Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for May 15
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Saturday, May 15 at Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Pimlico, along with suggested singles for Pimlico’s $116,208 Pick 6 carryover on Preakness day.
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 Newbury (UK).
- Weekend Pick 4 Winsurance: Get a 25% refund (up to $25) on losing Pick 4 tickets at Belmont Park.
- 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
Belmont Park Race 10: Soaring Softly S. (G3, seven furlongs on turf, 5:52 p.m. ET)
#6 Tobys Heart (5-2) is 3-for-3 in 5 1/2-furlong turf sprints, including a pair of stakes victories. The Brian Lynch trainee boasts a secret weapon—her absolutely sensational turn-of-foot. Just check out her triumph in the Limestone Turf Sprint S. at Keeneland last month, where she dashed the fifth furlong in :10.97 and the final sixteenth in :05.74 to overcome a moderate pace and win by half a length.
Stretching out over seven furlongs shouldn’t be an issue for Tobys Heart. Two starts back, she finished a deceptively good sixth in the 1 1/16-mile Herecomesthebride (G3). In her first start off a long layoff, Tobys Heart raced wide, but was in contention until the final furlong and was only beaten 5 3/4 lengths at the finish.
Let’s keep things simple and place a large win bet on Tobys Heart.
$50 to win on #6 Tobys Heart
Churchill Downs Race 11: Louisville S. (G3, 1 1/2 miles on turf, 5:58 p.m. ET)
#5 Fantasioso (10-1) ran just fine in his U.S. debut. Overlooked at 33-1 in the 1 1/2-mile Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland, Fantasioso rallied from the back of the pack to finish fourth, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths against a strong field including Northern Dancer (G1) winner Say the Word, and next-out Man o’ War (G1) hero Channel Cat.
Placed four times against Group 1 company in Argentina, Fantasioso is eligible to take a step forward in his second U.S. start. A full field of 14 has been entered in the Louisville, which should ensure the race unfolds at a solid tempo beneficial to Fantasioso’s stretch-running style.
Taking advantage of the Churchill Downs Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Fantasioso. Then we’ll play him on top of an exacta using logical favorite #10 Arklow (7-5) and longshots #3 Spooky Channel (10-1), #4 Strong Tide (15-1), and #11 Ajourneytofreedom (12-1) underneath.
$10 to win on #5 Fantasioso
$1 Exacta: 5 with 3,4,10,11 ($4)
Pimlico Race 6: Gallorette S. (G3, 1 1/16 miles on turf, 1:28 p.m. ET)
#5 Mean Mary (6-5) initially looks tough to beat in the Gallorette. The daughter of Scat Daddy looms as the main speed on paper and brings an accomplished resume to the table. In 2020, she won a trio of Grade 3 stakes in gate-to-wire fashion before finishing second by a neck in the Diana (G1).
But Mean Mary hasn’t run since November, and all three of her graded wins have come running 1 1/4 miles or farther. Cutting back to 1 1/16 miles is a bit of a question mark, which is why we’ll try to beat Mean Mary with #3 Flighty Lady (4-1).
Trained by Chad Brown (who excels at conditioning female grass horses), Flighty Lady placed at the Group 1 level in France and showed plenty of promise in her U.S. debut. Tackling a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance race at Aqueduct, Flighty Lady rallied strongly from mid-pack to trounce her rivals by two lengths.
If a slow pace unfolds in the Gallorette—which certainly seems likely—Flighty Lady can stay close to the lead and possibly out-kick Mean Mary in the drive. We’ll capitalize on the Preakness Money Back offer and place a $10 win bet on Flighty Lady, then play her over Mean Mary in a cold exacta.
$10 to win on #3 Flighty Lady
$6 Exacta: 3 with 5
Pimlico Race 8: $116,208 Pick 6 Carryover
While the Preakness (G1) is the obvious sporting highlight on Saturday’s action-packed card at Pimlico, handicappers might be just as excited about the $116,208 jackpot carryover in the Rainbow Pick 6. A challenging sequence featuring 58 horses (9.7 per race) and 732,160 possible outcomes is on tap, and several of the races appear practically inscrutable. Even with a 20-cent base bet, it will be difficult to construct a confident ticket on anything less than a $100 budget.
That said, if you would like to keep costs down, there are a pair of possible singles we can recommend. Just be forewarned that taking a stand in any of these races is a bold strategy with a lot of risk involved.
Race 10, Jim McKay Turf Sprint: #13 Completed Pass (7-2)
There is a ton of speed entered in this five-furlong turf dash, with at least five of the 13 entrants ranking as pure front-runners. That’s good news for Completed Pass, who has enough tactical speed to be involved from the outset, but also the tractability to avoid getting burned up in a destructive pace duel.
Completed Pass boasts a 2-for-3 record over the Pimlico turf course. He was beaten just a neck in the 2020 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, where he gained 4 3/4 lengths through the final furlong to miss victory by a neck. Completed Pass kicked off 2020 with a sharp pace-tracking victory in the King T. Leatherbury S., and with luck he’ll sit a perfect trip behind the speed on Saturday before rallying down the lane.
Race 12, Dinner Party S. (G2): #3 Kuramata (6-1)
The well-bred Kuramata has gone 2-for-2 since embarking on a U.S. campaign for trainer Chad Brown. The son of Australia rallied nicely to win a one-mile maiden race at Tampa Bay Downs, then stepped up to score by 2 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Aqueduct.
Most bettors figure to favor Kuramata’s stablemate #5 Sacred Life (7-5), but Sacred Life has gone just 2-for-8 in the U.S. and hasn’t proven up to winning at the graded stakes level. Three-time champion jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (a 32% winner when teaming up with Brown) is named to ride Kuramata, so I’m inclined to believe Kuramata has more upside than his stablemate.
Singling a 6-1 shot isn’t a strategy I recommend every day, but Kuramata strikes me as a talented prospect with a strong chance to outrun expectations in the Dinner Party.