Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays Sept. 18

September 18th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Monday, Sept. 18 at Horseshoe Indianapolis, Presque Isle Downs, and Assiniboia Downs, along with a horse to single in the $1,567 Pick 6 carryover at Finger Lakes.

Picks and Plays

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 5:36 p.m. ET)

Since 2021, trainer Brendan Walsh has compiled an excellent 4-2-0-1 (50%) record debuting juveniles in dirt sprints at Horseshoe Indianapolis. This makes Walsh’s unraced filly #8 Dixie Rag (5-1) playable in this maiden dash for two-year-olds.

A daughter of early-maturing Belmont (G1) winner Union Rags, Dixie Rag breezed a bullet three furlongs at Turfway Park in :36 1/5 last Thursday and looks ready to challenge under jockey Joe Talamo, who has gone 1-for-3 (33%) teaming up with Walsh over the last two months.

Let’s bet Dixie Rag to win and key her over fellow first-time starters #6 Lingonberry (5-2) and #3 Illusive Star (3-1) in the exacta:


  • #8 Dixie Rag (5-1)
  • #6 Lingonberry (5-2)
  • #3 Illusive Star (3-1)


  • $20 to win on #8 Dixie Rag
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 3,6 ($10)
    Total: $30

Presque Isle Downs: Race 7: Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2, 6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta, 5:42 p.m. ET)

#7 Roses for Debra (7-5) has crossed the wire first in eight of her nine starts, including four sprints at Presque Isle Downs. She’s been competing on turf as of late, dominating the Caress (G3) and Smart N Fancy S. at Saratoga, but should have no trouble switching back to Tapeta under four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz.

#3 Marissa’s Lady (8-1), whose 5-for-6 record on synthetic includes a 2-for-2 tally at Presque Isle, can battle with Woodbine’s Hendrie (G3) winner #12 Loyalty (5-2) to round out the exacta and trifecta.


  • #7 Roses for Debra (7-5)
  • #3 Marissa’s Lady (8-1)
  • #12 Loyalty (5-2)


  • $12 Exacta: 7 with 3,12 ($24)
  • $3 Trifecta: 7 with 3,12 with 3,12 ($6)
    Total: $30

Assiniboia Downs: Race 7: Manitoba Matron S. (1 1/8 miles, 11:05 p.m. ET)

#3 Burrow Down (6-5) finished ahead of #4 Big Stretch (2-1) when they ran first and third in the 1 1/16-mile Miss Sandy Dee S. at Assiniboia Downs last month. But Burrow Down benefited from racing up front through extremely slow fractions of :26.44, :52.92, and 1:17.39, whereas Big Stretch tried to rally from behind.

When a faster pace unfolded in the one-mile Escape Clause S. three weeks prior, Big Stretch charged home strongly and finished six lengths clear of Burrow Down. There appears to be a bit more pace in the Manitoba Matron field than in the Miss Sandy Dee, so Big Stretch has a chance to turn the tables.


  • #4 Big Stretch (2-1)
  • #3 Burrow Down (6-5)
  • #7 Missyintomischief (7-1)


  • $20 Exacta: 4 with 3

Carryover Watch

Finger Lakes: Race 3: $1,567 Pick 6 carryover (2:13 p.m. ET)

The racing week at Finger Lakes is kicking off on a high note with a $1,567 non-jackpot carryover up for grabs in the $1 Pick 6.

The six races contain a total of 48 horses before scratches, averaging eight per race. It’s fairly middle of the road as far as difficulty goes, with 241,920 possible outcomes.

The sequence gets underway in Race 3, a $5,000 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won two races. The 5 1/2-furlong dirt sprint drew only six entries, so it’s a tempting spot in which to seek a single.

The problem is, none of the entrants bring especially strong form to the table. #3 Mission Cat (2-1) is the morning line favorite, and she’s a logical choice since she regularly sets or presses the pace, and 48% of 5 1/2-furlong dirt sprints at Finger Lakes have been won in gate-to-wire fashion this meet.

But Mission Cat was beaten over this track, distance, and class level on Aug. 23, finishing third by 2 1/2 lengths after leading by daylight at the first three calls. She came home only three-quarters of a length ahead of fourth-place finisher #1 Tumbles (9-2), so even though Mission Cat figures to secure an uncontested lead on Monday, she’s not necessarily a lock to win.

A more reliable single can be found in Race 5, an $11,000 claimer for horses who have never won two races. Eight horses have entered the one-mile and 70-yard contest, and #2 Color Commish (2-1) is shaping up as a Brisnet Speed rating standout. In two starts since being claimed by hot trainer Jeremiah Englehart (a 26% winner at Finger Lakes this meet), Color Commish has posted numbers of 81 and 77 while finishing second in back-to-back allowances racing one mile and 70 yards at Finger Lakes.

Considering none of the other horses in Monday’s field have recently earned a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 76, Color Commish is surely the horse to beat while dropping down the class ladder.

Good luck!