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

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September 17th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Sept. 17 at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, plus horses to single in enticing non-jackpot carryovers at Belmont and Arlington Park.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Churchill Downs Bet Back: Get the value of your win bet back in bonus credit (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in eligible races from Sept. 17 through Oct. 3 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 Randwick (Australia).

Picks and Plays

Belmont Park: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles on turf, 2:34 p.m. ET)

Since 2018, trainer Christophe Clement has gone 5-for-15 (33%) saddling experienced juveniles in turf routes at Belmont Park. This solid stat bodes well for the chances of #3 Gal in a Rush (6-1), who is making her second career start in this two-turn turf test for juvenile fillies.

Gal in a Rush ran okay in her debut sprinting six furlongs on dirt at Saratoga, gaining meaningful ground down the homestretch to finish sixth by 3 3/4 lengths. The quality of the field was strong, as both the winner (Miss Interpret) and the runner-up (Lemieux) returned to win their next starts. Miss Interpret actually came back to claim the P. G. Johnson S. at Saratoga.

As a daughter of Ghostzapper out of a Dynaformer mare, Gal in a Rush is bred to handle turf, so switching surfaces may produce a much-improved effort. Since her 6-1 morning line odds are enticing, we’ll bet Gal in a Rush to win and call it a day.

$20 to win on #3 Gal in a Rush

Churchill Downs: Race 5: $30,000 Maiden Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Although #11 Loonshot (6-1) was beaten 24 lengths in his lone dirt run to date, there were extenuating circumstances. The Kenny McPeek trainee was making his debut in a one-mile maiden special weight and surely wasn’t cranked for a peak effort. For another, he was facing quality competition—stablemate Tiz the Bomb won by 14 1/4 lengths before coming back to nab the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile S.

Loonshot took a step forward in a $30,000 maiden claimer racing one mile over the Ellis Park turf course last month, rallying gamely to finish second by half a length. He’s eligible to improve again while returning to dirt and sticking to the same class level, so we’ll capitalize on the Churchill Downs Bet Back promotion and place a $10 win bet on Loonshot.

For good measure, we’ll add an exacta using #4 Relativlea (8-1) and #10 Keen Mind (7-2) for second place.

$10 to win on #11 Loonshot
$5 Exacta: 11 with 4,10 ($10)
Total: $20

Churchill Downs: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 3:50 p.m. ET)

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen performs strong work saddling experienced juveniles during the Churchill Downs September meet. Four of his last eight starters under these conditions have visited the winner’s circle, a 50% strike rate stamping #4 Fabulous Fanny (2-1) as the filly to beat in this seven-furlong dash for juvenile fillies.

Fabulous Fanny ran well in her debut sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga, overcoming early trouble to unleash a midrace move and ultimately finish third with an 80 Brisnet Speed rating. If she improves at all with an unencumbered journey at Churchill Downs, Fabulous Fanny can make her second start a winning one.

Continuing with the Churchill Downs Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Fabulous Fanny. #1 Catwings (3-1) and #5 Southern Miss (12-1) are the two we’ll add for exacta purposes.

$10 to win on #4 Fabulous Fanny
$5 Exacta: 4 with 1,5 ($10)
Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Belmont Park, Race 4: $44,799 Pick 6 carryover (2:34 p.m. ET)

Looking for a non-jackpot carryover to play on Friday? Then you’re advised to check out Belmont Park’s $1 Pick 6, which boasts a lucrative $44,799 prize pool.

Finding a potential single to build tickets around is difficult, though #7 Jaxon Traveler (5-2) in Race 7 offers some appeal. Eight sophomore colts will sprint six furlongs on turf in the Allied Forces S., which should be an ideal fit for Jaxon Traveler. The son of Munnings has cracked the exacta in eight of his nine starts, and you can argue his lone miss was actually his strongest effort to date.

Indeed, Jaxon Traveler ran just fine when finishing third in the 5 1/2-furlong Quick Call S. (G3) over the Saratoga turf course this summer. After tracking Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) winner Golden Pal through quick fractions, Jaxon Traveler weakened only slightly to finish 3 1/2 lengths away from victory.

If Jaxon Traveler repeats this effort while facing easier competition in the Allied Forces, he’ll be tough to beat. Jaxon Traveler figures to sit a perfect trip stalking #2 Momos (8-1) through the early going, setting the stage for a comfortable victory.

Arlington Park, Race 1: $1,317 Pick 8 carryover (3:25 p.m. ET)
Arlington Park, Race 2: $5,720 Pick 7 carryover (3:54 p.m. ET)
Arlington Park, Race 3: $1,941 Pick 6 carryover (4:26 p.m. ET)

Not one—not two—but three non-jackpot carryovers are up for grabs on Friday at Arlington Park. There were enough upsets across Thursday’s eight-race card to trigger carryovers in the 20-cent Pick 6, 20-cent Pick 7, and 20-cent Pick 8.

The sequences look competitive, and finding viable singles is challenging, though #1 Get Hammered (8-5) in Race 6 looms as a possible option. The event is question is a $50,000 allowance optional claimer held over six furlongs on Polytrack, which should suit Get Hammered just fine. The five-year-old gelding has won three straight races over this course and distance, most recently leading all the way to dominate a $40,000 allowance optional claimer by 6 1/4 lengths.

Conditioned by high-percentage trainer Larry Rivelli, Get Hammered will have every opportunity to set the pace while breaking from the rail under hot jockey E.T. Baird. That’s significant since 52% of Arlington’s six-furlong Polytrack sprints are won in gate-to-wire fashion. There’s a fair amount of speed in Friday’s field, but if Get Hammered breaks alertly, a fourth consecutive victory can come his way.

Good luck!