Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Sept. 29

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 29th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, Sept. 29 at Delaware Park and Churchill Downs, including a midrange longshot in the First Dash S.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Churchill Downs Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Churchill Downs.
  • $1,000 Hoosier Park Pick 4 Hit It and Split It: Hit the early Pick 4 at Hoosier Park on any Thursday from July 14 through Oct. 13 to win your share of a $1,000 weekly jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Delaware Park: Race 6: First State Dash S. (six furlongs, 3:00 p.m. ET)

#6 Bandits Heart (5-2) is the most accomplished entrant in this six-furlong dash for Delaware-bred juveniles, having posted a gate-to-wire victory in the 5 1/2-furlong Dover S. over this track last month. But the 75 Brisnet Speed rating Bandits Heart posted isn’t the fastest figure in Thursday’s field.

From a Brisnet perspective, #5 Howgreatisnate (6-1) is the horse to beat. Conditioned by hot trainer Andrew Simoff (a 20% winner at Delaware this meet), Howgreatisnate obliterated his debut in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Delaware last month, charging from last place to beat four rivals—including next-out winner #4 Swifty Devil (10-1)—by 3 3/4 lengths.

If Howgreatisnate runs back to his debut, he can spring a 6-1 surprise in the First State Dash. We’ll bet the race accordingly, playing Howgreatisnate to win and keying him over Bandits Heart and #3 Lost Weekend (12-1) in the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #5 Howgreatisnate
  • $5 Exacta: 5 with 3,6 ($10)
    Total: $30

Churchill Downs: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 5:58 p.m. ET)

#6 Amaryllis (3-1) showed some spark in her debut sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs against maiden special weight company at Ellis Park. The Rodolphe Brisset trainee settled in midpack early before rallying to finish second behind next-out Churchill allowance optional claiming winner T Max.

Brisset’s 13% win rate with debuting runners jumps to 25% with second-time starters, so Amaryllis is eligible to move forward off her debut. Just as importantly, Brisset strikes at a 22% rate with horses running long for the first time, so stretching out over one mile should suit Amaryllis just fine.

We’ll look for #5 Steel Racer (15-1) or #7 Cotton Candy Annie (7-2) to complete the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #6 Amaryllis
  • $5 Exacta: 6 with 5,7 ($10)
    Total: $30

Churchill Downs: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 7:25 p.m. ET)

Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox has compiled an excellent 108-30-12-15 (28%) record with first-time starters this year, which includes a 6-2-1-1 (33%) record debuting juveniles at Churchill Downs during the current September meet.

These stats bode well for Cox’s unraced two-year-old #8 Double Barrel (3-1). A son of red-hot young stallion Gun Runner (who sires 19% winners from first-time starters), Double Barrel has put together a promising work tab at Ellis Park highlighted by a bullet five furlongs from the starting gate in 1:00 3/5.

Let’s bet Double Barrel to win (taking advantage of the Churchill Downs $10 Bet Back promotion) and key him over fellow first-time starters #1 Mobster (10-1) and #12 Sir Rock (8-1) in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #8 Double Barrel
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 1,12 ($10)
    Total: $20

Good luck!