Keeler Johnson's picks and plays July 22

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 22nd, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, July 22 at Ellis Park and Saratoga, along with horses to single in Gulfstream Park’s $94,227 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.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in eligible races 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) in select races at Del Mar. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.

Picks and Plays

Ellis Park: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 1:22 p.m. ET)

Trainer John Ortiz is riding a hot streak. He’s gone 4-for-7 (57%) at Ellis Park this meet, he’s won with four of his last five first-time starters, and he’s gone 2-for-2 debuting juveniles this year.

All these stats apply to #4 Justa Warrior (9-2). She’s a two-year-old daughter of hot young stallion Justify (who is siring 27% winners from first-time starters) out of A Z Warrior, who won the Frizette S. (G1) as a juvenile.

Justa Warrior has trained with promise for her debut and will be ridden by hot jockey Reylu Gutierrez, who has gone 4-for-12 (33%) to start the Ellis Park meet. Let’s bet Justa Warrior to win and key her over #3 Fashion Idol (4-1) and #10 Frigid Lady (5-2) in the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #4 Justa Warrior
  • $5 Exacta: 4 with 3,10 ($10)
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 7: Allowance (1 1/8 miles, 4:29 p.m. ET)

#1 Keepmeinmind (1-1) has placed multiple times at the Grade 1 level and brings a bevy of competitive Brisnet Speed ratings to the table. But he hasn’t run in 11 months and hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since November 2020, so Keepmeinmind isn’t necessarily an unbeatable favorite off the layoff.

We’ll play against Keepmeinmind with #7 Efficiency (7-2), who trounced a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Belmont Park during the spring by 11 lengths. The son of Gun Runner looks like a gelding on the rise for trainer Chad Brown, who has gone 5-for-20 (25%) to start the Saratoga meet.

  • $20 to win on #7 Efficiency
  • $10 Exacta: 7 with 1
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 9: Lake George S. (G3, one mile on turf, 5:39 p.m. ET)

#6 Eminent Victor (5-2) showed promise against tough competition as a juvenile. After winning her debut at Arlington Park, she stepped up in class for the Natalma S. (G1) at Woodbine and finished third, beaten only by Wild Beauty (winner of a Group 3 in England earlier this year) and Pizza Bianca (next-out winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf).

Eminent Victor recently returned from a long layoff to win the one-mile Wild Applause S. at Belmont Park. Trainer Chad Brown wins at a 28% rate with horses running for the second time off a layoff, and jockey Flavien Prat (a 27% winner teaming up with Brown over the last two months) is named to ride, so Eminent Victor is a logical favorite to win the Lake George.

#4 Koala Princess (9-2), #5 Dolce Zel (3-1), #8 Skims (9-2), and #9 Spirit And Glory (8-1) are logical contenders for the minor awards.

  • $6 Exacta: 6 with 5,8 ($12)
  • $3 Trifecta: 6 with 5,8 with 4,5,8,9 ($18)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Gulfstream Park, Race 5: $94,227 Pick 5 carryover (5:12 p.m. ET)

Have you heard the news? This week’s racing action at Gulfstream Park kicks off on Friday with a $94,227 carryover up for grabs in the 50-cent Late Pick 5.

If you’re looking for singles to build tickets around, we’ve got you covered with a pair of short-priced options:

Race 5: $6,250 Claiming (one mile): #1 Creme Caramel (9-5)

This one-mile test for fillies and mares who have never won two races looks like a perfect spot for Creme Caramel to secure her second victory. Two starts back, she romped in a $12,500 maiden claimer racing one mile at Gulfstream, scoring by six lengths. Then in a $12,500 claimer over the same distance and class level, Creme Caramel ran third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths with an 81 Brisnet Speed rating.

Dropping down to the $6,250 level might be all Creme Caramel needs to vie for victory. None of her rivals have earned a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 79, so Creme Caramel is the fastest filly on paper. Throw in the fact trainer Gilberto Zerpa wins at a lofty 25% rate with horses dropping two or more levels down the class ladder, and Creme Caramel looms as a logical single.

Race 7: $12,500 Claiming (seven furlongs): #7 Democracy (7-5)

There is an almost bizarre lack of speed entered in this seven-furlong dash for non-winners of three races lifetime. None of the seven entrants have recently shown any interest in setting the pace, which could lend an advantage to Democracy.

Democracy often races within two or three lengths of solid pace fractions, so he’s a bit more tactical than some of his rivals. He does have a tendency to break slowly, but that shouldn’t be an issue in such a paceless field—even if Democracy breaks poorly, he’s unlikely to get sprinted off his feet early. He was much the best in a $12,500 claimer sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream last month, rallying from three lengths back to win by 3 1/2 lengths, and Democracy will have every chance to keep his momentum rolling on Friday.

Good luck!