Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of Nov. 16, 2023

November 16th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, Nov. 16 at Churchill Downs, Mahoning Valley, and Horseshoe Indianapolis, including tickets for Churchill’s $2,615 Super High 5 carryover.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 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.
  • Fraser Downs 15% Win Bonus: Earn a 15% bonus (up to $25 per day) on winning win wagers at Fraser Downs every Thursday and Friday from Nov. 16 through Dec. 15.

Picks and Plays

Churchill Downs: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 3:31 p.m. ET)

#1 Vicki Rose (7-2) ran second in her debut sprinting five furlongs over this track and class level, pulling four lengths clear of future three-time stakes winner Janet Is Ready. Vicki Rose hasn’t had as much luck in two subsequent starts, but she’s been freshened since March and is adding blinkers and Lasix for her return, which are both high-percentage angles for trainer Pavel Matejka.

Since there are reasons to believe Vicki Rose can move forward at solid odds, we’ll bet her to win and call it a day.


  • #1 Vicki Rose (7-2)
  • #4 Itsablingthing (4-1)
  • #3 Icicles (5-2)


  • $25 to win on #1 Vicki Rose

Mahoning Valley: Race 7: Ohio Debutante S. (one mile and 70 yards, 3:33 p.m. ET)

#4 Diva Power (4-1) has won three out of four starts since being claimed by high-percentage trainer Caryn Vecchio, a 28% winner this year. Along the way, Diva Power has shown lots of early speed while posting strong Brisnet Speed ratings.

Diva Power looks ready to win again, even while stepping into the stakes rank, and her 4-1 morning line odds are enticing. We’ll keep things simple with a win bet.


  • #4 Diva Power (4-1)
  • #13 Kettle Kiss (5-1)
  • #2 Express Fashion (15-1)


  • $30 to win on #4 Diva Power

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (one mile on turf, 3:49 p.m. ET)

#9 El Kown (7-2) finished third in her debut sprinting on dirt, then stretched out over one mile and had trouble in the homestretch on her way to finishing sixth (upgraded to fifth via disqualification). A half-sister to 2021 Horse of the Year Knicks Go, El Kown is bred reasonably well for turf and enters off a bullet half-mile workout, so she looks ready to vie for victory while switching surfaces. It helps that trainer Brad Cox wins at a 31% rate with horses running long for the second time.

El Kown doesn’t figure to start as an overwhelming favorite, so a win bet is the way we’ll play.


  • #9 El Kown (7-2)
  • #2 Just Be Quiet (4-1)
  • #11 Our Girl Flint (12-1)


  • $25 to win on #9 El Kown

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs: Race 3: $2,615 Super High 5 carryover (2:00 p.m. ET)

The Thursday card at Churchill Downs boasts a $2,615 non-jackpot carryover in the $1 Super High 5.

The prize pool is available to pursue in Race 3, a maiden special weight taking place over 1 1/8 miles on dirt. Seven horses have been entered, which equates to 2,520 possible Super High 5 outcomes, a very manageable number.

The morning line favorite is #4 Alexander Helios (5-2), and he’s a logical contender after finishing second by a head in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight on Oct. 21 at Keeneland. That effort yielded a 91 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest number in Thursday’s field.

The downside is, Alexander Helios benefited from pressing a slow pace at Keeneland and still got caught by a late runner. But Thursday’s field is severely lacking in pace on paper, so who’s to say Alexander Helios won’t shake loose on an uncontested lead under Churchill’s leading jockey Tyler Gaffalione? If he does, the bay colt should prove tough to catch.

#7 Bearings (6-1) is another intriguing contender. He failed to seriously factor in his first two starts sprinting, but the son of Candy Ride improved in a one-mile maiden special weight at Churchill Downs 11 days ago, finishing fourth behind runaway winner Mullion. The race was fast and featured strong closing fractions, so even in defeat Bearings posted a career-best 84 Brisnet Speed rating.

Bearings is a half-brother to Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) winner Mastery and Pelleteri S. heroine Clear Sailing, two runners who did their best work racing 1 1/16 miles around two turns, so stretching out over a two-turn trip at Churchill Downs may trigger improvement from Bearings. A strong finish on Thursday appears likely.

If we count on Alexander Helios to win and Bearings to finish either second or third, we can construct competitive Super High 5 tickets on a modest budget. We’ll spread deep for the remaining slots, using four of the other five starters:

  • $1 Super High 5: 4 with 7 with 1,2,5,6 with 1,2,5,6 with 1,2,5,6 ($24)
  • $1 Super High 5: 4 with 1,2,5,6 with 7 with 1,2,5,6 with 1,2,5,6 ($24)
    Total: $48

Good luck!