Keeler Johnson's picks and plays July 29

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 29th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, July 29 at Saratoga and Del Mar, including a trio of exactas.

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 Rosehill (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 Woodbine. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.

Picks and Plays

Saratoga: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/8 miles, 1:05 p.m. ET)

#5 Sidekick (9-5) has shown promise in his first two starts against maiden special weight company at Belmont Park. After rallying to finish third in his debut sprinting six furlongs, Sidekick stretched out over a one-turn mile and closed from midfield to finish second with a sharp 90 Brisnet Speed rating.

Tackling two turns at Saratoga should suit Sidekick just fine. Sire Honor Code won the Whitney S. (G1) over this track and distance, and Sidekick is a full brother to 1 1/4-mile Travers S. (G1) winner Code of Honor. Throw in the fact trainer Shug McGaughey wins at a 28% rate with horses running long for the second time, and Sidekick looms as a deserving favorite to win on Friday.

#2 Golden Alchemist (2-1) and #3 Gate Runner (9-2) can battle for exacta honors.

  • $15 Exacta: 5 with 2,3 ($30)

Saratoga: Race 7: Curlin S. (1 1/8 miles, 4:18 p.m. ET)

#7 Creative Minister (2-1) didn’t seem to stay 1 1/2 miles when coming home fifth in the Belmont S. (G1) last time out. But two starts back, the Kenny McPeek trainee rallied to finish a solid third against tough competition in the Preakness S. (G1).

Creative Minister is facing eight rivals while dropping down in class and distance for the Curlin S., so he should receive a decent pace to enhance his late rally. Thanks to the Saratoga Bet Back promotion, we can place a $10 win bet on Creative Minister and receive a refund if he settles for second place.

The up-and-coming duo of #8 Be Better (4-1) and #9 Artorius (7-2) are logical candidates to complete the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #7 Creative Minister
  • $10 Exacta: 7 with 8,9 ($20)
    Total: $30

Del Mar: Race 6: Daisycutter H. (five furlongs on turf, 9:27 p.m. ET)

Buena Vista S. (G2) winner #5 Leggs Galore (8-5) is cutting back significantly in distance off a fifth-place finish against tough competition in the one-mile Just a Game S. (G1) at Belmont Park. But it’s worth noting Leggs Galore is unbeaten in two starts sprinting five furlongs, and both of those victories came at Del Mar.

We’ll count on Leggs Galore’s abundant early speed to produce a victory over 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) winner #7 Twilight Gleaming (9-5), who is facing older rivals for the first time.

  • $25 Exacta: 5 with 7

Good luck!