Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for July 1

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July 1st, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, July 1 at Belmont Park, Ellis Park, and Indiana Grand, along with horses of note in the $66,725 Pick 5 carryover at Woodbine.

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 and Woodbine.
  • Trifecta Thursdays: Receive a 15% bonus (up to $25) on any winning trifecta ticket.
  • Build Your Indiana Derby Day Bankroll: Wager at least $1,000 (excluding show bets) at Indiana Grand in April, May, and/or June and receive $30 to wager at Indiana Grand on Indiana Derby day, July 7. Bet $1,000 at Indiana Grand in all three months and receive $150.
  • $5,000 Pick 5 Indiana Derby Jackpot: Hit Pick 5 wagers at Indiana Grand this week to earn shares toward a $5,000 jackpot awarded to players who hit Pick 5 wagers on Indiana Derby day, July 7.

Picks and Plays

Belmont Park, Race 7: $50,000 maiden claiming (6 1/2 furlongs, 4:08 p.m. ET)

The insurance provided by the Midweek Bet Back promotion provides opportunities to place $10 win bets on horses we might otherwise hesitate to support. Such is the case Thursday, when the Midweek Bet Back offer makes #6 Town Classic (2-1) a playable alternative to morning-line favorite #4 Happy Farm (9-5).

In terms of recent Brisnet Speed ratings, the two horses are relatively equal. But Town Classic has faced tougher company.

The son of Speightstown has been in fine form for trainer Saffie Joseph. He finished third in the Sir Shackleton S., Runhappy S. (G3), and a Belmont allowance against the likes of Grade 1 winners Basin and Firenze Fire.

Town Classic has a tendency to settle for the minor awards. He has cracked the trifecta in nine straight races without a win, but the drop to a $50,000 claiming race has the potential to trigger a rare victory from Town Classic. And if he settles for second, at least we’ll get our $10 win bet refunded through the Midweek Bet Back offer.

In addition to our win bet, we’ll box Town Classic in the exacta with Happy Farm.

$10 to win on #6 Town Classic
$5 exacta box: 4,6 ($10)
Total: $20

Ellis Park, Race 8: Maiden special weight (one mile on turf, 5:10 p.m. ET)

#9 Freedomofthepress (7-2) ran well against tough company in two starts last season.

In her debut, a 1 1/16-mile test at Saratoga, she came home second, behind next-out Tepin S. winner Lovestruck, with future Black-Eyed Susan S. (G2) winner Army Wife third. Then, in an Aqueduct maiden race at the same distance, Freedomofthepress rallied from behind a slow pace to finish third, behind future Sweetest Chant S. (G3) victress White Frost and next-out maiden winner Lijana.

Freedomofthepress has the form lines to fire a winning effort against (presumably) easier competition at Ellis Park. The daughter of Mshawish hasn’t run since November, but she has put together a solid work tab for four-time champion trainer Chad Brown, who wins at a 28% rate with horses who return from layoffs of 90 days or more. Freedomofthepress will also run on Lasix for the first time, and I think we have a recipe for victory.

#4 Surrealist (3-1) and #8 Ice Queen (6-1) can battle for the minor awards.

$10 to win on #9 Freedomofthepress
$5 exacta: 9 with 4,8 ($10)
Total: $20

Indiana Grand, Race 6: Allowance (one mile on turf, 6 p.m. ET)

#6 Redskiesatnight (6-5) looms as a formidable favorite in this turf test for Indiana-breds. The Brad Cox trainee has two wins from three starts over the Indiana Grand turf course. He won a one-mile maiden race and an allowance, then finished fifth in the A. J. Foyt S., where he was beaten just 4 1/4 lengths in a large field.

Redskiesatnight recently returned from a long layoff to finish sixth in the William Henry Harrison S. at six furlongs on dirt. That should serve as a perfect sharpener for Redskiesatnight’s return to turf route racing, especially since Cox wins at a 28% rate with horses who run back for the second time following a layoff.

#1 Clearing Waivers (9-2) and #5 Major Sparks (7-2) appear most likely to round out the exacta and trifecta.

$12 exacta: 6 with 1,5 ($24)
$3 trifecta: 6 with 1,5 with 1,5 ($6)
Total: $30

Carryover watch

Woodbine, Race 2: $66,725 Pick 5 carryover (1:49 p.m. ET)

Looking for an enticing carryover to chase on Thursday? Look no further than the $54,248.18 (USD) prize pool up for grabs in the Pick 5 at Woodbine.

The 20-cent wager spans a difficult sequence that contains 52 horses (10.4 per race) before scratches. It won’t be easy to construct a winning ticket, but at least the 20-cent minimum makes the Pick 5 relatively inexpensive to play.

Planning to join in on the action? Here are a handful of horses to bet (or oppose) throughout the Pick 5.

Best single: Race 3, #6 Piven (2-1)

It’s tough to find a trustworthy single in this competitive Pick 5, but we’ll take our chances with Piven in this $25,000 claimer with just seven entries. Trained by Mark Casse (Woodbine’s leading trainer, with eight wins at the meet), the six-year-old gelding posted a bevy of competitive Brisnet Speed ratings at Woodbine last year, including an 88 when he battled to victory in a $62,500 allowance/optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs over the Tapeta track.

Piven hasn’t run since November, but Casse wins at a 17% rate with horses who return from layoffs of 90 days or more, so the time off shouldn’t be too much of a concern. We’ll cross our fingers and count on the class drop to carry Piven to the winner’s circle.

Vulnerable favorite: Race 5, #2 Bella Nina (5-2)

Bella Nina will be a popular choice, after she kicked off 2021 with a decisive, 2 1/2-length victory in $15,000 optional claimer at Woodbine. But Thursday, she’ll step up to a $25,000 claimer, where the competition will be stiffer. Several of her rivals bring comparable (or superior) Brisnet Speed ratings, so Bella Nina isn't a horse to single at a short price.

Live longshot: Race 6, #9 So Elusive (6-1)

So Elusive faltered when she faced maiden special weight company at Woodbine on June 12, but we’ll forgive that effort, since she dueled for the lead through quick fractions in her first race off a layoff.

So Elusive is eligible to bounce back with a stronger effort on the drop to a $40,000 maiden optional claimer at Woodbine. Two starts back, she carved out the pace in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream Park, where she led by daylight into midstretch but faltered to finish third by just 1 1/4 lengths. A rebound to that level of form can make So Elusive competitive at a price.

Good luck!