Keeler Johnson's picks and plays July 17

July 17th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Monday, July 17 at Thistledown, Presque Isle Downs, and Louisiana Downs, along with a horse to single in the $1,643 Pick 6 carryover at Finger Lakes.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Presque Isle Downs $2,000 Late Pick 5 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 5 at Presque Isle Downs to split an additional $2,000 jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Thistledown: Race 8: Allowance (six furlongs, 4:20 p.m. ET)

#2 Midnight in Ohio (2-1) is undefeated in three starts, including a pair of gate-to-wire allowance scores at Thistledown this year. The speedy daughter of Midnight Lute brings sharp Brisnet Speed ratings to the table and should be tough to beat for red-hot trainer David Wolochuk, who has gone 15-for-32 (47%) at Thistledown this meet.

#3 Anchorwoman (5-2), victorious by daylight margins in each of her last three sprint starts, can complete the exacta for jockey J. G. Torrealba and trainer Timothy Hamm, who have gone 5-for-9 (56%) teaming up together over the last two months.


  • #2 Midnight in Ohio (2-1)
  • #3 Anchorwoman (5-2)
  • #6 Driven for Success (5-1)


  • $25 Exacta: 2 with 3

Presque Isle Downs: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 4:48 p.m. ET)

Since 2021, trainer Timothy Hamm has gone 6-for-25 (24%) debuting juveniles in sprints at Presque Isle Downs. This bodes well for Hamm’s first-time starter #6 Maiden Lane (9-2), a daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. She enters off a fast series of workouts and looks ready to roll under hot apprentice jockey Martina Rojas, who rides with a seven-pound weight allowance.

Maiden Lane’s stablemate #4 Rotondo (10-1) is another logical contender, along with horses like #3 Cloud in the Wind (5-1) and #5 Dancing Spirit (6-1). We’ll use these three underneath Maiden Lane in the exacta.


  • #6 Maiden Lane (9-2)
  • #4 Rotondo (10-1)
  • #3 Cloud in the Wind (5-1)


  • $15 to win on #6 Maiden Lane
  • $5 Exacta: 6 with 3,4,5 ($15)
    Total: $30

Louisiana Downs: Race 4: $5,000 Maiden Claiming (seven furlongs, 5:54 p.m. ET)

#7 She’smysmokeshow (10-1) is dropping in class after finishing fifth in a $20,000 maiden claimer and fourth in a pair of $12,500 maiden claimers. The three-year-old filly has earned Brisnet Speed ratings in the 57-60 range on four occasions, significant since only one of her Monday rivals has ever earned a number higher than 58.

Trainer Shane Wilson wins at a 29% rate with horses dropping multiple levels down the class ladder, so She’smysmokeshow looks like a live longshot while tackling a $5,000 maiden claimer. We’ll bet her to win and key her over #2 Blue Cowgirl (3-1) and #1 Lexington Diamond (7-2) in the exacta.


  • #7 She’smysmokeshow (10-1)
  • #2 Blue Cowgirl (3-1)
  • #1 Lexington Diamond (7-2)


  • $20 to win on #7 She’smysmokeshow
  • $5 Exacta: 7 with 1,2 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Finger Lakes: Race 3: $1,643 Pick 6 carryover (2:13 p.m. ET)

Feel like starting the new week with the pursuit of a non-jackpot Pick 6 carryover? Then check out the Monday card at Finger Lakes, which features a $1,643 Pick 6 prize pool.

The $1 wager spans Races 3-8, a sequence featuring 47 horses (averaging about 7.8 per race) and 206,976 possible outcomes before scratches. Those aren’t unmanageable numbers, though it would be nice to find a single or two to build tickets around, which would significantly reduce the cost of playing competitive tickets.

Fortunately, a viable single can be found in the final leg of the Pick 6. Race 8 is the $150,000 New York Derby, a 1 1/16-mile contest restricted to New York-bred three-year-olds. Seven horses are slated to face the starter, and singling #6 Maker’s Candy (1-1) reduces the number of Pick 6 outcomes to analyze all the way down to 34,496.

Maker’s Candy has been in red-hot form this year, crossing the wire first in three of his four starts. His only “misfire” came in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, in which he finished a respectable fifth against future Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Two Phil’s and multiple graded stakes winner Major Dude.

Maker’s Candy is facing easier competition in the New York Derby, more akin to the field of New York-bred rivals he defeated by 2 1/2 lengths in the Mike Lee S. at Belmont Park last time out. The third-place finisher, Looms Boldly, subsequently shipped to Finger Lakes and won the Ontario County S. by 5 1/4 lengths.

With Brisnet Speed ratings of 99, 85, 93, and 96 under his belt this year, Maker’s Candy is the fastest horse in the New York Derby field. Only one of his rivals has ever earned a number higher than 85, that being the last-out maiden winner Freudmein, who owns a 92. All signs suggest Maker’s Candy is ready to pick up a second straight stakes win, so we’ll make him a short-priced single in the Pick 6.

Good luck!