Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for Nov. 11

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November 11th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $75 worth of picks and plays for Wednesday, Nov. 11 at Aqueduct and Churchill Downs, along with a rundown of carryovers and seeded pools at Churchill, Gulfstream Park, and Indiana Grand.

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 Aqueduct.
  • $16,000 Hoosier Park Pick 4 Hit It and Split It: Make a winning early Pick 4 wager at Hoosier Park to win a share of $1,000. Offer applies to the early Pick 4 (Races 3-6) at Hoosier Park every Thursday from Aug. 19 through Dec. 2.

Picks and Plays

Aqueduct: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (seven furlongs, 1:46 p.m. ET)

#8 Rock Sugar (8-1) displayed promising form over the Aqueduct main track last year. In a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight, the son of Frosted pressed the early pace, took over the lead, and ultimately held on to finish second behind next-out graded stakes winner Risk Taking. Among Rock Sugar’s beaten rivals were the future graded stakes-placed runners The Reds and Unbridled Honor.

This effort produced a 95 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in Thursday’s field. Rock Sugar has only run once since then, finishing seventh in a 1 1/16-mile grass race at Belmont Park last month, but returning to dirt should trigger a rebound. Rock Sugar enters off a bullet half-mile workout and will be racing with Lasix for the second time, a 32% winning move for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

Let’s bet Rock Sugar to win, then play him over logical favorite #6 Waxman (7-5) in the exacta.

  • $25 to win on #8 Rock Sugar
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 6
  • Total: $30

Aqueduct: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs on turf, 2:44 p.m. ET)

Since 2016, trainer Christophe Clement has compiled a strong 5-for-13 (38%) record debuting juveniles on grass at Aqueduct. In turf sprints specifically, Clement’s record stands at a terrific 3-for-4 (75%).

These percentages point toward Clement’s #8 Adelie (8-1) as a key contender for victory in this grass dash for two-year-olds. The Irish-bred filly has been breezing steadily over the turf training track at Saratoga and is bred top and bottom to thrive on grass—her half-brother Baron Samedi is a three-time graded stakes winner who nabbed the Belmont Gold Cup (G2) racing two miles on turf earlier this year.

Throw in the presence of jockey Dylan Davis (a 26% winner when teaming up with Clement over the last two months), and Adelie looks like a viable win candidate at an enticing price. We’ll take advantage of the Midweek Bet Back promotion and place a $10 win bet on Adelie, then play her over #2 Vaccine of Hope (7-2) and stablemate #11 Gem Mine (15-1) in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #8 Adelie
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 2,11 ($10)
  • Total: $20

Churchill Downs: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 3:36 p.m. ET)

In a race where the favorites have all lost on multiple occasions, #2 Wild Empress (10-1) may have room for upside. The two-year-old daughter of Empire Maker has only run once, flashing speed in her debut racing 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland before weakening to finish fifth.

There are reasons to believe Wild Empress can improve in her second start. For starters, she’s adding blinkers. For another, she’s slated to race on Lasix for the first time, a 26% winning move for trainer Conor Murphy. Finally, there isn’t a ton of speed on paper in Thursday’s field, so Wild Empress is eligible to shake loose on an uncontested lead. Who’s to say she won’t take a big step forward and spring a 10-1 surprise? Her half-sister She Be Wild was good enough to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) racing 1 1/16 miles at age two.

We’ll bet Wild Empress to win and play her over #1 Street Missy (2-1) and #3 Princess Lea (7-5) in the exacta.

  • $15 to win on #2 Wild Empress
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 1,3 ($10)
  • Total: $25

Carryover Watch

Gulfstream Park, Race 4: $47,524 Pick 5 carryover (1:54 p.m. ET)

The 50-cent Late Pick 5 at Gulfstream Park boasts a hefty $47,524 carryover, a prize well worth pursuing if you think you can decipher a sequence featuring 43 entries and 44,800 possible outcomes before scratches.

If you’re looking for a single to build tickets around, we might steer you toward Race 7, a $75,000 allowance optional claimer for juvenile fillies sprinting six furlongs. In terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, the fastest entrant is #4 Muted (1-1), and it’s safe to say she looks formidable.

A daughter of two-time leading sire Into Mischief, Muted dominated her debut sprinting six furlongs at Gulfstream, dueling for the early lead before powering clear to beat next-out winner Lady Baffled by 7 1/4 lengths. Then Muted squared off against males in a $75,000 allowance optional claimer over the same track and distance, where she carved out the pace before settling for second by half a length against Lightening Larry, who returned to place in a stakes.

These efforts earned Brisnet Speed ratings of 91 and 88, so if Muted brings her A-game while facing off against fellow fillies, she can deliver a short-priced victory.

Indiana Grand, Race 6: $50,000 Pick 5 seed (5:00 p.m. ET)

Thursday is closing day of the 2021 Indiana Grand racing season, and the track is celebrating by seeding the meet’s final Pick 5 pool with $50,000. It’s not exactly a carryover, but the end result is the same—bettors will be playing for bonus cash that reduces (or depending on the final pool size, eliminates) the already low 11.99% takeout rate.

Planning to play along? We’ve taken a race-by-race look at the sequence and assembled a proposed ticket on a $54 budget. You can check it out here.

Churchill Downs, Race 9: $3,244 Pick 5 carryover (5:06 p.m. ET)

The Thursday finale at Churchill Downs is a $50,000 starter allowance featuring a $3,244 Super High 5 carryover, though handicapping the $1 wager in advance is easier said than done.

High-percentage trainer Robertino Diodoro has entered the coupled entrymates #1 Leading West (5-1) and #1A Palace Coup (5-1), both key contenders on paper. But since both have jockey David Cohen named to ride, there’s a good chance one will scratch, making it difficult to plan wagers until race-day changes are announced.

However, it seems safe to call #9 Hombrazo (3-1) a key contender worth building tickets around. The gray four-year-old has improved substantially since being claimed by trainer Joe Sharp in the spring, posting Brisnet Speed ratings in the 91-96 range in three of his last four starts.

Hombrazo has been particularly strong at Churchill Downs, dominating a $30,000 claimer during the spring before coming back to finish second in a $50,000 starter allowance. Hombrazo has tactical speed and figures to sit a clean trip, so if you’re looking for a horse to key on top in the Super High 5, Hombrazo might be the one.

Good luck!