Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of Nov. 8, 2023

November 8th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Churchill Downs and Horseshoe Indianapolis, along with horses to single in the $895 Pick 6 carryover at Finger Lakes.

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

Churchill Downs: Race 1: $50,000 Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs, 1:00 p.m. ET)

#2 Almond Fudge (3-1) faltered when facing $100,000 allowance optional claiming competition at Keeneland last month, finishing last in a field of eight. But two starts back she wired a six-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs by 2 1/4 lengths, earning an 84 Brisnet Speed rating that tops Wednesday’s field.

Dropping into a $50,000 claimer can help Almond Fudge rebound, so we’ll bet her to win and play her over logical favorite #3 Intermittent Fast (2-1) in an exacta.


  • #2 Almond Fudge (3-1)
  • #3 Intermittent Fast (2-1)
  • #5 Krickle (7-2)


  • $15 to win on #2 Almond Fudge
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 3
    Total: $20

Churchill Downs: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/8 miles on turf, 3:01 p.m. ET)

#11 Conversing (2-1) has finished second in all three of his starts, including two on turf. He ran especially well in a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight over the Keeneland lawn last month. Making his return from a one-year layoff, Conversing ran into trouble around the far turn, but nevertheless unleashed a strong homestretch kick to finish second by a neck.

With a clean trip on Wednesday, Conversing can visit the winner’s circle for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. We’ll bet Conversing to win and call it a day.


  • #11 Conversing (2-1)
  • #6 Utah Beach (5-2)
  • #3 Sagittarius (5-1)


  • $30 to win on #11 Conversing (2-1)

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 4:03 p.m. ET)

#9 When’s Forever (8-5) looks like the best of the experienced runners in this maiden sprint for Indiana-bred juvenile fillies, having placed twice over this track and class level. But her Brisnet Speed ratings aren’t especially eye-catching, so she might be vulnerable against a first-time starter like #3 Holiday Lights (6-1).

Conditioned by Robert Gorham, who wins at a respectable 13% rate with horses debuting in maiden special weights, Holiday Lights is a daughter of Holiday Promise, who sires 12% winners from first-time starters. Holiday Lights breezed a bullet half-mile from the Horseshoe Indianapolis starting gate in :48 2/5 last month, so there’s a lot to like about her chances.


  • #3 Holiday Lights (6-1)
  • #9 When’s Forever (8-5)
  • #1 Long Days (10-1)


  • $15 to win on #3 Holiday Lights
  • $15 Exacta: 3 with 9
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Finger Lakes: Race 3: $895 Pick 6 carryover (1:11 p.m. ET)

No one hit the $1 Pick 6 on Tuesday at Finger Lakes, which means the non-jackpot wager features an $895 carryover for Wednesday’s card.

We’ve identified a pair of logical singles to start the sequence:

Race 3: $10,000 Allowance Optional Claiming: #5 Cut the Cord (2-1)

Whereas four of the six runners in this one-mile and 70-yard contest for New York-breds are exiting races at Finger Lakes, morning line favorite Cut the Cord is shipping in from the New York Racing Association circuit. Last time out, he finished fourth in a $45,000 allowance optional claimer for New York-breds at Aqueduct. Two starts back, he finished second by a head in a $25,000 starter allowance at Aqueduct. And three starts ago, Cut the Cord won a New York-bred allowance at Saratoga by 3 1/2 lengths.

Cut the Cord brings a sharp series of Brisnet Speed ratings to the table and should be tough to beat while dropping in class at Finger Lakes. Cut the Cord has gone 3-for-5 at Finger Lakes in the past, most notably wiring a one-mile and 70-yard non-state-restricted allowance back in May. With hot jockey Andre Worrie and high-percentage trainer Jeremiah Englehart in his corner, Cut the Cord is a compelling single to start the Pick 6.

Race 4: Allowance: #4 Jak N Burny (9-5)

New York-breds will sprint six furlongs in the fourth race, and morning line favorite Jak N Burny looms as a Brisnet Speed rating standout. The three-year-old gelding wired his first three starts at Finger Lakes (including a pair of non-state-restricted allowances) by a minimum of seven lengths apiece, earning flashy Brisnet Speed ratings of 96, 92, and 96. None of his Wednesday rivals have ever posted a number higher than 92, and none have posted a number higher than 88 in their last six starts.

Jak N Burny was beaten to fourth place when tackling the six-furlong Leon Reed Memorial S. in his fourth start, but he didn’t get off to the best break and made a strong move to challenge before flattening out in the final furlong. Give him a clean start while dropping into a New York-bred allowance, and Jak N Burny can win for fun as our second Pick 6 single.

Good luck!