Keeler Johnson's picks and plays May 27

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 27th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, May 27 at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, along with suggested singles for the $14,778 Pick 6 carryover at Lone Star Park.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 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) at Lone Star Park. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Randwick (Australia).
  • Churchill Downs Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races at Churchill Downs.

Picks and Plays

Belmont Park: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 1:00 p.m. ET)

The unraced two-year-old #2 Forte (4-5) looks ready to win on debut for trainer Todd Pletcher, who strikes at a 20% rate with first-time starters. Sire Violence won the CashCall Futurity (G1) as a juvenile and sires 18% winners from first-time starters, so Forte has the breeding to succeed from an early age.

Forte enters off a promising series of workouts, capped off by a bullet half-mile from the Belmont Park starting gate in :48 flat. Throw in the presence of hot jockey Irad Ortiz (15-for-50, 30% so far this meet), and Forte is an easy choice to play on top.

Forte’s stablemate #4 Gotta Like Him (4-1) can battle with #5 Please Baby (3-1) for exacta and trifecta honors.

  • $15 Exacta: 2 with 4,5 ($30)
  • $5 Trifecta: 2 with 4,5 with 4,5 ($10)
    Total: $40

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

#3 Summonyourcourage (9-5) might be the morning line favorite in this maiden sprint for juveniles, but trainer Todd Pletcher has surprisingly gone 0-for-2 debuting two-year-olds at Churchill Downs since 2017, and neither runner finished in the top three.

We’ll try to beat Summonyourcourage with #2 Justafever (5-2). The son of Triple Crown winner Justify is bred for speed and is eligible to mature from an early age, considering half-sister Nickname won the Frizette S. (G1) as a juvenile.

Conditioned by hot trainer Mike Maker (a 21% winner this meet), Justafever enters off fast workouts and looks ready to roll on debut. Fellow first-time starters #4 Owen’s Leap (3-1) and #6 Charlie Whiskey (5-1) can battle for the minor awards.

  • $25 to win on #2 Justafever
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 4,6 ($10)
  • $2.50 Trifecta: 2 with 4,6 with 4,6 ($5)
    Total: $40

Churchill Downs: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 3:50 p.m. ET)

This two-turn maiden heat for fillies and mares doesn’t look like the toughest race on paper, so we’ll take a chance betting the longshot first-time starter #1 Forever After All (12-1).

Forever After All is bred to run long, considering she’s a daughter of Cigar Mile H. (G1) winner Connect and a half-sister to Clark S. (G1) winner Tom’s d’Etat. Trainer Al Stall isn’t a frequent winner with horses debuting over one mile or farther, winning just 8% of the time, but drawing the rail should give Forever After All a perfect opportunity to challenge. After all, the rail post has produced a lofty 24% winners racing 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Churchill this meet.

Forever After All might not win her first run under colors, but thanks to the Churchill Downs Bet Back offer, we can place a $10 win bet on Forever After All and receive a refund if she settles for second or third place. We’ll also box her in an exacta with slight morning line favorite #10 Five Prizes (4-1).

  • $10 to win on #1 Forever After All
  • $5 Exacta box: 1,10 ($10)
    Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Lone Star Park, Race 3: $14,778 Pick 6 carryover (8:31 p.m. ET)

This week’s racing action at Lone Star Park kicks off with a $14,778 carryover up for grabs in the 50-cent Pick 6.

The six-race sequence features plenty of competitive fields on paper, but that’s not to say there aren’t potential singles in the mix. Hot trainer J. R. Caldwell (a 24% winner at Lone Star this meet) has some formidable runners in the sequence, and we’ll aim to build tickets around two of his most promising entrants:

Race 5: Allowance (one mile): #4 Algebra (2-1)

Algebra boasts a solid 9-3-1-2 record over the Lone Star main track, which includes a hard-fought allowance win sprinting six furlongs last month. Overall, Algebra’s recent form is excellent; two starts back, she just barely failed to see out one mile in the Star of Texas S. at Sam Houston, finishing second by a neck against #3 Gold Pilot (8-5).

Gold Pilot is the morning line favorite on Friday, but Algebra has an opportunity to turn the tables. In the Star of Texas, Algebra dueled for the lead through solid fractions while Gold Pilot rallied from the back of the pack. There isn’t much speed in Friday’s field, so if Algebra shakes loose up front, she can lead all the way as a non-favored single.

Race 7: Allowance (six furlongs): #6 Texas Ascot Queen (7-5)

Texas Ascot Queen is 2-for-2 facing fillies and mares at Lone Star Park. She employed pace-tracking tactics to break her maiden sprinting five furlongs over this track last summer, then utilized an identical strategy to smash a six-furlong allowance on April 29 by 10 1/4 lengths.

Texas Ascot Queen’s allowance win was impressive on many levels. She stayed close to quick early fractions of :21.77 and :45.51 and counted next-out winners Kelley Said Ready and #3 Ima Sky Traveler (8-1) among her beaten rivals. The 84 Brisnet Speed rating Texas Ascot Queen posted is tied for the highest figure in Friday’s field, and a repeat should put Texas Ascot Queen in the winner’s circle at a short price.

Good luck!