on any sort of reasonable budget will be difficult. In the event no one assembles the winning combination, the carryover will roll over to Race 2.

Since $1 Super High 5 wagers can quickly grow expensive, we’ll need to take a stand somewhere to keep costs reasonable. Our stand might as well come on the win end, where we’ll key #3 Overthebluesky (5-1).

Overthebluesky never fired when she tried turf in a $35,000 maiden claimer July 25 at Gulfstream, but two starts back, she finished second for a $25,000 tag in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint over the main track. A return to dirt should help Overthebluesky rebound at a fair price.

Underneath Overthebluesky, #11 Reneesdreamgirl (7-2) and #12 Pure Ambition (3-1) are logical choices. Both have placed at the $16,000 level and bring competitive Brisnet Speed ratings, though the wide draw may place them at a disadvantage. #7 Kingston Queen (4-1), third in a $40,000 maiden claimer over the Colonial Downs turf course, is also fast enough to factor.

One longshot worth considering is #2 Vanishing Faith (30-1), who finished sixth in a $25,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream last month. Considering she hit the gate at the start, then unleashed a wide, mid-race move to challenge for the lead, it was an encouraging debut. She is capable of a better run Friday.

The first also-eligible, #13 Shes a Gift (4-1), who finished fourth in the same $25,000 maiden claimer featuring Vanishing Faith, is also eligible to contend on the class drop, if a scratch allows her to compete.

Here’s the ticket we’ll look to play.

$1 Super High 5: 3 with 7,11,12 with 7,11,12,13 with 2,7,11,12,13 with 2,7,11,12,13 ($54)

Good luck!