Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Nov. 18

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

November 18th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Nov. 18 at Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds, along with a horse to single in non-jackpot Pick 5 and Pick 6 carryovers at Aqueduct.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in eligible races at Kembla Grange (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 Del Mar. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.
  • Churchill Downs $2,000 Late Pick 4 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 4 at Churchill Downs to split a $2,000 daily jackpot.
  • Fair Grounds $1,000 Late Pick 5 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 5 at Fair Grounds to split a $1,000 daily jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Churchill Downs: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (6 1/2 furlongs, 3:31 p.m. ET)

#6 Klassy Bridgette (8-5) has run well in her first two starts sprinting against maiden special weight company. On Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs, Klassy Bridgette rallied nicely to finish second behind the next-out allowance optional claiming winner Pretty Mischievous. Then on Nov. 4, she showed improved tactical speed to finish second at Keeneland, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths.

These efforts produced identical 83 Brisnet Speed ratings, higher than the par winning figure (81) for Friday’s conditions. Klassy Bridgette has been a bit unlucky not to win already, so perhaps the third time will be the charm.

Second-time starters #1 A. P. Lady (6-1) and #5 Tabor Time (6-1) are both eligible to move forward off their debuts and battle for exacta honors.

  • $10 Exacta: 6 with 1,5 ($20)

Fair Grounds: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 7:04 p.m. ET)

Since 2020, trainer Michael Stidham has gone 9-for-36 (25%) saddling experienced two-year-olds at Fair Grounds. That impressive stat bodes well for #5 Motivating (7-2) in this maiden sprint for juveniles.

Motivating showed some promise in his debut on dirt at Delaware Park, finishing third in a six-furlong maiden special weight. Both the winner and the runner-up returned to win their next starts and place against stakes company.

Motivating didn’t run quite as well when fourth in a one-mile maiden special weight over the Colonial Downs turf course, but returning to dirt and cutting back in distance can trigger a rebound. We’ll bet the son of Into Mischief to win, key him on top in the exacta, and single him to start a double wager.

  • $18 to win on #5 Motivating
  • $4 Exacta: 5 with 1,2,10 ($12)
  • $20 Double: 5 with 4
    Total: $50

Fair Grounds: Race 8: Happy Ticket S. (six furlongs, 7:36 p.m. ET)

#4 Ova Charged (3-5) has won five of her six starts, and her lone defeat was a sharp runner-up finish in the Victory Ride (G3) at Belmont Park. Ova Charged is 3-for-3 against Louisiana-bred competition and 2-for-2 over the Fair Grounds main track, most notably defeating Prioress (G2) winner and Frizette (G1) third-place finisher Cilla in the 2021 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint S.

Ova Charged hasn’t run since March, but trainer Jose Camejo wins at a 22% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more, and Ova Charged pretty much towers over the Happy Ticket field from a Brisnet Speed rating standpoint. We’ll single Ova Charged to conclude our double wager and play her over #3 Spirited Beauty (6-1) in an exacta for good measure.

  • $20 Exacta: 4 with 3

Carryover Watch

Aqueduct, Race 5: $25,216 Pick 6 carryover (1:46 p.m. ET)
Aqueduct, Race 6: $172,117 Pick 5 carryover (2:16 p.m. ET)

Fans of non-jackpot carryovers will be delighted to hear there are two lucrative prize pools worth chasing on Friday at Aqueduct. Up first is the $1 Pick 6, which features a $25,216 carryover. But the 50-cent Late Pick 5 is even more enticing with $172,117 up for grabs.

Constructing winning tickets won’t be easy, but at least the Pick 5 overlaps the Pick 6, so handicapping one pretty much sets you up to play the other. Before scratches, the Pick 6 features 819,819 possible outcomes and the Pick 5 117,117, though the typical withdrawal of also-eligible and main-track-only entrants will bring those numbers down a bit.

The first leg of the Pick 5 (and the second leg of the Pick 6) is Race 6, an allowance for fillies and mares racing 1 3/8 miles on turf. The race has drawn 13 entries, including three also-eligible runners, but despite the large field it looks like a perfect place to seek a single.

The filly we’ll favor is #5 Personal Best (2-1), a three-year-old conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. A stoutly bred daughter of Tapit out of 1 1/4-mile Flower Bowl (G1) winner War Flag, Personal Best displayed almost linear improvement in her first five starts, finishing fourth, third, third, and second before breaking through in her fifth try.

Personal Best’s maiden victory came racing 1 5/16 miles at Kentucky Downs, her longest race to date by three-sixteenths of a mile. After tracking the pace from third place, Personal Best took over and pulled clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths, earning a career-best 94 Brisnet Speed rating.

Personal Best subsequently ran well in a 1 1/8-mile allowance at Keeneland, rallying from midfield to finish second by one length. Stretching out over 1 3/8 miles should be more suitable for Personal Best, who picks up three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. for her Aqueduct debut. Ortiz has gone 9-for-36 (25%) riding at Aqueduct since Nov. 4 and 2-for-4 (40%) teaming up with McGaughey over the last two months, so Personal Best has some positive jockey stats in her corner.

Taking all of these factors together, Personal Best looms as a logical single to emphasize in the Pick 5 and Pick 6. Good luck!