Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for June 1

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June 1st, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Tuesday, June 1 at Indiana Grand and Thistledown, along with horses of note in the $156,142 Pick 5 carryover at Parx Racing.

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 Indiana Grand.
  • Build Your Indiana Derby Day Bankroll: Wager at least $1,000 (excluding show bets) at Indiana Grand in April, May, and/or June and receive $30 to wager at Indiana Grand on Indiana Derby day, July 7. Bet $1,000 at Indiana Grand in all three months and receive $150.

Picks and plays

Indiana Grand, Race 1: Maiden special weight (five furlongs, 2:25 p.m. ET)

#3 Casper Justice (9-5) looks ready to roll on debut. The two-year-old gelding has turned in a half-dozen workouts in preparation for his first run under colors, capped by a solid half-mile in :48 3/5 at Indiana Grand.

Casper Justice hails from the barn of Cipriano Contreras, who has a 3-3-1 record from 10 starts with debuting juveniles at Indiana Grand since 2018. Contreras won with his lone 2-year-old first-time starter this season, when he saddled Muddy Boots to a decisive, frontrunning victory Thursday, and I expect Casper Justice to produce a similar performance.

#2 Highcotton Justice (3-1), a half-brother to juvenile stakes winner and Indiana Grand debut winner Lookin At Justice, can battle with the filly #6 Compressed Energy (9-2) to complete the exacta.

$15 exacta: 3 with 2,6 ($30)

Indiana Grand, Race 4: $10,000 claiming (one mile and 70 yards, 3:58 p.m. ET)

There’s a reason #1 Aiken to Be Takin (3-5) is heavily favored in this $10,000 claimer for Indiana-breds. The daughter of Aikenite owns the best Brisnet Speed ratings in the field and has been competing with aplomb against allowance company at Indiana Grand, where she most recently finished third in a one-mile event May 17.

Aiken to Be Takin has plenty of tactical speed and looks tough to beat on the drop into the claiming ranks for trainer Genaro Garcia and jockey Marcelino Pedroza, 29% winners together over the last two months.

There isn’t a lot of value in betting Aiken to Be Takin to win, but since this race is part of the Midweek Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet and receive a refund if Aiken to Be Takin finishes second. Then we’ll bet the favorite on top of trifecta tickets, with longshot #6 Second Exchange (10-1) keyed underneath.

Second Exchange was beaten just a neck by Aiken to Be Takin in a $5,000 claimer at Indiana Grand last year and figures to improve on the stretch back out in distance, off a trio of encouraging sprint efforts.

$10 to win on #1 Aiken to Be Takin
$2.50 trifecta: 1 with 6 with 3,7 ($5)
$2.50 trifecta: 1 with 3,7 with 6 ($5)
Total: $20

Thistledown, Race 2: Maiden special weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 1:20 p.m. ET)

#7 Sammy’s Smile (6-1) looks live on debut in this maiden sprint for juveniles.

A son of Itsmyluckyday, who sires 14% winners from first-time starters, Sammy’s Smile was produced by the Pure Prize mare American Prize, who won her debut as a two-year-old exactly 14 years ago. American Prize later added the Silver Spur Breeders’ Cup S. to her accomplished juvenile résumé. Two of American Prize’s three foals to date raced (and won) as juveniles, including the stakes-placed Bold Johnny.

Throw in the fact that high-percentage trainer Jeffrey Radosevich wins at a 21% rate with first-time starters, and I think we have a recipe for victory. With hot jockey Luis Rivera aboard, Sammy’s Smile can sprint home on top at a nice price.

Assuming Sammy’s Smile’s 6-1 morning-line odds hold up, we’ll bet the bay colt to win and call it a day.

$25 to win on #7 Sammy’s Smile

Carryover watch

Parx, Race 6: $156,142 Philly Big 5 jackpot

The biggest carryover on the table for Tuesday is the $156,142 Philly Big 5 jackpot at Parx. The 50-cent Pick 5 wager features a 15% takeout rate, but only pays out the full jackpot if a unique winning ticket is sold. On days when multiple bettors cash tickets, 70% of the daily pool is dispersed among winning players, and 30% is added to the jackpot.

Tuesday’s sequence is tough to handicap without seeing the race-day changes. Two of the five races are slated to take place on turf, but because of wet weather, Parx didn’t conduct grass racing Monday. It’s unclear whether the course will dry out sufficiently to allow Tuesday’s turf races to go ahead as scheduled.

For the moment, we’ll focus our attention on the dirt races in the Philly Big 5 and highlight a logical single and a vulnerable favorite in two separate races.

Best single: Race 9, #5 Did I Stutter (7-2)

Did I Stutter has been a win machine since she was transferred to dirt under the care of high-percentage trainer Louis Linder, a 27% winner this year.

The daughter of Alternation has rattled off five consecutive victories at Aqueduct and Parx. She most recently blew apart a seven-furlong allowance by four lengths.

Did I Stutter has tactical speed and drew well in post 5, which sets the stage for a clean trip. She brings competitive Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix and looks tough to beat at a nice price.

Vulnerable favorite: Race 8, #6 Hybrid Eclipse (5-2)

Hybrid Eclipse was easily victorious in maiden and allowance races during the winter, but she failed to fire in the Weber City Miss S., when she faded from a pace-tracking position to finish last of six.

Hybrid Eclipse has the potential to bounce back on the drop in class, but the daughter of Paynter isn’t a standout in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings. #3 Flight to Shanghai (7-2), #7 Wonderwall (9-2), and #8 Peyton Elizabeth (5-1) have all run faster, so Hybrid Eclipse seems tough to trust at a short price, especially off a disappointing performance.

Good luck!