Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for June 17

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June 17th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Thursday, June 17 at Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, and Indiana Grand, plus thoughts on the $28,714 Pick 8 carryover at Arlington 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 Canterbury Park.
  • Royal Ascot Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select stakes races at Royal Ascot (UK).
  • Churchill Downs Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Churchill Downs.
  • 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.

Picks and Plays

Canterbury Park: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 7:40 p.m. ET)

#1 Devoted to You (9-5) is favored after finishing second in a $40,000 maiden claimer for Minnesota-breds at Canterbury. The son of Bayern earned a field-best 65 Brisnet Speed rating, but can he repeat the feat while stretching out from 6 1/2 furlongs to one mile? Devoted to You led by 4 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole, but weakened badly in the final furlong, suggesting the added distance is a question mark.

Instead, I’ll take a chance with #5 Ruby’s Red Devil (5-2), who finished three lengths behind Devoted to You when third in the $40,000 maiden claimer. The son of Kela was making his debut for trainer Michael Biehler, whose win rate with first-time starters (10%) jumps to 19% with second-time starters. Ruby’s Red Devil figures to be sharper in his second run, and there’s a good chance he’ll enjoy stretching out over one mile more than the favorite.

Capitalizing on the Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Ruby’s Red Devil, then play him in the exacta over #2 Last Martini (4-1) and #6 Tapit Sam (15-1).

$10 to win on #5 Ruby’s Red Devil
$3 Exacta: 5 with 2,6 ($6)
Total: $16

Churchill Downs: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 5:58 p.m. ET)

There are several promising first-time starters in this maiden dash for two-year-old fillies, but I’m more inclined to favor the experienced runner #10 U So Money Baby (12-1).

Trained by Larry Demeritte, U So Money Baby was hardly disgraced in her April 22 debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs over the Keeneland turf. The daughter of Palace tracked a fast pace, then settled for third place behind Ruthin and Artos. The former came back to finish a close seventh in the Windsor Castle S. against males at Royal Ascot, while the latter returned to win her next start (defeating future stakes winner Overbore) before finishing fourth in the Queen Mary S. (G2) at Royal Ascot. U So Money Baby is bound to face easier competition on Thursday.

Although Demeritte has won at just a 7% rate over the last two years, he strikes at a 23% rate with second-time starters and at a 40% rate with horses dropping blinkers, two stats that apply to U So Money Baby. I’m optimistic she’ll outrun her 12-1 odds on Thursday.

Taking advantage of the Churchill Downs Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on U So Money Baby and call it a day.

$10 to win on #10 U So Money Baby

Indiana Grand: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 4:58 p.m. ET)

Trainer Michael Stidham has been on fire at Indiana Grand this meet, going 3-for-3. He’ll have every chance to keep his win streak alive when saddling the first-time starter #3 Queen Cordelia (7-2) in Thursday’s two-turn turf route for fillies and mares.

A daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner and hot young sire American Pharoah (whose progeny succeed at a 15% rate on turf), Queen Cordelia has put together a lengthy work tab in preparation for her debut, cranking out a dozen timed workouts since the beginning of March. Indiana Grand’s leading jockey Marcelino Pedroza is named to ride, stamping Queen Cordelia as a logical contender at a fair price.

Let’s try betting Queen Cordelia to win and playing her on top in a trifecta.

$10 to win on #3 Queen Cordelia
$1 Trifecta: 3 with 6,9 with 1,4,5,6,8,9 ($10)
Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Arlington Park, Race 1: $28,714 Pick 8 carryover (7:22 p.m. ET)

The 20-cent Pick 8 at Arlington Park remains a highly elusive wager. No one has assembled a winning ticket since May 29, which means there’s a hefty $28,714 carryover on tap for Thursday’s card.

The key to betting the Pick 8 might be determining which runners trained by Larry Rivelli are most likely to visit the winner’s circle. Rivelli has been practically unstoppable at Arlington, compiling an otherworldly 43% win rate from a 60-26-13-6 record.

Rivelli has four horses entered in three races on Thursday, so the stats suggest at least one (and possibly two) will prevail. Let’s rate each entrant on a 1-to-5 scale, based on their apparent chances of victory:

Race 1: #4 Jettin Out (8-5)

Rating: 4

It’s hard to knock Jettin Out, who enters off runner-up efforts at Hawthorne and Churchill Downs. He’s been facing slightly easier competition than the $15,000 claiming company he’ll encounter on Thursday, but his Brisnet Speed ratings are competitive, and he figures to sit a clean trip pressing or stalking the pace. The only question mark is the fact Jettin Out has never run over a synthetic surface, so switching from dirt to Polytrack is an unknown quantity making the bay gelding tricky to single at a short price.

Race 1: #6 Radiant Castle (8-1)

Rating: 2

Radiant Castle has only run once since January 2020, finishing fifth in a $12,500 claimer at Arlington last month. He’s eligible to improve in his first start for Rivelli (a 32% winner with new claiming acquisitions), but stepping up the class ladder is a question mark, and it would have been nice to see Radiant Castle show a little more life in his comeback effort.

Race 3: Dom the Bomb (7-5)

Rating: 5

Dom the Bomb hasn’t missed the trifecta in his last seven starts, including a pair of recent victories over the Arlington Park Polytrack course. Switching from synthetic to turf shouldn’t be an issue since Dom the Bomb boasts a solid 10-5-1-0 resume on turf. Dom the Bomb’s Brisnet Speed ratings are solid, and leading jockey Jareth Loveberry is named to ride, stamping Dom the Bomb as a deserving single.

Race 5: #6 Maystart (5-2)

Rating: 3

Another runner debuting for Rivelli, Maystart is stepping down the class ladder after finishing sixth and fourth against allowance company at Fair Grounds during the winter. Rivelli wins at a 34% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more, and Loveberry is named to ride, so there’s plenty to like about Maystart from a connections standpoint. But her last two Brisnet Speed ratings look a little light, so her advantage as the favorite might be slim.

Good luck!