Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for May 1
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Saturday, May 1 at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, including a ticket for the mandatory-payout $99,382 Derby City Pick 6 carryover culminating with the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Before you place your wagers, be sure to opt in to the Kentucky Derby Week Money Back offer and receive a refund on your first win bet in any race (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third.
Picks and Plays
Belmont Park Race 10: Sheepshead Bay (G2, 1 3/8 miles, 5:37 p.m. ET)
#2 Mutamakina (5-1) caught my eye in two starts late last fall. Formerly based in France, the daughter of Nathaniel kicked off her U.S. campaign with a third-place effort in the 1 1/2-mile Zagora S. at Belmont, where she got hopelessly shuffled back on the far turn before re-rallying to finish just half a length away from victory.
A month later, Mutamakina ran even better in the 1 3/8-mile Long Island (G3) at Aqueduct. After rating several lengths behind pedestrian fractions of :26.10, :52.62, and 1:19.76, Mutamakina rocketed the final furlong in approximately :11.37 to surge up the rail and beat pacesetter Traipsing by three-quarters of a length.
The Sheepshead Bay is a super-competitive race with six graded stakes winners in the fold. But the distance is suitable for Mutamakina, and her 5-1 odds are enticing. We’ll bet Mutamakina to win and hope her turn-of-foot wins the day.
$25 to win on #2 Mutamakina
Churchill Downs Race 6: Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2, one mile on turf, 1:14 p.m. ET)
#4 Zofelle (2-1) kicked off 2021 with a convincing victory in the Marshua’s River (G3) at Gulfstream Park, where she unleashed an eye-catching rally around the far turn to beat next-out stakes winner Sweet Bye and Bye by two lengths.
Subsequently, Zofelle was compromised by a slow pace in Gulfstream’s Honey Fox (G3), which gave an advantage to the pace-tracking winner #5 Got Stormy (8-5). Nevertheless, Zofelle boldly sprinted her final quarter mile in :22.47 to gain three lengths and fall a nose short of victory.
There appears to be more speed in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, setting the stage for Zofelle to turn the tables on her Honey Fox conqueror. Capitalizing on the Kentucky Derby Week Money Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Zofelle, then single her to kick off a cold Pick 3.
$10 to win on #4 Zofelle
$10 Pick 3: 4 with 4 with 8
Churchill Downs Race 8: Pat Day Mile (G2, one mile, 2:48 p.m. ET)
Three of the last four Pat Day Mile winners were Road to the Kentucky Derby alumni who thrived on the cutback to a one-turn mile. With this in mind, I’m excited to support #8 Dream Shake (7-2).
Dream Shake was a flashy debut winner at Santa Anita, rallying boldly to dominate a 6 1/2-furlong sprint by 4 3/4 lengths. Quickly afterward, he jumped up in class and distance for the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1), running well with inside trips to finish third on both occasions.
I think it’s significant to note Dream Shake lost ground from the eighth pole to the finish line in both the San Felipe and the Santa Anita Derby, which hints cutting back to a one-turn mile will be perfect for the son of Twirling Candy. Following up with the Kentucky Derby Week Money Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Dream Shake and play him over #3 Jackie’s Warrior (3-1), #4 Defunded (6-1), #6 Starrininmydreams (5-1), and #11 Noble Reflection (15-1) in the exacta.
$10 to win on #8 Dream Shake
$3 Exacta: 8 with 3,4,6,11 ($12)
Churchill Downs Race 7: $99,382 Derby City Pick 6 Mandatory Payout
Get ready! Saturday’s Derby City Pick 6 at Churchill Downs is an all-stakes sequence featuring the mandatory payout of a $99,382 carryover. The final pool could certainly exceed one million dollars, considering Friday’s Derby City Pick 6 pool drew $866,981 even without a mandatory payout on tap.
Let’s take a race-by-race look at the Saturday sequence, then put together a $96 play:
Race 7: Derby City Distaff (G1)
#4 Gamine (1-5), the champion female sprinter of 2020, looms as a standout in this seven-furlong dash. The daughter of Into Mischief brings five straight triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix and is the lone speed on paper. She dominated the Las Flores (G3) to kick off 2021 and will almost certainly prevail here.
Race 8: Pat Day Mile (G2)
We’ll take a relative stand here with our top play #8 Dream Shake (7-2), plus the speedy morning-line favorite #3 Jackie’s Warrior (3-1). The latter, a two-time Grade 1 winner around one turn, is cutting back in distance following a pair of defeats in two-turn, 1 1/16-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby preps.
Race 9: American Turf (G2)
You can make a case for many in this 1 1/16-mile turf test for sophomores. #4 Annex (7-2) is a logical favorite after unleashing strong stretch kicks to win his first three starts at Gulfstream Park, but his advantage here appears tenuous. #1 Excellent Timing (10-1), #2 Winfromwithin (8-1), #12 Lucky Law (10-1), and #13 Scarlett Sky (4-1) all have the form and credentials to put up a fight.
Race 10: Churchill Downs S. (G1)
We’ll spread as deep as we can afford in this competitive seven-furlong sprint, since reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner #9 Whitmore (7-2)—although the most accomplished runner in the field—doesn’t win frequently enough to be a confident single. #3 Basin (8-1), #4 Flagstaff (3-1), #5 Tap It to Win (8-1), #7 Shashashakemeup (12-1), and #11 Hog Creek Hustle (15-1) all warrant inclusion.
Race 11: Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1)
Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) winner #3 Colonel Liam (3-1) boasts a 4-for-5 record on turf and enters off a powerful victory in the Muniz Memorial (G2), where he produced a 119 Brisnet Late Pace rating to overcome a slow pace and win comfortably. But #5 Domestic Spending (9-2) is likewise 4-for-5 on grass and showcased quite a turn-of-foot of his own to nab the Hollywood Derby (G1) last November. One or the other should take top honors.
Race 12: Kentucky Derby (G1)
Our top pick in the "Run for the Roses" is Blue Grass (G2) runner-up #17 Highly Motivated (10-1), who appears set for a career-best effort in his third start of the season. But this Derby looks pretty wide-open on paper, so we’ll spread deep with Florida Derby (G1) hero #1 Known Agenda (6-1), Louisiana Derby (G2) winner #9 Hot Rod Charlie (8-1), and the undefeated Blue Grass winner #14 Essential Quality (2-1).
20-cent Derby City Pick 6: 4 with 3,8 with 1,2,4,12,13 with 3,4,5,7,9,11 with 3,5 with 1,9,14,17 ($96)