Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for Nov. 25

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November 25th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds, including a ticket for Churchill’s $42,774 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 Fair Grounds.
  • $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.
  • $10,000 Place Jackpot at Del Mar: Make a winning $5+ place bet in at least six races at Del Mar to win your share of a daily $500 jackpot.
  • Churchill Downs Bet Back 2nd and 3rd: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races at Churchill Downs.
  • Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 Bet $50 Get $10: Place a $50 wager on Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 or the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager to receive a $10 bonus.

Picks and Plays

Churchill Downs: Race 9: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 3:24 p.m. ET)

Did you know trainer Dallas Stewart has been pretty much unstoppable when debuting two-year-olds at Churchill Downs? His record with such runners in 2021 stands at a sensational 6-for-11 (55%), a powerful stat pointing toward #11 Art Heist (8-1) as a midrange longshot worth betting.

A son of juvenile Grade 1 winner Klimt, Art Heist has put together an encouraging work tab at Churchill, including a half-mile in :47 4/5 and five furlongs in 1:00 1/5. Hot jockey Tyler Gaffalione is named to ride, so we’ll take advantage of the Churchill Downs Bet Back 2nd and 3rd promotion and place a $10 win bet on Art Heist.

Logical favorite #6 All in Sync (5-2) can complete the exacta.

$10 to win on #11 Art Heist
$5 Exacta: 11 with 6
Total: $15

Fair Grounds: Race 7: Thanksgiving Classic (six furlongs, 4:12 p.m. ET)

#1 Necker Island (3-1), a veteran of the 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1), has found new life since cutting back in distance this fall. The son of Hard Spun smashed a seven-furlong allowance at Churchill Downs by 4 1/4 lengths before overcoming a troubled trip to win Churchill’s six-furlong Bet on Sunshine S. by a head.

Necker Island will have every chance to keep his momentum going in the Thanksgiving Classic. There should be enough pace to enhance his stretch rally, and jockey Mitchell Murrill (a 26% winner when teaming up with trainer Chris Hartman) is named to ride.

#4 Greeley and Ben (7-2), who brings a nine-race win streak to the table, can complete the exacta. But our first play will be a $10 win bet, in order to capitalize on the Midweek Bet Back offer.

$10 to win on #1 Necker Island
$5 Exacta: 1 with 4
Total: $15

Churchill Downs: Race 11: Falls City S. (G2, 1 1/8 miles, 4:22 p.m. ET)

The three-year-old filly #5 Army Wife (5-2) exits placed efforts in the Alabama S. (G1) and Cotillion S. (G1), events in which she finished behind only multiple graded stakes winners Malathaat, Clairiere, and Obligatory.  Prior to these game defeats, Army Wife posted decisive victories in the Iowa Oaks (G3) and Black-Eyed Susan S. (G2).

Army Wife is squaring off against older rivals in the Falls City, but she offers appeal as a fresh face in a field of veterans. Defending Falls City one-two finishers #4 Envoutante (7-2) and #6 Bonny South (9-5) are obvious contenders, but they haven’t been frequent winners this season, and Bonny South is a late runner at the mercy of the pace.

We’ll take a shot betting Army Wife on top of our tickets.

$10 to win on #5 Army Wife
$5 Exacta: 5 with 4,6 ($10)
Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs, Race 12: $42,774 Super High 5 carryover (4:50 p.m. ET)

The Super High 5 at Churchill Downs has proven remarkably elusive over the last week or so. The $1 wager has gone unsolved for three straight racing days, generating a hefty non-jackpot carryover of $42,774 for the Thanksgiving card.

The lucrative prize pool is up for grabs in Race 12, a $10,000 starter allowance held over one mile on the main track. Nine horses have been entered, which equates to 15,120 possible outcomes—a manageable sum. And truth be told, a handful of entrants appear to rank a cut above their rivals, further simplifying the handicapping process.

Here are the three horses we’ll emphasize in the Super High 5:

#1 Tiz Light the Way (5-1): After smashing a $10,000 claimer at Churchill by 20 3/4 lengths, Tiz Light the Way came back to finish fourth in a $10,000 starter allowance over the same track, beaten only 4 1/4 lengths in his first start for hot trainer Chris Hartman. Since Hartman wins at a 33% rate with horses running back for the second time following a claim, Tiz Light the Way is a candidate to show improvement on Thursday. A competitive effort should be in the offing.

#3 Exulting (5-2): Runner-up in a stakes at Indiana Grand during the summer, Exulting hasn’t missed the board in nine dirt starts this season and enters off a solid runner-up effort in an $8,000 starter allowance at Churchill. Freshened since Sept. 24, the eight-year-old gelding brings a bevy of competitive Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix and retains the services of hot jockey Gaffalione. While not a lock to win, Exulting is a logical favorite worth respecting.

#9 Thirsty Betrayal (3-1): A trifecta finisher in his last six starts (including a quartet of $10,000 starter allowances), Thirsty Betrayal enters off a game runner-up effort over this class level sprinting seven furlongs at Churchill. Stretching out over one mile is a question mark, but it’s worth noting Thirsty Betrayal is conditioned by high-percentage trainer Matt Shirer, who wins at a 35% rate with horses switching from sprints to routes. And in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, Thirsty Betrayal is fast enough to contend here.

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

$1 Super High 5: 1,3,9 with 1,3,9 with 1,3,9 with 4,5,6 with 4,5,6,8 ($54)
$1 Super High 5: 1,3,9 with 1,3,9 with 4,5,6 with 1,3,9 with 4,5,6,8 ($54)
Total: $108

Good luck!