Keeler Johnson's picks and plays July 21

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July 21st, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, July 21 at Horseshoe Indianapolis and Saratoga, along with horses to single in Belterra Park’s $677 Pick 5 carryover.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Saratoga Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Saratoga.
  • $1,000 Hoosier Park Pick 4 Hit It and Split It: Hit the early Pick 4 at Hoosier Park on any Thursday from July 14 through Sept. 15 to win your share of a $1,000 weekly jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 5:50 p.m. ET)

Since 2021, trainer Cipriano Contreras has compiled an 11-2-6-1 record debuting juveniles at Horseshoe Indianapolis. The 18% win rate is respectable, and the 82% in-the-money rate is eye-catching.

Perhaps Contreras’ first-time starter #9 Mariachi Justice (15-1) can steal the show at a big price in this maiden dash for two-year-olds. The experienced runners haven’t run especially fast on the Brisnet Speed rating scale, so Mariachi Justice—entering off a quick half-mile workout from the Horseshoe Indianapolis starting gate—shouldn’t have to run out of his skin to vie for victory.

#6 Sir Ronaldo (5-2) and #2 Philip Snow (4-1) can battle for exacta honors.

  • $20 to win on #9 Mariachi Justice
  • $5 Exacta: 9 with 2,6 ($10)
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 2:49 p.m. ET)

#2 Smart Prize (7-2) suffered a troubled start in his debut over this distance at Churchill Downs last month, but wound up rallying down the lane to finish third, just a neck behind #1 Run Poppy (5-2).

Trainer Mark Casse wins at a 17% rate with second-time starters, and jockey Flavien Prat (a 32% winner in sprints) is picking up the mount. If Smart Prize gets off to a clean start on Thursday, he can turn the tables on Run Poppy and spring a mild upset victory.

Thanks to the Saratoga Bet Back promotion, we can place a $10 win bet on Smart Prize and receive a refund if he settles for second place. We’ll also bet him over Run Poppy and #3 Forbidden Secret (3-1) in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #2 Smart Prize
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 1,3 ($10)
    Total: $20

Saratoga: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 3:55 p.m. ET)

Trainer Jose Camejo doesn’t run horses at Saratoga very often, saddling only six starters since 2019. But three of those runners visited the winner’s circle (and another finished second behind a winning stablemate), so we’ll look for Camejo’s #5 In Detail (5-1) to produce a competitive run.

An unraced juvenile, In Detail has put together half a dozen workouts in preparation for his debut, including half a mile from the Monmouth Park starting gate in :48 4/5. Camejo wins at a 20% rate with horses debuting in maiden special weights, and hot jockey Jose Ortiz (a 20% winner at Saratoga this meet) is named to ride, cementing In Detail as a logical contender.

Taking advantage of the Saratoga Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on In Detail. Then we’ll bet him over #2 Ee Yah (9-2) in a small exacta.

  • $10 to win on #5 In Detail
  • $5 Exacta: 5 with 2
    Total: $15

Carryover Watch

Belterra Park, Race 4: $677 Pick 5 carryover (1:02 p.m. ET)

Looking for a non-jackpot carryover to play on Thursday? Belterra Park is ready to oblige with a $677 Pick 5 prize pool up for grabs.

The sequence for the 50-cent wager kicks off in Race 4, and overall it looks pretty manageable to handicap. The five races have attracted 39 entries (averaging 7.8 per field), which equates to 25,920 possible outcomes.

We can slash the number of possible outcomes down to 480 if we’re willing to single a pair of logical contenders in Race 6 and Race 7. Let’s outline their credentials:

Race 6: $12,500 Claiming (six furlongs): #1 Katzarelli (2-1)

Katzarelli cracked the trifecta only once in eight starts last season while competing against tougher competition, but the five-year-old gelding relished dropping in class for a $12,500 claimer racing one mile at Belterra Park last month. Making his first start off a six-month layoff, Katzarelli carved out a modest pace before battling on to finish second by half a length.

Katzarelli is conditioned by red-hot trainer Norman Cash, who has gone 5-for-12 (42%) at Belterra this year. Jockey John McKee (a 30% winner this meet and a 44% winner teaming up with Cash over the last two months) is named to ride, so Katzarelli definitely has high-profile connections in his corner. Tried-and-true sprinter #2 Mutual Confidence (7-2) is a logical challenger, but Katzarelli may have more upside for improvement while cutting back in distance for his second run of the season.

Race 7: $12,500 Maiden Claiming (1 1/16 miles on turf): #3 Sunflower Road (7-2)

Although eight horses have been entered in this turf test for fillies and mares, only one has ever cracked the trifecta in a turf race. That one horse is #3 Sunflower Road (7-2), runner-up by a head in a $20,000 maiden claimer racing one mile over the Arlington Park lawn last year.

Sunflower Road’s only other turf race came on April 23 at Gulfstream Park, when she finished eighth in a $25,000 maiden claimer over 1 1/16 miles. She’s been freshened since then and is dropping significantly in class at Belterra Park, setting the stage for victory. The fact hot jockey Victor Lebron (a 23% winner this meet) wins at an excellent 20% rate on turf adds to the appeal.

Good luck!