Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of Nov. 15, 2023

November 15th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Mahoning Valley, Churchill Downs, and Charles Town, including a single for Mahoning’s $3,978 Pick 5 carryover.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Hong Kong Jockey Club 15% Win Bonus: Receive a 15% bonus (up to $25 daily) on winning win bets at Happy Valley (HK) and Sha Tin (HK) every race day in November.
  • Churchill Downs $2,000 Late Pick 5 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 5 at Churchill Downs on any racing day from Nov. 1 through Nov. 26 to win your share of a $2,000 daily jackpot.
  • 10x Points at Churchill Downs: Receive 10x reward points on all wagers at Churchill Downs from Nov. 8 through Nov. 26.

Picks and Plays

Mahoning Valley: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 1:40 p.m. ET)

#1 Akimbo (20-1) didn’t show much in his debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs over this class level at Thistledown, finishing a distant eighth. But the two-year-old gelding ran into a bit of trouble at the start, and he’s dropping blinkers and picking up red-hot jockey Luis Rivera (30% winner at Mahoning this meet) for his second start, so there are reasons to believe Akimbo can improve.

Throw in the fact trainer Michael Rone is winning at a 33% rate to start the Mahoning meet, and Akimbo is worth betting to win and playing over #6 Counteveryblessing (3-1) in the exacta.


  • #1 Akimbo (20-1)
  • #6 Counteveryblessing (3-1)
  • #7 Justa Little Moore (5-2)


  • $15 to win on #1 Akimbo
  • $5 Exacta: 1 with 6
    Total: $20

Churchill Downs: Race 9: $100,000 Maiden Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs, 5:05 p.m. ET)

#5 Geno’s Myth (12-1) has put together a decent work tab for trainer Michael Puhich, a 33% winner with horses debuting in maiden claimers. Puhich has gone 2-for-6 (33%) saddling first-time starters at Churchill Downs since 2021, so with these strong stats in Geno’s Myth’s corner, the two-year-old gelding is worth betting at his 12-1 morning line odds.

#8 Charleston (4-1), fifth in his debut against maiden special weight competition at Keeneland, is a logical exacta contender since trainer Brad Cox wins at a 33% rate with horses dropping from maiden special weight into maiden claiming company.


  • #5 Geno’s Myth (12-1)
  • #8 Charleston (4-1)
  • #7 Palhaco (12-1)


  • $18 to win on #5 Geno’s Myth
  • $8 Exacta: 8 with 5
  • $4 Exacta: 5 with 8
    Total: $30

Charles Town: Race 3: $12,500 Maiden Claiming (4 1/2 furlongs, 7:57 p.m. ET)

Pacesetters have won 54% of 4 1/2-furlong sprints at Charles Town this meet, which bodes well for #3 Cajun Cashew (2-1). The three-year-old filly set the pace in each of her last two starts against maiden special weight competition over this track and distance, finishing sixth and third.

Dropping into a $12,500 maiden claimer should make Cajun Cashew tough to catch, so let’s bet her over logical challenger #8 Unaltered (5-2)—who has placed a couple of times over this track, distance, and class level—in a cold exacta.


  • #3 Cajun Cashew (2-1)
  • #8 Unaltered (5-2)
  • #6 Mireya (8-1)


  • $20 Exacta: 3 with 8

Carryover Watch

Mahoning Valley: Race 1: $3,978 Pick 5 carryover (12:45 p.m. ET)

Feel like chasing a non-jackpot Pick 5 carryover this Wednesday? Mahoning Valley is ready to oblige. The Ohio racetrack offers a Pick 5 spanning the first five races each day, and after going unsolved on Tuesday the $1 wager boasts a $3,978 carryover for Wednesday’s card.

A tricky sequence is on the agenda. The five races have drawn a total of 44 horses (averaging 8.8 per race), which means there are 49,896 possible outcomes to analyze.

We’ve already highlighted #1 Akimbo (20-1) as a live longshot worth supporting in Race 3, a maiden special weight sprint for juveniles, though Pick 5 bettors will certainly want to use #6 Counteveryblessing (3-1) and maybe even #7 Justa Little Moore (5-2) as backup. The latter two runners were separated by a neck when finishing second and third over this track and class level on Oct. 28 and are logical win contenders if Akimbo fails to move forward off his debut.

But if a single is what you’re looking for, check out Race 2, a $5,000 claimer for horses who have never won two races. The six-furlong dirt sprint appears ripe for conquest by morning line favorite #2 Swelter (8-5). A maiden special weight winner at Mahoning Valley last winter, Swelter spent much of 2023 competing in allowance and $12,500 claimers before dropping in class for a $5,000 claimer for non-winners of two races on Nov. 1 at Mahoning Valley. The result? Swelter rallied to finish second by less than one length despite running into a little trouble at the quarter-pole.

Swelter’s second try over this track and class level can yield victory for the red-hot jockey/trainer duo of Rocco Bowen and Timothy Hamm, who have gone 10-for-32 (31%) teaming up together over the last two months. It helps that Swelter is the fastest entrant from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective; when he broke his maiden, Swelter launched a sharp rally from behind a quick pace to post an 83 Brisnet Speed rating that tops Wednesday’s field.

Good luck!