Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for May 14

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May 14th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Friday, May 14 at Churchill Downs, Lone Star Park, and Pimlico, along with possible singles in a trio of carryovers at Arlington Park.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Preakness Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in any race at Pimlico.
  • Churchill Downs Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races at Churchill Downs.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Doomben in Australia.
  • Lone Star Million Bet Club: Wager at least $100 (excluding show bets) at Lone Star Park on any day from April 22-May 23 and receive $5 to wager at Lone Star on Lone Star Million day, May 31. Wager at least $100 every day from April 22-May 23 and earn an additional $100 bonus. Wager at least $10,000 at Lone Star from April 22-May 23 and receive an additional $500 bonus.

Picks and plays

Churchill Downs, Race 5: Maiden special weight (five furlongs, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Trainer Norm Casse has compiled five wins from 17 starts with debuting two-year-olds at Churchill Downs, which suggests #1 Just Call Ray (5-1) is worth betting in this five-furlong dash for juveniles.

A son of Mohayman (who went undefeated in three starts, with two graded stakes wins, at age two), Just Call Ray has put together a solid work tab at Churchill Downs. The gray colt has breezed a half-dozen times since the beginning of April and enters off back-to-back bullet breezes, including a swift half mile in :47 3/5.

To take advantage of the Churchill Downs Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Just Call Ray. But we’ll also play him on top of a small trifecta, with logical favorites #3 Heaven Street (4-1), #7 Tejano Twist (3-1), and #9 Baby Quinn (4-1) underneath.

$10 to win on #1 Just Call Ray
$1 trifecta: 1 with 3,7,9 with 3,7,9 ($6)
Total: $16

Lone Star Park, Race 8: Maiden special weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 6:51 p.m. ET)

Many bettors figure to favor first-time starter #8 Eagle Expess (7-2), who represents trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Stewart Elliot. Asmussen has 15 wins from 46 starts with debuting two-year-olds at Lone Star since 2016.

But don’t sleep on the chances of #1 Rebecca G (9-2). Trainer Scott Gelner has two wins from five starts with juvenile first-time starters at Lone Star since 2016, and Rebecca G brings a speed-oriented pedigree. Sire Custom for Carlos was a three-time Grade 3-winning sprinter who sires 14% debut winners, while dam Harlie’s Dreams won stakes sprinting and running long.

As a January foal, Rebecca G may have a subtle maturity advantage over Eagle Express, who was born in March. Rebecca G’s work tab looks solid, so let’s bet her to win and play her on top of exacta and trifecta tickets. Our $30 worth of plays is a good start toward the $100 necessary to earn a bonus through the Lone Star Million Bet Club offer.

$16 to win on #1 Rebecca G
$8 exacta: 1 with 8
$2 trifecta: 1 with 8 with 5,6,7 ($6)
Total: $30

Pimlico, Race 12: Pimlico Special (G3, 1 3/16 miles, 5:12 p.m. ET)

#1 Modernist (6-1) is bred top and bottom to relish 1 3/16 miles, and he has already run one good race at the distance, when he finished third in the 2020 Louisiana Derby (G2).

Trained by Bill Mott, Modernist is a two-time graded stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles, and most recently employed pace-tracking tactics to win the Excelsior (G3) at Aqueduct by 2 1/2 lengths.

He might not be the fastest horse entered in the Pimlico Special, but post 1 sets the stage for a ground-saving trip under jockey Junior Alvarado, a 31% winner when he teams up with Mott over the last two months.

We’ll take advantage of the Preakness Money Back offer and place a $10 win bet on Modernist. Then we’ll play him on top of a small exacta, with longshots #4 Enforceable (10-1), #5 Max Player (12-1), #6 Prioritize (10-1), and #8 Cordmaker (15-1) underneath.

$10 to win on #1 Modernist
$1 exacta: 1 with 4,5,6,8
Total: $14

Carryover watch

Arlington Park, Race 1: $6,330 Pick 8 Carryover
Arlington Park, Race 2: $3,713 Pick 7 Carryover
Arlington Park, Race 3: $10,766 Pick 6 Carryover

One… two… three carryovers at Arlington Park? That’s right. The Illinois racetrack offers non-jackpot, 20-cent Pick 6, Pick 7, and Pick 8 wagers on every card, and since bettors failed to hit a single sequence Sunday, all three wagers bring small but enticing carryovers to the picture for Friday.

The final six races on the card (Races 3-8) feature in each sequence, so we’ve gone through the entries in search of potential singles to help keep ticket costs down.

Race 3 ($20,000 maiden claiming): #5 Grapevine (7-2)

This one-mile turf test contains hardly any pace, which makes Grapevine an appealing choice. The daughter of Flatter has shown speed in sprints and even set the pace in a five-furlong maiden special weight at Woodbine last summer.

Grapevine wasn’t disgraced in her turf and route debut at Tampa Bay Downs two months ago, when she finished a troubled sixth (upgraded to fifth via disqualification) in a $32,000 maiden claiming race.

Grapevine has the pedigree to stretch out to one mile and picked up jockey Jareth Loveberry, a 23% winner at Arlington. Grapevine is the 7-2 third choice on the morning line, so she’ll be a valuable single if she delivers as hoped.

Race 5 ($35,000 maiden claiming): #5 Three Amigos (7-5)

Three Amigos has shown promise against tougher company on turf, where he finished second in a $50,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Park and came home third in a maiden special weight at Keeneland. The Brisnet Speed ratings he posted (83 and 87) are superior to the figures posted by any of his rivals at Arlington.

Trainer Brendan Walsh wins at a 20% rate with horses who drop from maiden special weight to maiden claiming company, so if Three Amigos handles the switch from turf to Polytrack, he can cruise home on top at a short price.

Race 7: ($50,000 allowance/optional claiming): #5 Summer Assault (7-2)

Summer Assault employed pace-tracking tactics to win the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury last summer, which stamps the four-year-old gelding as one of the most accomplished horses in this one-mile grass race.

The son of Summer Front kicked off 2021 with a deceptively good effort in a 1 1/16-mile allowance over the Keeneland lawn. Although Summer Assault finished last, he was only beaten five lengths, after he carved out the pace, and remained in contention until the eighth pole.

Summer Assault has the tactical speed to stay out of trouble in Friday’s eight-horse field, and jockey Jareth Loveberry (who was aboard in the Mystic Lake Derby) has retained the mount. Trainer Michele Boyce wins at a 16% rate with horses running back for the second time following a layoff, so all signs suggest Summer Assault will be tough to beat at Arlington.

Good luck!