Keeler Johnson's picks and plays June 5

June 5th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Monday, June 5 at Thistledown and Presque Isle Downs, along with tickets for the $1,183 Super High 5 carryover at Louisiana Downs.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Assiniboia Downs $1,000 Late Pick 4 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 4 at Assiniboia Downs to split an additional $1,000 jackpot.
  • 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 2: $8,000 Starter Optional Claiming (six furlongs, 1:20 p.m. ET)

#6 Zelig (6-1) went off form during the winter at Mahoning Valley, but the six-year-old gelding has been freshened since January and is eligible to bounce back for trainer Gary Johnson, a 13% winner with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more. Last fall, Zelig won three straight races under Johnson’s care, most notably trouncing an $8,000 starter optional claimer at Thistledown by 1 3/4 lengths.

We’ll bet Zelig to win and single him to start a double wager.


  • #6 Zelig (6-1)
  • #8 Montauk Cove (9-2)
  • #2 Masai Man (3-1)


  • $20 to win on #6 Zelig
  • $5 Double: 6 with 5
    Total: $25

Thistledown: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 1:50 p.m. ET)

Since 2018, trainer Timothy Hamm has compiled an excellent 35-8-6-6 record debuting two-year-olds at Thistledown. That equates to a 23% win rate and a 57% in-the-money rate.

Hamm is debuting a pair of juveniles in this maiden sprint: #5 Villian (8-5) and #6 Hottie Spottie (5-2). Of the pair, we prefer Villian, who has put together a longer and flashier work tab. The presence of jockey Jeffrey Sanchez (a 19% winner teaming up with Hamm over the last two months) adds to the appeal.

We’ll single Villian to conclude our double wager, then bet him over Hottie Spottie and #4 Saltmakeshersweet (10-1) in the exacta.


  • #5 Villian (8-5)
  • #6 Hottie Spottie (5-2)
  • #4 Saltmakeshersweet (10-1)


  • $10 Exacta: 5 with 4,6 ($20)

Presque Isle Downs: Race 4: $6,250 Starter Allowance (6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta, 4:21 p.m. ET)

#2 Enjoy the Music (7-5) boasts a stellar 14-9-3-1 lifetime record at Presque Isle Downs. The six-year-old gelding kicked off 2023 with a one-length score in a six-furlong $6,250 starter allowance last month and should be tough to beat for trainer Larry Rivelli, who wins at a 36% rate with horses running back for the second time following a layoff.

#8 Grainger County (6-1), who rallied to finish second behind Enjoy the Music in the above-mentioned $6,250 starter allowance, can battle with #5 Quartermaster (5-1) to complete the exacta.


  • #2 Enjoy the Music (7-5)
  • #8 Grainger County (6-1)
  • #5 Quartermaster (5-1)


  • $15 Exacta: 2 with 5,8 ($30)

Carryover Watch

Louisiana Downs: Race 8: $1,183 Super High 5 carryover (6:12 p.m. ET)

If you want to kick off the new racing week by chasing a non-jackpot carryover, turn your attention to Louisiana Downs, where the 50-cent Super High 5 boasts a prize pool worth $1,183.

Many non-jackpot Super High 5 wagers feature a $1 minimum bet amount, so the 50-cent offering at Louisiana Downs allows bettors to play tickets at half the cost, or else cover twice as many possible outcomes.

Monday’s carryover is available to chase in Race 8, a $12,500 claimer for fillies and mares racing one mile on turf. A dozen horses have entered, equating to 95,040 possible Super High 5 outcomes.

The slim morning line favorite is #4 Watrugonnadokaren (4-1), and her credentials are solid. Although she’s finished off the board in her last three starts, one was a stakes and the other two were $30,000 and $50,000 allowance optional claimers.

Watrugonnadokaren has displayed sharper form against easier competition. Four starts back, she employed pace-tracking tactics to win a $16,000 allowance optional claimer over the Louisiana Downs turf course by a neck over #1 Quinn Murphy (9-2). And five starts back, she vied for the lead from start to finish to win a $30,000 claimer over the Fair Grounds lawn.

Watrugonnadokaren has been freshened since January by hot trainer Shane Wilson, a 25% winner at the current Louisiana Downs meet. Throw in hot jockey Jose Guerrero (a 21% winner this meet), and Watrugonnadokaren is a logical choice to key on top in the Super High 5.

Underneath, we have to respect the above-mentioned Quinn Murphy, who has spent her last five starts competing on dirt. Her recent form isn’t stellar, but Quinn Murphy is 0-for-13 on dirt and 11-for-50 on turf, so returning to the Louisiana Downs lawn (where she boasts a sharp 10-4-2-3 record) can trigger improvement.

#3 Moonlight Rain (9-2) is another logical contender; she hits the board more often than not and has the red-hot jockey/trainer duo of Joel Dominguez and Steve Asmussen in her corner. #7 Frosty Flirt (8-1) can’t be overlooked either; not after placing in a pair of recent $15,000 claimers over the Sam Houston turf. And don’t forget about #5 Saint Kennedy (15-1), whose grass exploits include a runner-up finish in a $7,500 claimer at Louisiana Downs last summer.

Mix in a little #8 Mumblebee (8-1) and #12 Top Ten Duchess (10-1), and we can construct solid Super High 5 tickets on a reasonable budget:

  • 50-cent Super High 5: 4 with 1,5,7 with 1,5,7 with 1,3,5,7,12 with 1,3,5,7,8,12 ($27)
  • 50-cent Super High 5: 4 with 1,5,7 with 1,3,5,7,12 with 1,5,7 with 1,3,5,7,8,12 ($27)
    Total: $54

Good luck!