Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 23

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 23rd, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Friday, April 23 at Belmont Park and Keeneland, including tickets for Keeneland’s mandatory-payout Super High Five carryover.

Picks and plays

Belmont Park, Race 3: Allowance/optional claiming (6 1/2 furlongs, 2:02 p.m. ET)

#1 Miss Brazil (1-2) is the heavy favorite, following a productive winter campaign at Aqueduct.

The daughter of Palace Malice dominated the seven-furlong Ruthless S., before she finished second in the one-mile Busher S., when she was beaten just a half-length by next-out Gazelle (G3) winner and undefeated Kentucky Oaks (G1) contender Search Results.

A cut back in distance and drop into allowance company should help Miss Brazil bounce back to the winner’s circle. Trainer Anthony Dutrow wins at a 30% rate with horses running back after 46-90 days off, and Miss Brazil has been training up a storm at Belmont, where she most recently rocketing a bullet half-mile in :46 flat. With three-time champion jockey Irad Ortiz aboard, Miss Brazil will be tough to catch.

The Grade 1-placed #3 Slam Dunk (7-2) won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Gulfstream during the winter and can follow Miss Brazil around the track to complete a cold exacta. But we’ll also play a small trifecta, with #5 Invaluable (4-1) for third place.

$20 exacta: 1 with 3
$5 trifecta: 1 with 3 with 5
Total: $25

Keeneland, Race 5: Allowance (1 1/8 miles on turf, 3:18 p.m. ET)

I’m keen to support the coupled entrymates #1 Cellist (7-2) and #1A Blue Cat (7-2) in this competitive turf test for three-year-olds. But more specifically, I’m keen to support Blue Cat, who flashed signs of significant talent at Tampa Bay Downs during the winner.

A stoutly bred son of turf champion Big Blue Kitten, out of an A.P. Indy mare, Blue Cat is bred top and bottom to thrive racing 1 1/8 miles. He has displayed powerful finishing speed in his first two starts racing one mile.

After he dominated his debut by 3 1/2 lengths, with a final furlong in just more than :11, Blue Cat finished a deceptively good fourth in the Columbia S., when he rallied belatedly, behind quick fractions, with a final furlong in :11 2/5.

Blue Cat has since been gelded and enters off a bullet half-mile workout at Churchill Downs. All signs suggest he is capable of producing an improved performance Friday, so let’s bet Blue Cat to win and play him over Columbia runner-up #5 Crew Dragon (5-2) in a small exacta.

$20 to win on #1A Blue Cat
$5 exacta: 1 with 5
Total: $25

Keeneland, Race 9: Bewitch S. (G3, 1 1/2 miles on turf, 5:30 p.m. ET)

I absolutely loved the performance turned in by #8 War Like Goddess (7-2) to win the 1 3/8-mile Orchid (G3) at Gulfstream last month.

The daughter of English Channel had a ton of ground to make up with just three furlongs remaining, but somehow dashed the distance in a rapid :34.20 to win by a nose.

War Like Goddess is bred to relish long distances on turf, so the stretch out over 1 1/2 miles in the Bewitch should make her even more formidable. Trainer Bill Mott has been hot at Keeneland this spring, with three wins from nine starts, and the Bewitch has arguably drawn an easier field than the Orchid. I’m expecting War Like Godddess to win right back.

A win bet will be our first order of business, but we’ll also play War Like Goddess on top of a trifecta, with the speedy Fair Grounds allowance winner #3 Three Flamingos (12-1) keyed underneath.

$20 to win on #8 War Like Goddess
50-cent trifecta: 8 with 3 with 2,4,6,7,11 ($2.50)
50-cent trifecta: 8 with 2,4,6,7,11 with 3 ($2.50)
Total: $25

Carryover watch

Keeneland: $13,110 Super High Five jackpot

The final day of the Keeneland spring meet boasts a $13,110 jackpot carryover in the 50-cent Super High Five.

The wager is offered in every race with seven or more betting interests (which is all except Races 4 and 6), and while a unique winning ticket is normally required to cash the jackpot, an exception will be made for the final offering of the day. Since the meet is coming to an end, a mandatory payout is on the agenda, with the entire jackpot (however large it grows) to be split among winning bettors.

Presumably, this will occur in Race 10, the finale of the afternoon. The event in question is a $50,000 maiden claiming sprint over seven furlongs on the main track, but the field attracted just seven starters, so a single scratch would leave Race 9 as the final opportunity to play the Super High Five.

Assuming there aren’t any scratches in Race 10, constructing a winning Super High Five ticket should be relatively straightforward. None of the experienced runners in the field have come close to the 86 Brisnet Speed rating par for the distance and class level, which suggests first-time starters could hold an advantage.

Chief among the debuting runners is #6 Tallaj (5-2), who hails from the barn of Keeneland’s top trainer, Wesley Ward. Sold for $150,000 as a yearling, the three-year-old gelding breezed a half-mile from the Keeneland starting gate in :47 2/5 earlier this month, which suggests he has at least a little talent. Ward wins at a 33% rate with horses debuting in maiden claiming races, and hot jockey Joel Rosario is named to ride, which stamps Tallaj as a deserving favorite.

Underneath, #7 Poseidon Wrath (9-2) is a logical contender, after he blazed a bullet half-mile from the Keeneland starting gate in :46 3/5.

Among the experienced runners, we have some interest in #5 Title Shot (4-1). Although Title Shot never factored in a maiden special weight at Oaklawn last month, trainer Wayne Catalano sends out 61% in-the-money finishers when he drops horses from maiden special weight to maiden claiming company, so Title Shot should improve in this easier spot.

We feel confident putting together Super High Five tickets along these lines.

50-cent Super High Five: 6 with 5,7 with 5,7 with 2,3,4 with 1,2,3,4 ($9)
50-cent Super High Five: 6 with 5,7 with 2,3,4 with 5,7 with 1,2,3,4 ($9)
Total: $18

If the mandatory payout of the Super High Five shifts to Race 9, our strategy (and the cost of our wagers) will shift considerably. We’ve already explained why War Like Goddess is the most likely winner, and we’re keen to support the speedy Three Flamingos underneath. But we’ll spread deep for the remaining slots and use seven fillies and mares at the bottom of our tickets.

It’s an expensive play, and one I only recommend if the mandatory payout is on the line. But if we cash — and I think there’s a reasonable chance we will — the payoff should be well worth our investment.

50-cent Super High Five: 8 with 3 with 2,4,6,7,11 with 2,4,6,7,11 with 1,2,4,5,6,7,11 ($50)
50-cent Super High Five: 8 with 2,4,6,7,11 with 3 with 2,4,6,7,11 with 1,2,4,5,6,7,11 ($50)
Total: $100

Good luck!