Keeler Johnson's picks and plays June 8

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June 8th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, June 8 at Churchill Downs, along with suggested singles for the $26,950 Pick 5 carryover at Finger Lakes.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Horseshoe Indianapolis.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Happy Valley (Hong Kong).

Picks and Plays

Churchill Downs: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 12:45 p.m. ET)

#6 Midnight Dreaming (3-1) boasts a pedigree packed with promise. Sire Midnight Storm won seven graded stakes, while dam Dreaming of Liz won the Arlington-Washington Lassie S. (G3) as a 2-year-old and previously foaled juvenile stakes winner Dreaming of Drew.

Trainer Tom Amoss has compiled an impressive 7-for-22 (32%) record debuting juveniles in dirt sprints at Churchill since 2019, and Midnight Dreaming is getting a seven-pound weight break courtesy of apprentice jockey Rene Diaz. We’ll bet Midnight Dreaming to win and key him over logical favorite #1 Undalay (2-1) in the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #6 Midnight Dreaming
  • $10 Exacta: 6 with 1
    Total: $30

Churchill Downs: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 2:13 p.m. ET)

#6 Shoplifter (6-1) looks ready to fire a competitive shot on debut for trainer Eddie Kenneally. Sire Super Saver won the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) at Churchill as a juvenile, while Kenneally has gone 6-for-27 (22%) debuting juveniles in dirt sprints at Churchill since 2019.

Shoplifter has shown some speed in the mornings at Churchill, most recently clocking half a mile in :48, so we’ll take a shot betting him to win and keying him on top in the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #6 Shoplifter
  • $5 Exacta: 6 with 1,5 ($10)
    Total: $30

Churchill Downs: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (seven furlongs, 3:50 p.m. ET)

#1 York Tavern (12-1) has put together a long and flashy work tab for trainer Cherie DeVaux, who wins at a respectable 15% rate with first-time starters. York Tavern has breezed several half-miles in less than :48, including a quick :47 3/5 on May 29 at Churchill.

Post 1 is producing an excellent 17% winners in seven-furlong dirt sprints at Churchill this meet, and York Tavern’s key rivals have all been defeated on four or more occasions, suggesting they have less upside than the untested DeVaux trainee. We’ll play the race accordingly, betting York Tavern to win and using him over #2 General Strike (7-2) and #4 Afjan (5-2) in the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #1 York Tavern
  • $5 Exacta: 1 with 2,4 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Finger Lakes, Race 4: $26,950 Pick 5 carryover (2:31 p.m. ET)

No one managed to assemble a winning Pick 5 ticket on Tuesday at Finger Lakes, which means the 50-cent wager will feature a lucrative $26,950 carryover on Wednesday afternoon.

The Pick 5 spans Race 4 through Race 8, a sequence containing 40 entries (averaging eight per race) and 30,240 possible outcomes before scratches. Those are manageable numbers by Pick 5 standards, especially when you consider how the favorites in Race 5 and Race 7 look like viable singles.

Let’s take a look at their credentials:

Race 5: $11,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs): #2 Pals Ally (3-2)

After placing a couple of times in $25,000 maiden claimers for New York-breds at Aqueduct, Pals Ally relished tackling easier $11,000 maiden claiming competition in her Finger Lakes debut last month. Favored at 2-5 to win a six-furlong dirt dash, Pals Ally settled last of five early on before rallying to finish second, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths with a respectable 60 Brisnet Speed rating.

Trainer Chris Englehart has been hot at Finger Lakes this meet, going 7-for-22 (32%), and jockey John Davila has compiled a similarly strong 14-for-42 (33%) record. Together, they’ve gone 7-for-21 (33%) over the last two months, so it’s safe to say Pals Ally has high-profile connections in her corner. Her second start over Wednesday’s track, distance, and class level can yield a short-priced victory.

Race 7: Allowance (one mile and 70 yards): #6 Royal Realm (9-5)

Royal Realm looks tough to beat in this dirt allowance. Whereas his rivals have largely been earning Brisnet Speed ratings in the 70s and low 80s, Royal Realm posted a flashy 91 when dominating a $25,000 claimer at Belmont Park last month by 8 1/2 lengths.

Squaring off against allowance company at Finger Lakes should suit Royal Realm just fine. The son of Empire Maker is making his first start for trainer Jeffrey Englehart, a 21% winner with new claiming acquisitions and a 36% winner this meet. Throw in the presence of jockey Andre Worrie (a 33% winner this meet and a 32% winner teaming up with Englehart over the last two months), and Royal Realm looks like an appealing single.

Good luck!