Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for May 2

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May 2nd, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Sunday, May 2 at Belmont Park, Lone Star Park, and Santa Anita, along with a potential single to conclude the $288,645 Rainbow Pick 6 carryover at Gulfstream Park.

Today's offers from TwinSpires include the Lone Star Millions Bet Club. Bet $100 (excluding show bets) at Lone Star in a single day and receive $5 to wager at Lone Star on Lone Star Million day (May 31).

Picks and Plays

Belmont Park Race 8: Ruffian (G2, one mile, 4:40 p.m. ET)

#4 Lake Avenue (7-5) was a dominant winner of the 2019 Demoiselle (G2) before failing to recapture her best form in 2020, going 0-for-4. The good news? Lake Avenue has bounced back better than ever in 2021.

Indeed, Lake Avenue dominated a seven-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park by 4 1/2 lengths before shipping north to Aqueduct, where she cruised to an easy 6 3/4-length victory in the one-mile Heavenly Prize S. The latter victory earned Lake Avenue a career-best 102 Brisnet Speed rating.

Sticking to a one-turn mile in the Ruffian should suit Lake Avenue just fine, and hot jockey Junior Alvarado (a 32% winner when teaming up with trainer Bill Mott) is slated to ride. We’ll play Lake Avenue on top of a trifecta emphasizing #2 Water White (5-1) and #6 Gibberish (8-1) underneath.

$5 Trifecta: 4 with 2,6 with 2,3,6 ($20)

Lone Star Park Race 3: Allowance (6 1/2 furlongs, 4:31 p.m. ET)

#4 Zarelda (6-5) is the morning line favorite after rallying to finish second in the April 22 Bluebonnet S. over this track and distance. But Zarelda was the beneficiary of a fast pace, and she seems unlikely to catch another favorable setup while wheeling back 10 days later against a five-horse field.

Let’s oppose Zarelda with #2 Take Charge Woman (6-1), who looms as the lone speed on paper. The daughter of Take Charge Indy finished second against allowance company on April 1 at Sam Houston, which followed a trio of so-so efforts over the Sam Houston turf.

During the summer of 2020, Take Charge Woman broke her maiden in gate-to-wire fashion over the Lone Star main track, and I’m optimistic she can post another gate-to-wire victory on Sunday. At 6-1, she’s worth betting to win and playing over Zarelda and #1 Rosie Jane (2-1) in the exacta and trifecta.

$15 to win on #2 Take Charge Woman
$5 Exacta: 2 with 1,4 ($10)
$2.50 Trifecta: 2 with 1,4 with 1,4 ($5)
Total: $30

Santa Anita Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 6:49 p.m. ET)

#8 Just Distorted (8-5) showed plenty of promise in her debut over this track, distance, and class level on Feb. 26. Favored at 13-10, the daughter of Distorted Humor settled a couple lengths behind the early pace, then rallied to finish second behind next-out Santa Anita Oaks (G2) winner Soothsay.

Just Distorted has trained forwardly since then and appears to be facing easier competition on Sunday. A repeat of her maiden effort can land her in the winner’s circle over #1 Ginja (5-2) and #4 Lady Aces (5-2).

$10 Exacta: 8 with 1,4 ($20)
$5 Trifecta: 8 with 1,4 with 1,4 ($10)
Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Gulfstream Park, Race 5: $288,645 Rainbow Pick 6 Jackpot

I suppose there might be a few handicappers out there who feel like taking a day off following the excitement of the Kentucky Derby. But anyone taking a day off will miss the $288,645 Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot carryover up for grabs at Gulfstream Park.

The wager won’t be easy to hit. The sequence looks formidable, with 62 horses (10.3 per race) in the mix before scratches. Even when you exclude the also-eligibles and main track only entrants, there are 53 horses to consider, which works out to 395,136 possible outcomes.

It sure would be nice if we could find a single along the way, right? Preferably in a race with a large field. Doing so would significantly simplify the sequence and allow us to spread deeper in races where we lack solid opinions.

But wait, maybe there is such an opportunity on the horizon! Check out Race 10, the finale of the Rainbow Pick 6. The event in question is a $16,000 maiden claiming race, held over five furlongs on the turf course. A dozen runners plus three also-eligibles have been entered, so at first glance, this race looks like the type where hitting the “ALL” button is necessary to have any confident chance at catching the winner.

However, once you dig deeper into the past performances, #6 Try Me (3-1) looks pretty appealing. The three-year-old son of Personal Interest ran okay in his first four starts on dirt, including a couple of runner-up efforts against $12,500 maiden claiming company. In fact, one of those efforts produced a 78 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure earned by any horse in Sunday’s field.

But Try Me also ran well when switching to turf for a five-furlong, $16,000 maiden claiming race on April 3. After dueling for the lead with #7 Bella Future (7-2), Try Me was bumped soundly by Bella Future at the top of the stretch. Try Me could have conceded to his pace rival, but instead he battled back and tenaciously edged past to finish second behind a late-charging winner.

Pacesetters win 42% of five-furlong turf sprints at Gulfstream, so the fact Try Me has an abundance of tactical speed is appealing. He’s drawn inside Bella Future this time and should be able to save more ground if he dashes to the front and secures the rail. Plus, Try Me is the field’s top-ranked runner from a Brisnet Prime Power perspective. What’s not to like?

Singling a turf sprinter in a full field might seem like a risky strategy, but it can also be a valuable one if Try Me runs to expectations brings home the final leg our Rainbow Pick 6 tickets.

Good luck!