Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Sept. 30

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September 30th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, Sept. 30 at Indiana Grand and Churchill Downs, along with a ticket for the $8,621 Pick 5 carryover at Presque Isle Downs.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • $20,000 Twilight Thursday Leaderboard: Place $10+ win bets at Churchill Downs on Thursdays, from Sept. 16-30, to play for your share of a $20,000 prize pool.
  • Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Indiana Grand.
  • $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

Indiana Grand, Race 2: $25,000 starter/optional claiming (1 1/16 miles on turf, 3:56 p.m. ET)

If #7 Breeze Rider (6-5) brings her "A" game, she shouldn’t have any difficulty winning this turf test for fillies and mares.

The daughter of Paytner wasn’t disgraced in a couple stakes runs during the summer — and even finished fifth in the Modesty S. (G3), after she led past the eighth pole — and Thursday’s class level should be much more suitable.

Breeze Rider romped in a $25,000 starter allowance at Kentucky Downs earlier this month, when she pulled away to win by two lengths. Four starts back, she led nearly all the way to win a 1 1/16-mile optional-claiming allowance at Indiana Grand.

Breeze Rider is a standout from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective, so we’ll take advantage of the Midweek Bet Back promotion and place a $10 win bet on the four-year-old filly. We’ll also bet her in an exacta, over #3 Native Charm (9-2) and #5 Complete (5-1).

$10 to win on #7 Breeze Rider
$5 exacta: 7 with 3,5 ($10)
Total: $20

Churchill Downs, Race 3: $30,000 maiden claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 5:58 p.m. ET)

#2 Johnnyslittlegirl (7-2) ran just fine in her debut, for a $30,000 claiming tag at Ellis Park last month. Sent off at 9-2, against seven rivals in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint, Johnnyslittlegirl closed ground resolutely to finish second by a half-length.

This effort produced a 66 Brisnet Speed rating, the second-best figure among the experienced fillies in Thursday’s field. Trainer John Ortiz wins at a 22% rate with second-time starters and at a 24% rate in maiden claimers, so the stats suggest Johnnyslittlegirl can fire a strong shot in her second run under colors.

#4 Sutton’s Cat (8-5), the runner-up for a $35,000 tag at Indiana Grand, can round out the exacta. But our primary play will be a $10 win bet on Johnnyslittlegirl, to capitalize on the Churchill Downs Bet Back and $20,000 Twilight Thursday Leaderboard promotions.

$10 to win on #2 Johnnyslittlegirl
$5 exacta: 2 with 4
Total: $15

Churchill Downs, Race 5: $50,000 maiden claiming (1 1/16 miles, 6:56 p.m. ET)

#4 Crazy Genius (3-1) has finished seventh, fifth, and sixth in his first three starts against maiden special weight company. He has sprinted, he has run long, and he has tackled dirt and turf, but he has yet to race around two turns on dirt, which are the conditions he’ll encounter Thursday.

As a son of 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Nyquist, Crazy Genius has the pedigree to handle the trip. The drop into the maiden claiming ranks will also help his chances. Trainer Kenny McPeek has been on fire at Churchill Downs this meet, with six wins from 15 starts (40%), and hot jockey Brian Hernandez is named to ride. Throw in the fact Crazy Genius is adding blinkers, and there isn’t much to dislike.

To follow along with the Churchill Downs Bet Back and $20,000 Twilight Thursday Leaderboard offers, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Crazy Genius. Then we’ll bet him over #5 Kendall Square (4-1) and #6 Mr Creed (7-2) in the exacta.

$10 to win on #4 Crazy Genius
$5 exacta: 4 with 5,6 ($10)
Total: $20

Carryover watch

Presque Isle Downs, Race 1: $8,621 Pick 5 carryover (4:45 p.m. ET)

If you’re keen on chasing the Pick 5 carryover up for grabs at Presque Isle Downs, you should know two things — hitting the 50-cent wager won’t be easy, and the payoff for a winning ticket (if any are even sold) should be impressive.

The Pick 5 sequence features the first five races and contains 38 horses (7.6 per race) before scratches. It appears manageable at first glance (two of the races contain just six entries), but finding a single is difficult. The Pick 5 features a higher-than-usual percentage of vulnerable favorites, which sets the stage for an evening of upsets.

Take Race 1 as an example. #2 Dark Blue Flame (8-5) has crossed the wire first in all four of her starts at Presque Isle, including three straight $6,250 claimers. She is a logical choice for the hot jockey/trainer duo of Pablo Morales and Timothy Hamm, but her career-best 73 Brisnet Speed rating technically ranks Dark Blue Flame as the slowest runner in Thursday’s field. #3 Secret Temple (5-1), #4 Patient Digna (5-2), and #5 Annie Up Buck (9-2) all have upset potential if they bring their "A" games.

Race 3, a $10,000 claimer for Pennsylvania-breds, could also be ripe for an upset. #5 Skydiving (7-5) is the heavy favorite, after he finished sixth in an allowance for state-breds at Presque Isle, but the six-year-old gelding has lost 17 straight races since he won an allowance over hurdles in October of 2019. Skydiving won't face the toughest competition Thursday, but his overall record makes him tough to trust at a short price. #4 Dialed in On Alice (2-1), a sprinter who will stretch out in distance, is a logical alternative, with Morales in the saddle.

The sequence concludes with Race 5, a six-furlong maiden special weight for Pennsylvania-breds. #6 McQueen’s Bullitt (8-5) is the fastest runner on paper, but his career-best 79 Brisnet Speed rating came when he finished second in a one-mile event. His three slowest figures have come in sprints, so the six-furlong dash Thursday is a question mark.

McQueen’s Bullitt finished behind #8 Commodore Barry (5-2) in a race at this track, distance, and class level Sept. 7, so why not oppose McQueen’s Bullitt and single Commodore Barry? Well, Commodore Barry’s winless record from 17 starts is cause for pause. Perhaps the first-time starter #7 Tudox Imagineer (7-2) can steal the show for hot trainer Ron Potts, who has 14 wins from 44 runs (32%) with first-time starters at Presque Isle since 2016.

If we were to cobble together an unusual Pick 5 ticket, excluding all the vulnerable favorites outlined above, it would look something like this.

50-cent Pick 5: 3,4,5 with 2,6,8,9 with 4 with 3,5 with 7,8 ($24)

Good luck!