Keeler Johnson's picks and plays May 5

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May 5th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for a trio of stakes on Thursday, May 5 at Churchill Downs, plus tickets for the $3,754 Super High 5 carryover at Gulfstream Park.

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 Belmont Park.
  • 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 Sam Houston. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.
  • Kentucky Derby Week Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in any eligible race at Churchill Downs. Credits will be issued within two hours after each race, so you can get right back in on the action.

Picks and Plays

Churchill Downs: Race 8: Opening Verse S. (one mile on turf, 4:37 p.m. ET)

#6 Set Piece (9-5) exits a seventh-place finish in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland, his first run of the season. After advancing into contention around the far turn, Set Piece flattened out down the lane, but was only beaten two lengths for victory.

Set Piece has competed in three straight Grade 1 races, so dropping down in class for the Opening Verse can trigger a form turnaround. Set Piece won the 2021 Opening Verse as part of a three-race success streak over the Churchill Downs lawn, so we know he likes this course.

#10 Spanish Kingdom (20-1), third by a neck when returning from a long layoff in a Feb. 14 allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds, can complete the exacta at a big price. But our first play will be a $10 win bet on Set Piece, in order to capitalize on the Kentucky Derby Week Money Back promotion.

  • $10 to win on #6 Set Piece
  • $5 Exacta: 6 with 10
  • Total: $15

Churchill Downs: Race 9: Kentucky Juvenile S. (five furlongs, 5:11 p.m. ET)

#1 Tom’s Regret (9-2) was spectacular in his debut against fellow California-breds at Santa Anita last month. Sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs in a maiden special weight, Tom’s Regret blasted to the front through a blazing opening quarter-mile in :21.25, opened up a clear lead through four furlongs in :46.04, and flew to the finish line under a hand ride to win by 11 1/2 lengths in :52.22.

It can be tricky to trust speed figures earned in early-season juvenile dashes, but Tom’s Regret’s quick final time produced a powerful 102 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in the Kentucky Juvenile field by 16 points. If Tom’s Regret runs anywhere near as well at Churchill Downs, he can handle the class jump and bring his record to a perfect 2-for-2.

We’ll place a $10 win bet on Tom’s Regret (taking advantage of the Kentucky Derby Week Money Back offer), then bet him over #3 King Adrock (6-1) and #12 The Big Wam (10-1) in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #1 Tom’s Regret
  • $5 Exacta: 1 with 3,12 ($10)
    Total: $20

Churchill Downs: Race 10: Unbridled Sidney S. (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 5:45 p.m. ET)

#8 Tobys Heart (6-1) finished third behind #2 Brooke Marie (4-1) in the Monrovia S. (G2) at Santa Anita last month, but Tobys Heart can turn the tables at Churchill Downs.

The Monrovia took place over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, which some horses handle better than others. It also took place over 6 1/2 furlongs, a distance possibly longer than Tobys Heart prefers to run. Although she won the Music City S. over that trip at Kentucky Downs last fall, some of Tobys Heart’s flashiest efforts have come over 5 1/2 furlongs, a distance over which she’s 3-for-3.

Assuming Tobys Heart receives a quick pace to chase while cutting back in distance, she can spring a nice-priced surprise. A $10 win bet will be our first order of business (we can’t pass on pursuing the Kentucky Derby Week Bet Back offer), followed by an exacta using Brooke Marie and #7 Goin’ Good (7-2) for second place.

  • $10 to win on #8 Tobys Heart
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 2,7 ($10)
    Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Gulfstream Park, Race 2: $3,754 Super High 5 carryover (1:37 p.m. ET)

It’s hard enough to hit a Super High 5 when all of the entrants have established form lines to analyze. Hitting a Super High 5 in a field full of unraced juveniles elevates the difficulty to another level.

So why, you ask, are we attempting to construct a $1 Super High 5 wager for Thursday’s second race at Gulfstream Park? The 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight for two-year-olds has drawn nine entries (including one also-eligible), and eight of them are unraced. We wouldn’t normally play a Super High 5 in a race like this, but with a $3,754 non-jackpot carryover in the cards, we have to give the wager at least a small try.

And who knows, perhaps assembling a winning ticket won’t be as hard as it seems. Keying #8 Breezette (2-1) on top seems like a logical place to start. The Michael Yates trainee has turned in a trio of quick three-furlong workouts at Gulfstream (including a bullet move in :35 1/5 last Friday), and as a daughter of Cajun Breeze (who sires 19% winners from first-time starters), Breezette is bred to win from an early age.

Even better, Yates-trained juveniles have performed strongly when debuting at Gulfstream over the last month, compiling a 4-1-1-1 resume. Throw in the fact jockey Marcos Meneses has gone 2-for-5 (40%) teaming up with Yates over the last two months, and Breezette looks like a serious win threat.

Underneath, we’ll strongly consider #1 Nic’s Style (3-1) and #5 Free to Roam (4-1), two daughters of Uncaptured conditioned by hot trainer Ralph Nicks. Uncaptured won five stakes at age two, and Nicks wins at a respectable 15% rate with first-time starters, so Nic’s Style and Free to Roam have the credentials to secure top-five finishes on debut.

We’ll also respect the chances of #3 Olga (7-2), the only experienced runner in the field. The daughter of Brethren is adding blinkers off a fourth-place finish in her debut over this track, distance, and class level on April 21. A similar effort should land Olga in the top five once again.

Here’s how we’ll bet the Super High 5:

  • $1 Super High 5: 8 with 1,3,5 with 1,3,5 with 1,3,5 with ALL ($24)
  • $1 Super High 5: 8 with 1,3,5 with 1,3,5 with ALL with 1,3,5 ($24)
    Total: $48

Good luck!