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

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April 25th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Sunday, April 25 at Belmont Park and Santa Anita, along with thoughts on a pair of mandatory-payout carryovers at Hawthorne.

Picks and Plays

Belmont Park Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 1:00 p.m. ET)

#1 Proton Pack (1-2) looms as the logical favorite for trainer Wesley Ward, who excels when saddling two-year-olds in early-season maiden sprints. Sold for $210,000 as a yearling, the daughter of Ghostzapper enters off a series of encouraging workouts at Keeneland, including a solid half mile from the starting gate in :47 3/5 on April 12.

But don’t underestimate the chances of #2 Saucy Lady T (2-1), a James Chapman trainee who rallied after a troubled start to finish fourth in her April 2 debut at Keeneland. On Friday, Chapman saddled 10-1 longshot Kavod (likewise fourth in his debut at Keeneland) to upset a Wesley Ward firster in a maiden sprint for juveniles at Belmont, so there are reasons to believe Saucy Lady T can take a similar step forward under hot jockey Jose Ortiz.

We’ll bet Saucy Lady T to win and play her over Proton Pack in a cold exacta.

$20 to win on #2 Saucy Lady T
$10 Exacta: 2 with 1
Total: $30

Belmont Park Race 8: Allowance/Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 4:40 p.m. ET)

#4 Teetotaler (4-5) is the heavy favorite after rattling off easy maiden and allowance victories against New York-breds at Aqueduct. The daughter of Uncle Mo sold for $500,000 as a yearling and looks like a promising sort for hot trainer Chad Brown, who has gone 5-for-12 (42%) at Belmont this meet.

But I prefer the chances of #5 Iced Latte (2-1), who actually ran faster than Teetotaler on the Brisnet Speed rating scale when breaking her maiden over one mile at Gulfstream Park. A beautifully bred daughter of Pioneerof the Nile out of a Malibu Moon mare, Iced Latte is shipping north for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Irad Ortiz, who have teamed up to win at a 27% rate over the last two months.

Iced Latte has tactical speed and enters off a pair of bullet workouts at Palm Beach Downs, so let’s bet her to win and play her on top of cold exacta and trifecta tickets using Teetotaler for second place.

$15 to win on #5 Iced Latte
$10 Exacta: 6 with 4
$5 Trifecta: 6 with 4 with 2
Total: $30

Santa Anita Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/8 miles on turf, 5:02 p.m. ET)

#4 Rhythm and Grace (7-2) has made encouraging progress under the patient care of trainer John Shirreffs. After finishing fifth in her Nov. 21 debut sprinting over the Del Mar dirt, Rhythm and Grace returned from a four-month layoff to finish third in a one-mile grass race at Santa Anita, beaten just half a length after leading past the eighth pole.

This effort produced a solid 82 Brisnet Speed rating, and after breezing a bullet half mile in :47 1/5 on April 15, I’m optimistic Rhythm and Grace will take another step forward in her second start of the season. At 7-2, she’s worth betting to win and playing over #3 Witch Moon (3-1) in the exacta.

$25 to win on #4 Rhythm and Grace
$5 Exacta: 4 with 3
Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Hawthorne, Race 3: $4,250 Pick 6 Mandatory Payout
Hawthorne, Race 8: $33,569 Super High 5 Mandatory Payout

Closing day of the Hawthorne meet is on Sunday, which means a couple of jackpot carryovers are set for mandatory dispersal.

The $4,250 Pick 6 carryover is up first; the 20-cent wager kicks off in Race 3 (post time 5:06 p.m. ET) and continues through Race 8 (post time 7:26 p.m. ET). But the larger (and more enticing) carryover comes in the 20-cent Super High 5, which features a carryover pool of $33,569.

The Super High 5 is set to be dispersed in Race 8, a $15,000 claiming event which—of course—is the deepest race of the afternoon with a dozen entries. Fortunately for Super High 5 bettors (and for Pick 6 players hoping to keep ticket costs down), the one-mile turf test provides a potential standout in the form of #12 Empty Holster (6-1).

Outside posts have fared well in one-mile grass races at Hawthorne this meet, so drawing wide shouldn't be a major concern for Empty Holster. A son of Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) winner Suntracer, Empty Holster was last seen wiring a $6,250 maiden claiming race over the Hawthorne main track by 5 1/2 lengths. But he also displayed promising form against tougher company on turf last season, finishing second in a couple of $32,000 maiden claiming races at Tampa Bay Downs.

High-percentage trainer Larry Rivelli has gone 4-for-4 with turf starters at Hawthorne this meet, and hot jockey Jareth Loveberry (a 27% winner overall and a 29% winner when teaming up with Rivelli) is named to ride. If Empty Holster comes out running and seizes the early initiative, he can battle home on top at a nice price.

For Pick 6 purposes, Empty Holster looms as an enticing single. For the Super High 5, he’s a logical candidate to play on top, but that still leaves four other slots to fill. #2 Coming Up Aces (5-1), #8 Violent Fight (4-1), and #10 Pocket Player (7-2) and #11 Channel Stuffer (5-1) are obvious choices to catch the minor awards, but I’m also keen to support #1 Edison Fire (12-1), who brings tactical speed to the mix for hot trainer Manny Perez. Edison Fire has never run on turf, but if he handles the surface switch, he can be in the hunt at double-digit odds.

Let’s combine these five underneath Empty Holster in various combinations before hitting the “ALL” button for the final slot.

20-cent Super High 5: 12 with 2,10 with 2,10 with 1,8,11 with ALL ($9.6)
20-cent Super High 5: 12 with 2,10 with 1,8,11 with 2,10 with ALL ($9.6)
20-cent Super High 5: 12 with 2,10 with 1,8,11 with ALL with 2,10 ($9.6)
20-cent Super High 5: 12 with 2,10 with 2,10 with ALL with 1,8,11 ($9.6)
20-cent Super High 5: 12 with 1,8,11 with 2,10 with 2,10 with ALL ($9.6)
Total: $48

Good luck!