Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for June 3

June 3rd, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Thursday, June 3 at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, including three $10 win bets to capitalize on the Belmont Stakes and Churchill Downs Money Back Offer.

In addition, Keeler is sharing thoughts on a pair of carryovers at Arlington Park and Churchill Downs.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Belmont Stakes and Churchill Downs Money Back Offer: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in any race at Belmont Park or Churchill Downs from June 3-5.
  • Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Canterbury Park.
  • Trifecta Thursdays: Receive a 15% bonus (up to $25) on any winning trifecta ticket.
  • Build Your Indiana Derby Day Bankroll: Wager at least $1,000 (excluding show bets) at Indiana Grand in April, May, and/or June and receive $30 to wager at Indiana Grand on Indiana Derby day, July 7. Bet $1,000 at Indiana Grand in all three months and receive $150.

Picks and plays

Churchill Downs, Race 1: $20,000 maiden claiming (1 1/16 miles, 5 p.m. ET)

There is rain in the forecast for Louisville, which could lend an advantage to #1 Maximum Risk (5-2) in the Thursday opener.

The son of Hard Spun brings a mud-friendly pedigree and will stretch out from his debut — a six-furlong, $10,000 maiden claimer at Churchill Downs — where he raced evenly from mid-pack to finish third.

There isn’t much speed entered in Thursday’s race, so Maximum Risk — because of the transition from a sprint to a route — should secure an uncontested lead. And since the rail is often the best part of the main track on wet days at Churchill Downs, Maximum Risk stands to benefit from racing in the best lane.

To take advantage of the Belmont Stakes and Churchill Downs Money Back Offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Maximum Risk, then play him over the other potential pace players #4 Mr. Thunderstruck (9-2) and #6 Dejohn (3-1) in an exacta.

$10 to win on #1 Maximum Risk
$5 exacta: 1 with 4,6 ($10)
Total: $20

Belmont Park, Race 3: Allowance (6 1/2 furlongs, 4:09 p.m. ET)

Triple Crown nominee #3 Following Sea (6-5) crossed the wire second in his debut at Santa Anita, where he was beaten only by future Santa Anita Derby (G1) fourth-place finisher Defunded. Then Following Sea came back to break his maiden in at Oaklawn Park, where he led all the way to crush next-out winner Happymac by 5 3/4 lengths.

This eye-catching effort earned a 97 Brisnet Speed rating, and Following Sea has trained sharply in the interim, which suggests the son of Runhappy can produce another strong performance in his first start against winners.

A $10 win bet and a trifecta ticket are definitely in order.

$10 to win on #3 Following Sea
$2 trifecta: 3 with 1,4,6 with 1,4,6 ($12)
Total: $22

Belmont Park, Race 8: Wonder Again S. (G3, 1 1/8 miles on turf, 6:45 p.m. ET)

#10 Plum Ali (5-1) showed plenty of promise as a juvenile, with Belmont Park’s Miss Grillo S. (G2) among her three victories from four starts. Only a fifth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) prevented the daughter of First Samurai from ending the season with an unbeaten record.

Following a five-month layoff, Plum Ali returned to action in the April 3 Appalachian S. (G2) at Keeneland, where she was compromised by an extreme slow early/fast late race shape. Nevertheless, Plum Ali closed ground gamely to finish third, beaten only two lengths by #5 Jouster (3-1) and #6 Gift List (7-2). Plum Ali sprinted her final quarter-mile in just more than 22 seconds.

Plum Ali figures to receive a better pace setup in the Wonder Again, which might be all she needs to visit the winner’s circle at a nice price.

We’ll kick off our wagering strategy with a $10 win bet, followed by exacta and trifecta tickets, with Plum Ali on top of Jouster, Gift List, and #9 Technical Analysis (9-2)

$10 to win on #10 Plum Ali
$4 exacta: 10 with 5,6,9 ($12)
$1 trifecta: 10 with 5,6,9 with 5,6,9 ($6)
Total: $28

Carryover watch

Arlington Park, Race 8: $18,690 Jackpot High 5 (6:50 p.m. ET)

The Thursday finale at Arlington boasts an $18,690 carryover in the 20-cent, 15% takeout “Jackpot High 5.” The race in question is a $35,000 maiden claimer held over one mile on the turf course, and 10 horses have been entered. That equates to 30,240 possible outcomes, and a unique winning ticket must be constructed to claim the full jackpot.

If your goal is to simply cash a winning ticket and earn a consolation payoff with other winning bettors, you might want to take a stand with #1 Nacozari (3-1) on top.

Two starts back, the son of Bernardini came home second at this class level in a race at Gulfstream Park. He then finished fifth against $50,000 claiming company. Facing easier competition at Arlington Park should be a recipe for victory, especially after Nacozari signaled his sharpness with a bullet five-furlong breeze in :59 2/5 May 24.

When playing favorites in the Jackpot High 5, keeping your investment to a minimum is important. Chalky results can produce low payoffs. On Saturday, an odds-on favorite led home a quintet of short-priced runners in the Jackpot High 5, which triggered a $43.66 payoff.

If you’re willing to bet against favorites, the jackpot might be yours, if you invest enough to catch the correct (and presumably obscure) combination. On Friday, the top five finishers in the Jackpot High 5 started at 7-1, 12-1, 7-1, 7-2, and 5-1, while the favorite faded to finish sixth. No one managed to cash the Jackpot High 5.

If you’re looking for a longshot to boost the prospective payoff, you could do worse than #3 Silent Steve (15-1).

He doesn’t have any tactical speed and might be a more reliable “pick up the pieces” type than a win candidate. But three of his four turf starts have come against maiden special weight company, including a reasonably good fifth-place effort at Arlington last month. A drop down the class ladder might help the son of Dominus produce an improved finish, particularly if he gets a decent pace ahead of him.

Churchill Downs, Race 3: $8,535 Derby City 6 jackpot (5:58 p.m. ET)

Another carryover worth examining Thursday is the $8,535 Derby City 6 jackpot up for grabs at Churchill Downs. The 20-cent, 15%-takeout wager attracted 62 entries before scratches, but with rain in the forecast, it will come as no surprise if the evening’s two turf races are transferred to the main track.

If you’re looking for a single, we recommend #3 Extreme (5-2) in Race 6, a seven-furlong maiden special weight. As a son of Speightstown (who sires 21% winners in the mud), Extreme has the pedigree to handle an off track.

He enters off a pair of pacesetting second-place finishes racing one mile on the Kentucky circuit, so the cut back in distance can help his chances.

Trainer Tom Drury has won at a 31% rate this meet, and veteran Churchill Downs jockey Brian Hernandez (a 36% winner when he teams with Drury) is named to ride.

Good luck!