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

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November 17th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Nov. 17 at Churchill Downs and Turf Paradise, including a ticket for Churchill’s $3,491 Super High 5 carryover.

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 Turf Paradise.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Happy Valley (Hong Kong).

Picks and Plays

Churchill Downs: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (seven furlongs, 1:30 p.m. ET)

#5 Osbourne (6-5) and #2 Hitting Bombs (7-5) look like standouts in this seven-furlong sprint for juveniles. Osbourne finished second in his debut dashing six furlongs at Churchill, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by next-out Street Sense S. winner Howling Time. Meanwhile, Hitting Bombs exits a runner-up effort in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Churchill.

We’ll give a narrow edge to Hitting Bombs, a son of hot young sire Gun Runner. Two starts back, Hitting Bombs rallied to finish fourth in a deep 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Keeneland, with future Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) third-place finisher Giant Game and next-out winner Call Me Midnight among his conquerors.

Cutting back to seven furlongs can potentially trigger an improved performance from Hitting Bombs, who has lost ground from the eighth pole to the finish line in both of his route runs. We’ll bet Hitting Bombs over Osbourne in a cold exacta.

$25 Exacta: 2 with 5

Churchill Downs: Race 3: $15,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs, 2:00 p.m. ET)

#4 Steely Danza (4-5) is an obvious choice to win this six-furlong sprint. Whereas none of his rivals have posted a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 74, Steely Danza owns three figures in the 83-89 range.

Steely Danza has finished second in his last two starts over the Churchill Downs main track, both times while facing tougher company than he’ll encounter on Wednesday. During the spring, Steely Danza employed pace-pressing tactics to finish second by a head in a $30,000 maiden claimer. And last time out, the son of Danza set the pace in a $20,000 maiden claimer before weakening slightly to finish a length away from victory.

Dropping down to the $15,000 level can send Steely Danza straight to the winner’s circle under hot jockey Tyler Gaffalione, a 24% winner at Churchill this meet. We’ll bet him on top of an exacta using #2 Loot the Moon (3-1) and #6 Gunduz (12-1) for second place.

$15 Exacta: 4 with 2,6 ($30)

Turf Paradise: Race 7: $15,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (one mile on turf, 5:53 p.m. ET)

Speed horses have been dominant in the handful of one-mile grass races held at Turf Paradise so far this meet, a statistic suggesting #4 Cernan (5-2) is well worth supporting on Wednesday.

Conditioned by ultra-hot trainer Robertino Diodoro (8-for-14 to start the meet), Cernan has finished second in three of his last four grass runs at Canterbury Park, including a narrow defeat in a 7 1/2-furlong allowance two starts back. The son of Malibu Moon boasts plenty of tactical speed and is adding blinkers for his return from a three-month break, setting the stage for a pacesetting trip under hot jockey Lindey Wade.

#3 Vintage Kitten (7-2), a son of Kitten’s Joy dropping in class out of five tougher races at Presque Isle Downs, can round out the exacta for trainer Marcus Vitali (3-for-4 this meet). But our first play will be a $10 win bet on Cernan, in order to capitalize on the Midweek Bet Back promotion.

$10 to win on #4 Cernan
$10 Exacta: 4 with 3
Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs, Race 9: $3,491 Super High 5 carryover (5:06 p.m. ET)

The Churchill Downs racing week kicks off on Wednesday with a $3,491 Super High 5 carryover up for grabs in Race 9, a $15,000 maiden claimer for fillies and mares racing one mile over the main track.

The field looks competitive on paper, though a quartet of sophomore fillies appear to rank a cut above their rivals:

#1 Purrfect Love (3-1): Ran fine in a $15,000 maiden claimer sprinting six furlongs at Churchill 10 days ago, rallying from midpack to finish third with a 74 Brisnet Speed ration. The daughter of Belmont S. (G1) runner-up Commissioner has the pedigree to stretch out over a one-turn mile and retains the services of hot jockey Brian Hernandez, a 23% winner this meet.

#5 Temple Belle (5-2): After making her first five starts on turf and synthetic, Temple Belle switched to dirt for a $15,000 maiden claimer over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland, where she led into the stretch before failing by a neck to secure the victory. That effort marked her first start since being claimed by trainer Joe Sharp, who wins at a 24% rate with horses running back for the second time following a claim. Throw in jockey Tyler Gaffalione, and Temple Belle looms as a key player for victory.

#6 Wicked Ecstasy (8-1): Indiana Grand shipper hasn’t run quite as fast as the other primary contenders in Wednesday’s field, though she displayed solid tactical speed when finishing second in a $16,000 maiden claimer racing one mile on Oct. 21. The daughter of Wicked Strong has cracked the exacta in two of her four starts on dirt and looms as a logical choice for the minor awards.

#10 Supertaleofhoudini (3-1): Daughter of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Super Saver has hit the board a couple of times against $50,000 maiden claiming company at Churchill Downs, so dropping down the class ladder can trigger a competitive effort in her first start for trainer Jason Barkley. Adding blinkers and stretching out from a sprint to a route likewise offer potential for improvement.

Using these four fillies as the basis for our ticket, here’s how we’ll bet the Super High 5:

$1 Super High 5: 1,5,10 with 1,5,6,10 with 1,5,6,10 with 1,5,6,10 with 2,4,7 ($54)

Good luck!