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

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November 18th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $99 worth of picks and plays for Thursday, Nov. 18 at Gulfstream Park, Aqueduct, and Churchill Downs, including tickets for Gulfstream’s $2,240 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 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 $3,000 this week, due to not being hit the previous two weeks! Offer applies to the early Pick 4 (Races 3-6) at Hoosier Park every Thursday from Aug. 19 through Dec. 2.

Picks and Plays

Gulfstream Park: Race 2: $35,000 Maiden Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 12:57 p.m. ET)

Speed is dominant in 5 1/2-furlong dirt sprints at Gulfstream, with pacesetters winning 44% of the time. With this in mind, we’ll support #7 Leviosa (9-5), who brings plenty of tactical speed to the equation.

A daughter of two-time juvenile graded stakes winner Kantharos, Leviosa tracked a fast pace when finishing fourth in her debut against maiden special weight company, with a pair of next-out winners among her conquerors. Then Leviosa switched to turf for a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park, where she pressed a fast pace before weakening to finish fourth.

Dropping in class for her first start since Aug. 4 can send Leviosa to the winner’s circle. Trainer Saffie Joseph wins at a lofty 34% rate with horses transitioning from maiden special weight to maiden claiming company, and jockey Edgard Zayas has won at a 40% rate teaming up with Joseph over the last two months.

#8 Arete’s Chalice (3-1), runner-up in a $35,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream two starts back, can complete a cold exacta.

$20 to win on #7 Leviosa
$10 Exacta: 7 with 8
Total: $30

Aqueduct: Race 3: $45,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (one mile, 1:19 p.m. ET)

The undefeated sophomore #7 Nicky the Vest (9-5) is the morning line favorite after dominating his first two starts racing one mile at Aqueduct, including the Gander S. But the son of Runhappy hasn’t run since February and is stepping up against older rivals for the first time, so victory isn’t guaranteed.

Instead, we’ll take our chances with #4 Thorny Tale (2-1), a five-year-old gelding conditioned by hot trainer Jamie Ness. The son of Forty Tales has won five of his last seven starts, most recently using his excellent tactical speed to nab a $16,000 starter optional claimer at Parx with a 100 Brisnet Speed rating.

Thorny Tale has run faster than Nicky the Vest on paper, and his strong recent form is appealing. We’ll bet him to win (taking advantage of the Midweek Bet Back promotion) before playing him over Nicky the Vest in a cold exacta.

$10 to win on #4 Thorny Tale
$10 Exacta: 4 with 7
Total: $20

Churchill Downs: Race 3: $20,000 Starter Allowance (1 1/16 miles, 2:00 p.m. ET)

#1 Thomas Shelby (3-5) is going to be tough to beat for high-percentage trainer Robertino Diodoro. The son of Curlin enters off back-to-back $80,000 allowance optional claiming wins at Saratoga and Keeneland, where he led all the way to earn flashy Brisnet Speed ratings of 101 and 100.

Thomas Shelby is the lone frontrunner in Thursday’s small field, and dropping in class figures to give the five-year-old gelding an insurmountable advantage.

#3 Leader of Men (8-1), runner-up in a $32,000 claimer at Keeneland last month, should have enough tactical speed to follow Thomas Shelby around the track and complete a cold exacta.

$25 Exacta: 1 with 3


Carryover Watch

Gulfstream Park, Race 1: $2,240 Super High 5 carryover (12:30 p.m. ET)

Get ready! The Thursday card at Gulfstream Park begins with a bang in Race 1, where a $2,240 carryover is up for grabs in the $1 Super High 5.

The race in question is a $35,000 maiden claimer for juveniles sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs over the main track. Nine horses have been entered, but on paper, a few stand out above the rest.

The logical favorite, and a horse to emphasize, is #4 Fishing for Fun (9-5). The son of Uncaptured cracked the trifecta in his first three starts at Gulfstream Park, including a close runner-up effort in a $50,000 maiden claimer. He failed to fire in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Belmont Park last month, finishing last after tracking the early pace, but he’s eligible to bounce back while dropping in class and returning to Gulfstream Park.

Fishing for Fun’s primary competition figures to come from #7 Hey Hombre (3-1). The bay colt exits a pair of third-place finishes in maiden special weights restricted to Florida-breds, including a solid effort sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on Oct. 2. With Brisnet Speed ratings of 76 and 75 under his belt, Hey Hombre is pretty much on even terms with Fishing for Fun, who threw down figures of 77, 77, and 73 in his first three starts.

If we count on either Fishing for Fun or Hey Hombre to prevail, with the other finishing second or third, we can box three horses for the remaining three slots and still play the Super High 5 on a modest budget.

We’ll start by including #1 Mischievous Guy (8-1), an unraced youngster sired by Into Mischief, whose progeny win at a solid 15% rate on debut. Trainer Rohan Crichton compiles a similar 16% win rate with horses debuting in maiden claiming races, and Mischievous Guy has shown excellent speed during morning workouts, suggesting he’ll be a key player for the minor awards.

#5 Commanding (7-2), a first-time starter from the barn of hot trainer Carlos David, is another logical contender. We’ll round out our tickets with #6 I’ll Finish (6-1), who adds blinkers after disappointing in a maiden special weight for Florida-breds at Gulfstream. Keep in mind, trainer Eddie Plesa wins at a 26% rate with second-time starters.

Here’s how we’ll bet the Super High 5:

$1 Super High 5: 4,7 with 4,7 with 1,5,6 with 1,5,6 with 1,5,6 ($12)
$1 Super High 5: 4,7 with 1,5,6 with 4,7 with 1,5,6 with 1,5,6 ($12)
Total: $24

Good luck!