Keeler Johnson's picks and plays May 12

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 12th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, May 12 at Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Pimlico, along with a single for Belmont’s $53,679 Pick 6 carryover.

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 Pimlico.

Picks and Plays

Belmont Park: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 3:05 p.m. ET)

During the month of May 2021, trainer Wesley Ward was on fire saddling juvenile first-time starters at Belmont Park, going 4-for-6 (67%). This lofty win percentage points toward #2 Ever a Rebel (1-1) as the horse to beat in Thursday’s maiden dash for two-year-olds.

A son of Bolt d’Oro (a two-time Grade 1 winner at age two), Ever a Rebel has shown some speed in the mornings, even clocking a bullet three furlongs at Turfway Park in :35 1/5. He’s slated to be ridden by ultra-hot jockey Irad Ortiz (a 37% winner at Belmont this meet), so we’ll key Ever a Rebel on top of a cold exacta using the quick-working #3 Kerry (8-5) for second place.

  • $30 Exacta: 2 with 3

Pimlico: Race 6: $10,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs, 3:28 p.m. ET)

#4 What Say You (5-1) flashed solid tactical speed before weakening to finish sixth in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Penn National. The Brisnet Speed rating he posted (47) wasn’t especially lofty, but What Say You was squaring off against $25,000 maiden claiming competition and may have found the waters too deep.

What Say You is eligible to step forward while dropping down to the $10,000 maiden claiming level at Pimlico. Trainer Mark Shuman (a 7% winner overall) wins at a 17% rate with second-time starters, so we’ll try betting What Say You to win and keying him over #3 Mr. Mosley (8-5) in the exacta.

We’ll make our win bet a $10 variety, in order to capitalize on the Midweek Bet Back offer.

  • $10 to win on #4 What Say You
  • $10 Exacta: 4 with 3
    Total: $20

Churchill Downs: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 5:00 p.m. ET)

During the 2021 spring meet at Churchill Downs, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen went 5-for-16 (31%) saddling experienced juveniles, compared to 2-for-14 (14%) when debuting juveniles.

Perhaps these stats mean #7 Undalay (6-1) can move forward in his second start for Asmussen. Undalay’s sire (Uncaptured), dam (Lunarlady), and dam sire (Yes It’s True) all won stakes at age two, so Undalay is certainly bred to win from an early age.

Undalay never fired in his debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland two weeks ago, finishing last of 11. But switching to dirt can potentially trigger a turnaround, and Undalay’s 6-1 morning line odds are enticing against a field that doesn’t appear overly deep on paper.

We’ll place a modest win bet on Undalay, then key him over #2 Sergeant Countzler (9-5) and #6 Top of My Game (2-1) in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #7 Undalay
  • $5 Exacta: 7 with 2,6 ($10)
    Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Belmont Park, Race 4: $53,679 Pick 6 carryover (4:40 p.m. ET)

Are you a fan of five-figure, non-jackpot carryovers? Then you’ll want to check out the Thursday card at Belmont Park. The racing week at Belmont gets underway with a $53,679 carryover up for grabs in the $1 Pick 6.

The sequence begins in Race 4, and by the standards of Pick 6 sequences, this one looks manageable to decipher. The six races have drawn only 54 entries, of which six are also-eligible or main-track only entrants. If we assume those six horses scratch (the weather looks fine, after all), then we’re left with an average of eight entrants per race and only 222,264 possible outcomes to consider.

Of course, 222,264 is still a large number of possibilities. If you want to slice that number down to just 31,752, we recommend singling #2 Key Point (4-5) in Race 8, a seven-furlong allowance for New York-breds.

A Triple Crown nominee conditioned by four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Key Point has shown promise in his first two starts. In his debut sprinting six furlongs at Saratoga last summer, Key Point settled a few lengths off the early pace before rallying nicely to win by 3 1/4 lengths with a 96 Brisnet Speed rating.

Following a long layoff, Key Point returned to action in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance on April 1 at Aqueduct. After settling a length or two behind the leaders, Key Point rallied gamely over a muddy track to finish second by a nose, earning a 99 Brisnet Speed rating.

With the exception of #4 Kid d’Oro (5-1), whom Key Point defeated by 4 3/4 lengths on April 1, none of Key Point’s Thursday rivals have earned a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 92. Key Point will be competitive if he produces a typical performance, and if he moves forward in his second start off the layoff (a 28% winning move for Brown), then Key Point should be downright formidable.

There are a couple of other positive factors in Key Point’s favor. For one, Brown has been hot at Belmont this meet, going 9-for-28 (32%). Even better, jockey Manny Franco has gone 16-for-41 (39%) teaming up with Brown over the last two months. In short, all signs suggest Key Point is a viable single.

Good luck!