Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for June 18

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June 18th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Friday, June 18 at Churchill Downs and Santa Anita, along with a potential single in the $42,866 Pick 8 carryover at Arlington Park.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 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.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Rosehill (Australia).

Picks and Plays

Churchill Downs: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 1:14 p.m. ET)

Trainer Norm Casse has compiled an excellent 18-6-2-1 (33%) record debuting juveniles in dirt sprints at Churchill Downs, a stat suggesting #4 Pretty Birdie (5-1) will be dangerous in her first run under colors.

Born in January, the daughter of Bird Song is the oldest filly in Friday’s field, giving her a subtle (but potentially significant) maturity advantage over her eight rivals. Since the beginning of May, she’s cranked out half a dozen timed workouts at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, culminating with a couple of half-mile gate breezes in :47 3/5 and :47 4/5.

Well-bred first-time starters #3 Speedometer (3-1) and #8 Hazy Command (5-2) are other logical contenders for hot connections, but we’ll place our faith in Pretty Birdie. In addition to a $10 win bet (capitalizing on the Churchill Downs Bet Back offer), we’ll play Pretty Birdie on top of exacta and trifecta tickets.

$10 to win on #4 Pretty Birdie
$5 Exacta: 4 with 3,8 ($10)
$2.50 Trifecta: 4 with 3,8 with 3,8 ($5)
Total: $25

Churchill Downs: Race 7: $25,000 Starter Allowance (1 3/16 miles, 3:50 p.m. ET)

#1 Colonelsdarktemper (6-5) has been unstoppable since returning from a long layoff in April. After using pace-tracking tactics to win a $25,000 claimer at Churchill by four lengths, the seven-year-old veteran absolutely shredded a $25,000 starter allowance over the same track, leading all the way to trounce his pursuers by 8 1/2 lengths.

This effort produced a career-best 101 Brisnet Speed rating, and since Colonelsdarktemper sprinted the final five-sixteenths of a mile in a rapid :29.66, there’s no reason to think he’ll struggle while stretching out from 1 1/16 miles to 1 3/16 miles. He has plenty of back class to his credit, including a victory in the 2017 West Virginia Derby (G3), so it’s possible Colonelsdarktemper is in the process of regaining his best form.

We’ll confidently play Colonelsdarktemper on top of a trifecta while emphasizing the stoutly bred #6 Intrepid Heart (9-2) underneath.

$5 Trifecta: 1 with 6 with 4,5,7 ($15)
$5 Trifecta: 1 with 4,5,7 with 6 ($15)
Total: $30

Santa Anita: Race 4: Allowance Optional Claiming (six furlongs, 5:31 p.m. ET)

On his best day, #3 Liam’s Pride (8-1) is a capable sprinter. The son of Liam’s Map has shown flashes of talent, most notably overcoming a wide trip to rally and win the six-furlong Gold Fever S. at Belmont Park last summer.

Liam’s Pride subsequently finished last in three straight races, including a pair of graded stakes at Saratoga. This form is uninspiring, but Liam’s Pride has been freshened since September and enters off an encouraging series of workouts at Santa Anita, including a couple of five-furlong gate moves in 1:00 flat. If Liam’s Pride bounces back to his best off the layoff, he can spring a surprise as the longest shot in Friday’s compact field.

We’ll place a $20 win bet on Liam’s Pride and call it a day.

$20 to win on #3 Liam’s Pride

Carryover Watch

Arlington Park, Race 1: $42,866 Pick 8 carryover (3:25 p.m. ET)

In case you haven’t noticed, the Pick 8 carryover at Arlington Park is growing at a faster rate every day.

Since the carryover hasn’t been dispersed since May 29, you might assume the 20-cent bet is a jackpot-style wager. But this is incorrect. The Pick 8 is a traditional bet, paying out the daily pool (plus any carryover) to all winning bettors on a given day. It’s just that picking eight winners in a row is downright difficult, and no one has pulled off the feat in nearly three weeks.

The latest round of failed attempts came on Thursday, when seven of the eight races were won in upset fashion. Tickets containing seven winners returned $1,572.44 from a pool of $18,502, allowing the carryover to grow from $28,714 on Thursday to $42,866 for Friday. That’s a pretty big jump, and the daily increases figure to keep growing larger and larger until until someone manages to pick all eight winners.

If you want to join in and assemble a Pick 8 ticket for Friday, we recommend starting with horses conditioned by Arlington’s leading trainer, Larry Rivelli. The ultra-hot conditioner has won at a 41% rate since the start of the meet, but went 0-for-4 on Thursday. Rivelli has another four horses entered on Friday, so unless Rivelli is entering a cold streak, the stats suggest at least one (maybe two) will visit the winner’s circle.

Of the quartet, #7 Krewe Chief (2-1) in Race 8 looms as the most likely winner. The race in question offers complicated conditions; it’s a one-mile turf test for horses which have started for an $8,000 claiming tag in 2020-21, or for horses entered to be claimed for $14,000.

But any way you slice it, Krewe Chief has been facing tougher company. The eight-year-old veteran thrived over this course and distance two starts back, rallying to win a $20,000 allowance optional claimer by a neck over next-out winner Sniper Kitten.

Krewe Chief reiterated his strong form when finishing second over the same class level in a June 4 allowance over the Arlington Polytrack course. Returning to turf can send the son of Parading back to the winner’s circle under leading jockey Jareth Loveberry, a 44% winner when teaming up with Rivelli.

Singling Krewe Chief might not be the most appealing choice for bettors who enjoy playing longshots. But if he wins—even at a short price—we’ll be one step closer to snatching a share of the ever-increasing Pick 8 carryover.

Good luck!