Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of Sept. 14

September 14th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, Sept. 14 at Horseshoe Indianapolis, Churchill Downs, and Charles Town, including a trio of exactas.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Hoosier Park $1,000 Pick 4 Hit It & Split It: Hit the late Pick 4 on Thursdays at Hoosier Park to win your share of a $1,000 weekly jackpot.
  • Churchill Downs $2,000 Thursday Leaderboard: Place $10+ win bets on Thursday at Churchill Downs to compete for your share of a $2,000 jackpot.
  • Churchill Downs $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races at Churchill Downs.

Picks and Plays

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 2:10 p.m. ET)

#3 Lightline (9-5) looks ready to roll for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, who wins at a lofty 24% rate with horses debuting over one mile or farther. The son of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner City of Light sold for $600,000 as a yearling and has put together a sharp work tab highlighted by a bullet half-mile from the Keeneland starting gate in :46 2/5.

Throw in jockey Emmanuel Esquivel (a 41% winner teaming up with Cox over the last two months), and Lightline is a compelling choice to play over #1 Mr Discount (9-2) and #5 Honest Opinion (5-1) in the exacta.


  • #3 Lightline (9-5)
  • #1 Mr Discount (9-2)
  • #5 Honest Opinion (5-1)


  • $15 Exacta: 3 with 1,5 ($30)

Churchill Downs: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 5:58 p.m. ET)

#2 Cigarette Boat (5-2) is the fastest horse in this field from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective. Whereas none of his rivals have posted a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 80, Cigarette Boat’s three turf starts have yielded numbers of 84, 80, and 86.

Cigarette Boat was beaten only a nose after carving out the pace in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Kentucky Downs last month. He looks ready to break through while wheeling back on short rest at Churchill Downs, where jockey Tyler Gaffalione has won far and away the most races of any rider since 2020.

We’ll bet Cigarette Boat to win and key him over #11 Salt Spray (5-1) and #4 Cuore Sacro (5-1) in the exacta. If he settles for second or third place, we can receive $10 of our win bet back thanks to the Churchill Downs $10 Money Back promotion.


  • #2 Cigarette Boat (5-2)
  • #11 Salt Spray (3-1)
  • #4 Cuore Sacro (5-1)


  • $18 to win on #2 Cigarette Boat
  • $6 Exacta: 2 with 4,11 ($12)
    Total: $30

Charles Town: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 7:00 p.m. ET)

Since 2022, trainer Ronney Brown has gone 2-for-2 debuting juveniles at Charles Town. This is a positive sign for #2 Hey Boots (9-2), who is bred for speed. The chestnut colt clocked a quick three furlongs in :35 2/5 at Charles Town last month and is eligible to outrun his odds under hot apprentice jockey Axel Concepcion, who rides with a five-pound weight allowance. It’s worth noting Concepcion and Brown have won at a 36% rate teaming up together over the last two months.

#1 Sisyphus (8-5) can complete a cold exacta. He carved out the pace when finishing second in a five-furlong maiden special weight at Penn National last time out, and pacesetters have won 54% of 4 1/2-furlong sprints at Charles Town this year.


  • #2 Hey Boots (9-2)
  • #1 Sisyphus (8-5)
  • #4 Hammer (5-1)


  • $20 to win on #2 Hey Boots
  • $10 Exacta: 2 with 1
    Total: $30

Good luck!